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Making Decisions for YOU in the New School Year

Return to Learn with The Art of Education University 

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Right? This summer has been filled with an ever-growing flowchart of decisions, each with pro and con lists pages long. We’re not talking about whether you want pizza or sushi for dinner. These decisions have come down to your health, safety, and livelihood. You have likely had these questions on your mind:

  • Can I go back into the classroom? What health protocols are my school putting into place to support me and my students?
  • Can I take a leave of absence?  What accommodations do I qualify for under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  • Will I be able to balance my kids’ needs and my own teaching schedule?

What’s even harder is knowing that most of these decisions are completely out of your control, sitting in the laps of the government, administration, and community. Regardless of what you personally feel has been right or wrong, everyone is making some really big decisions right now.

teacher writing in notebook

First, let’s acknowledge how these decisions have impacted you. There is no denying these  decisions have been:

  • Difficult
  • Emotional
  • Personal
  • Valid

The gravity of our situation as a collective whole compounded by your own personal needs has weighed heavily on us all in such a short amount of time. Whether COVID-19 has personally affected you or not, there is no doubt the pandemic has placed an extreme burden on everyone.

The unknowns and the knowns of COVID 19 have left teachers worried about their classroom safety.

Teachers have been researching, collaborating, and creating protocols, tools, and safety for classrooms. While we would love nothing more than our administration to tell us exactly how to stay safe, it has been our responsibility to ensure safe practices are in place. You probably have said things like, “But I’m not an infectious disease expert! How should I know what’s best?” or “How do I know what HVAC filters are best for our ventilation system?” Of course, we don’t know these answers. As experts in our classrooms and our students, though, we bear a burden to ask important questions, to assess the traffic in our space, and to provide recommendations to reduce spread. This is an unfair burden to ask of us, both logistically and emotionally. However, we are an essential piece of the ongoing conversation, and we must be present at the table.

safety equipment

The personal decisions being made by teachers to protect their families and themselves are valid and painful.

Teaching is much more than a job, as we all know. As teachers, we are deeply passionate about our work and emotionally invested in our students and community. We have personal connections that are far-reaching. We have an authentic interest in the success of others. Deciding to leave the profession is never taken lightly.

Under normal circumstances, teachers leave the classroom for many reasons ranging from burnout to pursuing other personal interests. When feeling forced between a rock and a hard place during a pandemic, you can easily feel crazy and alone. With so many unknowns about contagion and long-term impacts, teachers flip-flop daily about what is best for their families and themselves. Having to choose between your safety and health over your career (and your “other” family), or your financial needs over your health and safety is heartbreaking at best.

The conflict between community and teachers has created a devastating divide.

As teachers carry responsibility for the safety of children and their community, while also feeling the toll of choosing what’s best for themselves, there is constant chatter in the community (and in the nation) about teachers and their profession. Teachers hear support from parents who want what is best for everyone. But we also hear a lot (and I mean, a lot) of negativity toward our profession. Not only is it difficult to hear as general noise, but it’s also personally hurtful when parents you know make attacking comments in public. The divide that has been created is not something that will go away quickly. And that is painful.

Regardless of what decision you have made, you are doing the best you can with what you have; your concerns and feelings are valid, and your decisions are yours to make.

You will always second guess what you decide. There are too many what-ifs, and you don’t have a lot of time to mull over your plans. It is really hard to make life-changing decisions in a matter of a few short weeks or even days. You are making the best decision you can with the information you have. Your decision is personal, and no one should fault you for what you decide.

Regardless of your path, we are here with you.

illustration of advisors

Let’s take a look at some of these big decisions you’ve had to make and how we can help support you.

Are you returning to school this fall?

Return to Learn: First and foremost, AOEU has made navigating resources super easy! If you haven’t already, check out the Return to Learn page where you can select your school’s current model. Our writers are all working under different conditions, and we will continue to support you with resources no matter how you plan to return to school, whether in-person, hybrid, or fully remote. Even as you shift in and out of a particular model, these resources will be your life raft.

Other great articles to support you:

Are you a new teacher or changing schools this year?

What a challenge! Not only are you a new teacher or new to your school, but you are navigating all the different learning styles your school may be managing. Check out the resources below for some great tips and reminders as you transition to your new situation.

Are you retiring early? Are you taking a leave of absence or resigning?

Whether you’re heading on to the next chapter in your life and career or if you just need a break this year, there are ways to take care of your creative soul. The resources below will help you transition with ease.

Taking care of yourself will be more important than ever right now.

Regardless of your situation, you are bound to need some emotional support and self-care opportunities. Check out all these resources that will help you take care of yourself throughout this school year.

Avoid the Burnout:

Self-Care Tips and your Mental Health:

Cut yourself some slack:

Taking time to be creative:

Finally, we all could use a good pep-talk this year.

Check out these resources for some positive affirmations and hopeful outlook.

Remember, first and foremost, you need to make decisions that are best for you and your needs. Deciding to leave the classroom is not an easy one to make. When faced with these difficult decisions, remember that everything is temporary. Art teachers are an incredible group of people who share and support each other, and this year is no different.

Return to Learn with The Art of Education University 

What personal decisions or boundaries have you made this year that will impact how you normally handle the school year?

How will you start your school year thinking forward with the decisions you have made?

What ways can you devote self-care time this year?

Janet Taylor

Contributor

Janet Taylor is a high school art teacher in the western suburbs of Chicago. She geeks out in developing Choice-based curriculum and believes that by guiding students through their own creative process, they are empowered to create unique and meaningful artworks.

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