Can you relate? Energy for Agency…

by, Jenn Hayhurst

What can I say for myself?  How can I explain my long absence to my friends and colleagues?  You are all people I admire, and respect both professionally and personally. You are the expert sources I have relied upon to keep learning and growing. I can only share my story. To be honest, telling it brings some shame and embarrassment. A true learner does not disengage and retreat.  My sense of identity is deeply connected to believing in my personal sense of power, my ability to be a part of making positive change.  How can I be that person, when I feel beaten and overwhelmed? When we passed the two year mark into the pandemic, it hit me hard that this school year has been the toughest one ever.

Looking back, in preparing for the start of school,  I planned on hitting the ground running with a primary focus to lessen or close academic gaps… If I don’t lessen or close academic gaps there are serious repercussions for children – how could this not be  my top priority?  Then the kids came back.  Although I anticipated that children would have social emotional needs; anticipation, was no substitute for first-hand experience. I thought things were getting back to “normal” but no, nothing felt normal. The severity of all their needs hit me like a tsunami. What do I do with the constant worry I have inside of me?  In my mind’s eye, I imagine the teachers I know; their kind faces shaking their heads, “Yes, we understand.” They know that the energy it takes to be a teacher right now is just  immense.  I don’t think it is really being acknowledged by society, but anyone working in a school or with children during these times is most likely living with some form of trauma.  

“It’s heartbreaking. The pressure is overwhelming,” Bouchard said. “I feel like a horrible teacher. I’ve been teaching 22 years, and this might be the lowest self-esteem I’ve had.” Hannah Bouchard, a 2nd grade teacher at Platte Valley Elementary in Kersey, Colo

EdWeek: Teachers Are Losing Hope That This Can Be a Catch-Up Year

Once November hit and the pandemic took a turn and came back in full force. I felt like my legs were swept out from under me and I was drowning again. Sometimes, you have to let yourself float to conserve your strength so you can go back to treading water and then try to swim back to shore. That is what I have been doing, conserving my energy because I had no other choice.  All that I have had has been focused on the students in front of me, the faculty I work directly with, and the community I serve. That is why, before today you have not seen me tweeting, or posting, or engaging in public spaces for learning. Please believe me when I say I have missed you, and I think I am ready to rejoin the conversation. 

A Close  Relationship Energy & Agency 

Now that the pandemic seems like it is waning, again…  I have the benefit of some perspective. It’s kind of a funny thing; before now, I had not noticed how visually similar the words energy and agency are. Maybe if I had not lived through this experience I wouldn’t have understood how deeply connected the context is for how they operate. Albert Einstein once said, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.”  Now I believe that energy is the  currency that fuels agency. Agency is the embodiment of all of our efforts, all of our beliefs, it is a mirror reflection of the energy we put into living our lives with a sense of purpose and self-belief.  

So my answer to my question, “What do I do with the constant worry I have inside of me?” When it comes to meeting students’ academic and social emotional needs, I plan on turning to the children themselves to find the answers. When putting academic interventions in place I am going to honor their voices. I am going to use their feedback, not as an aside, but as a critical tool to create the intervention. I am going to believe in them and let them lead the way to monitoring success and to design for what comes next:

Building Professional Relationships Built on Agency

Here is a tool Jill and I shared during our presentation, 103A – On-Demand+: Coaching for Agency: Small Moves for a Big Impact. These are some tips to build a professional culture around agency for teachers. Please reach out and let us know if this, or any tools we offer, are useful in your work.

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