Friday evening, as I stood on top of one of the cafeteria lunch tables, clapping and facilitating the choreographed curtain call for our school play performances coming up on what would have been tonight and tomorrow, another adult in the building called me over to tell me the news about schools closing midweek. This would likely impact our play performances, and I was not about to interrupt our rehearsal to deliver the bad news. So we finished the night, the painting of the set, the running of lines, the grapevine in the curtain call, and when we gathered as a cast before saying our goodbyes for the evening, I broke the news.
I was honest about what I don’t know – which is a lot. All around me, I listened and watched as students absolutely fell apart. I mean full-on tears from many of them. They were just devastated. And it wasn’t only because the show they’ve worked on for months was being postponed. I had several of my students from class approach me in a panic about how they were going to finish their projects in time because this was supposed to be the last week of the quarter. One girl looked right at me and told me through sobs that school was the only social interaction she had. Ouch. Try responding to that without needing to swallow a lump first. This really hurts. I imagined some groans about the play, but honest tears about getting to miss school for a while? It wasn’t the reaction I had expected.
I settled the room and took a breath. Then I explained my favorite mantra to them. If you’ve seen the movie Bridge of Spies, you may remember the Russian spy who is held as a prisoner throughout the film. Numerous times, the men holding him ask him if he’s nervous or if he’s worried about what is to come. His calm reply is always, “Would it help?” I’ve tried, in all aspects of my life, to hold onto that mindset. I think it applies here perfectly.
We can only control what we can control, and what is happening to the world around us in recent days is very much out of our control. There are a million unanswered questions and confusing circumstances. No one knows what to expect tomorrow or next week or next month. Not knowing, not having any control over the matter, is what scares people. But worrying won’t help the situation. We can only control what we can control. That’s what I tried to communicate to my cast on Friday evening. This is one of those times when all we can do is breathe and move forward together, one day at a time, adjusting to new circumstances where needed.
I feel very fortunate. The ARCTIC Zone uses an online classroom daily, and we practice student discipline and independence with every project. We felt very prepared to transition from a face-to-face instructional delivery to a purely online platform. In fact, the last 24 hours alone have been enough to convince me to advocate for students bringing their school devices home all the time. I could barely keep up with the student emails and online submissions I was receiving last night and all day today. I’m proud of the discipline my students are already showing in such a unique set of circumstances.
With so much out of our control right now, we need to focus on the things that remain in our control. We can control our words. Our actions. We can breathe. We can smile. We can show love and kindness to others. As we begin to navigate these new waters ahead of us, when we begin to feel worries creep in, let us all remember to stop ourselves once in a while to ask, “Would it help?” Because this, too, shall pass…