Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

by Stacey Ebert / Jun 01, 2020 /
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It’s a weird world we live in right now, that’s for sure. Some kids are headed back to traditional brick and mortar schooling this year, while others will be in some sort of distance learning for the foreseeable future. Some parents will be headed back to in-person work, complete with public transportation and all the new physical distancing protocols, while others will do their best to handle remote work in whatever space they’re lucky enough to call home for a while longer. And yet others are out of work and don’t know when their situation will change.

The world is impatiently waiting for that vaccine while still trying to somewhat function, have a semblance of social normality, and open(ish) world economies amidst an ongoing pandemic. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

Got any ideas of how to move all of those chess pieces without knocking half the pieces off the board? I don’t either. 

We do the best we can with what we have, listen to the experts, use our best judgment, and take whatever baby steps we need to move forward. That forward movement will look rather different for everyone–and that’s if we’re allowed access to any at all. 

How do you feel about re-entry?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

In the world of travel, we call it re-entry, as well–and if we're abroad and returning home, it's often considered reverse cultural shock; yet the meaning of that re-entry is far more than logistics, details, and travel operations. All of a sudden, we’re back amidst accents that sound similar to ours, with familiar foods that we may not have seen in awhile, and managing customs and cultures that have literally, at least for a little while, become foreign to us. It’s definitely a shock, and more often than not, only those of us who have been through something similar really get it, and know that the amount of time necessary to adjust (that’s if we ever really do adjust) is different for each traveler. Oftentimes, now that we’ve seen more and learned more, we don’t really want to go back to things the way they were in the before-time. For one reason or another, I keep thinking about this these days. Is it on your mind, as well?

More importantly, how do we express this re-entry to our youth while mitigating the fear and anxiety that often comes with a re-entry discussion? 

In the pre-pandemic era, life was life. Ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, inequality and strife, transitions, disappointments, high fives–it was all there. Right now, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is broadening, the inequalities quite literally smack us in the face, and privilege of all sorts and levels is increasingly obvious. At some point for all of us (if we’re lucky), we’ll have to deal with re-entry. But just because the entities open up doesn’t mean we have to go. Perhaps you’re waiting for a vaccine until you’ll feel safe to hug again. Perhaps your comfort level will be when therapeutics arrive that can provide some slight potential to mitigate the pandemic. Or perhaps, as soon as the state, entity, or business is ready to open up, you’re ready to get back out there. However long it takes, re-entry is still a thing, and our kids are still thinking about it all. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

How do we help ourselves take those baby steps to re-enter the world–and even more importantly, how do we support our young ones in their re-entry process?

5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

Any forward movement counts

Even the word pandemic causes anxiety to rise. Think about steps to take to minimize anxiety and foster forward momentum. That could mean researching methods to get food delivered, figuring out what personal protective equipment looks like for your needs and ordering it, or making sure that your emergency contacts are up to date. 

Our kids need those same skills for adapting, transitioning, and forward movement. Those skills provide guidance, calm, and direction in this unchartered territory. Perhaps it’s writing out a protocol of how to wash hands properly, what needs to be cleaned, or simply where supplies are located in the house. Perhaps it’s listening to how your kids feel in the moment and encouraging them to keep a journal to see how life shifts through this time period. Perhaps it’s arming them with masks, sprays, wipes, and the like to ensure they do their best to keep themselves safe in this time. Or perhaps it’s suggesting learning new methods of communication, schooling, or even hobbies, so they can witness a positive outcome of a time in confinement and an ‘aha’ moment upon completion. Steps are hard to take and the time necessary to take those steps is different for everyone. 

Standing still is better than going backwards and no matter the size of the step, any forward movement counts. Be patient with yourself.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

Assess the science, the facts, and do what feels right for you

It’s often in high school where students learn how to assess their sources, check data, and seek validity in writing and reading. 

This period of time screams for logic, fact, science, rational thinking, and vetted resources. 

