My first teaching job was at a brand new high school in California. Not only was I trying to figure out how to teach, I was trying to figure out how a high school actually functioned.
Because we were the first high school in our district, basic rules and procedures were not set in stone. Because of this, there were so many questions about absolutely everything.
When my principal was asked a question that he didn’t know the answer to, he would just respond with: “Embrace the ambiguity!”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase.
Despite the frustration that answer often caused, that phrase was one of the many things that transformed my teaching style. That year, I learned what it really meant to “roll with the punches” and to “go with the flow.” Most importantly, I learned to be okay with not knowing the answers.
With thousands of schools facing unchartered waters next week, I think the phrase “embrace the ambiguity” couldn’t be more relevant. As I go into my own experience with distance learning, here is what I am keeping in mind:
— I need to be ready for chaos. I think it is safe to assume that the upcoming weeks will be a little bonkers. But then again, teaching is a gloriously bonkers profession. I got this.
— I need to help my students understand what is happening in the world. Before my school was temporarily closed, I made sure to have conversations with my students about the coronavirus. We read and annotated articles and I gave them a safe space to express their opinions. Because of the constantly dynamic situation the world is in, I am preparing to continue these conversations with my students online.
–I am going to have to experiment and be prepared for some failures. A couple of weeks ago I went to a craft store called Board and Brush. It is a three hour workshop where you make your own wooden design. During the lesson, I screeched because I messed up with the paint. I seriously thought my sixty eight dollars was down the toilet. But one of the employees came over, calmed me down, and fixed it for me. That is exactly what I plan on doing for my own students in the next couple of weeks.
— I am going to have to keep it simple. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I plan on using the tools I know and am familiar with to keep my students virtually engaged.
— I am going to be encouraging my students to read and write. I plan on scrapping some old assignments and making room for reading and writing about current events. This is a significant time in history and students need to write down what they are experiencing.
— I am going to make sure I am taking care of myself. It is a scary time friends. But let’s remember that we are not going to be able to take care of our students if we don’t take care of ourselves.
So let’s embrace the ambiguity folks because…..
Shelby Scoffield is a high school English teacher at Mountain House High School in Mountain House, CA. She would love to hear how you are “embracing the ambiguity” at your own school sites this week!