Share your thoughts on acceptable resources for learning and growing, and have your students do the same. Facts are facts, but the spin from the source in which they’re presented can change the perception of the reader. Work with the next generation to decipher facts from spin and data from opinions. Help them participate in the investigative experience by weeding out the slanted pieces whose details solely fit a narrative, and pinpoint those reputable and valid sources that share more fact than opinion. Go out into the world armed with information to know the facts and the science. 

Perhaps then the coming out of the quarantine process will feel more empowering and potentially less frightening. 

Calm minds emit focused attitudes and grateful hearts

This situation hasn’t been easy–and it’s been harder for many. Whatever tightrope you’re walking on and balancing act you’re portraying has both the adults and the younger ones on a bit of an edge. The world we woke up to months ago is different from the one today. Of course, slight inconvenience is a far cry from personal tragedy, but the protocols needed to embark outside our doors take thought, focus, and awareness; these are harder to process amidst frayed nerves and anxious minds. 

Enter mindfulness activities. 

Regardless of whether you’re practicing your own breathing exercises, jumping on apps the likes of Calm or Headspace, getting your yoga on, reaching out to a therapist, or pausing to respond rather than react– they’re all necessary. 

Remind all to channel gratitude over angst, gratitude over worry, and gratitude for all that you do have in the moment. Pass on those mindfulness strategies to your younger family members, so they, too, can tap into their present moment to lessen the anxious anticipation and utilize accessible tools to soothe their monkey mind.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

Tread lightly

It’s a good thing that each of us is an individual–the world would be a boring space if we were all exactly the same. That being said, interpretation of facts, varied opinions on scientific data, and a significant contrast in those with a ‘we versus me’ approach to life make navigating the re-entry of this pandemic all the more difficult. 

Tread lightly. 

Governments, economists, and scientists might not all agree on time frames of re-opening. For that matter, family members, friends, and colleagues may be on different pages, too. Impart to those younger than you that the only thing you can control is your own attitude and your own behavior–let go of the rest. Sure, the return to work and school can be challenging and perhaps seem like less of an option for choice, but we each are entitled to ask what plans those entities have in place to keep us safe while in those spaces, and we are entitled to ask those with whom we interact to respect our choices for our own protocols. And if the world opening up makes you anxious, remember, you have the power to control where you go. If a baseball stadium opens, you don’t have to buy tickets. If a restaurant is open to diners and you’re not ready, you can still support them through take-out, gift cards, or promoting them through your own channels. If the trails are open, yet you’re uncomfortable that the actions of others might put your health in jeopardy, find another way to get your nature and exercise in a safer fashion. 

This isn’t easy...and it’s harder for many. Work towards smarter, less anxiety-producing outcomes–and remember, you can only manage your own behavior and not the actions of others. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

It’s okay to be afraid and do it anyway

In the pre-pandemic era, things were different. Perhaps you don’t remember learning to walk and being petrified of each step. Perhaps you can’t recall the time you took your first strides on a bike with that nervous twitch and anxious look in your eye. It’s possible you were afraid and did it anyway, or it’s possible that the action seemed either mundane or necessary, and you moved past the fear and jumped right in. 

In the present living with a pandemic era, each first time is new, potentially anxiety-producing, and even possibly downright scary. Write down the protocols. Know that you’re not alone in your discomfort and fear. Follow the guidelines and take those steps. Be kind to yourself and others. There is no one right time frame for any of this. Some are ready earlier than others, some will fight the entire process, and still others might never feel as if they’re ready. 

Re-entry is never easy. 

The legendary Carrie Fisher reminds us that it’s okay to: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and the confidence will follow.” 

Remember, Princess Leia managed to fight off storm troopers, escape the slimy clutches of Jabba the Hutt, and lead the resistance to fight the dark side. 

If you need a little help, channel that epic strength, and know that although you might not know it yet, there are millions of others right now feeling the very same as you are and doing their best to manage this pandemic one step at a time.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: 5 Actionable Steps for Re-Entry Amidst a Pandemic

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.