Yesterday evening I found myself in the pool, playing inner-tube-tossing games with my 11-year-old daughter.  I didn’t want to go swimming.  After one-week back at school, and one more to go before the students arrive, I have a multi-page to-do list that grows each time I talk to someone (including myself).  

As she modeled and explained the differences between Success, Lame, Weak, and Fail inner-tube tosses, a light-bulb went off in my head.  This, I thought, is school in 2020:

  • We’re going to have to redefine what exactly Success looks like.
  • Some of our attempts at teaching in this new world will be Lame or Weak, but they are not Fails. 
  • And most importantly, when we do have Fails, we’ll get another chance.  We’ll just have to keep tossing that inner tube.

For a minute, standing there in the shallow end, I thought I had crossed two things off my list—a blog post and the introduction to the meeting I’m hosting first thing Monday morning (yes, in less than three hours as I type this).  This analogy was going to go far.

Then, I relaxed a little, got caught up in the moment, and worked to improve my throws.  I was having fun.  We switched scoring to a Penalty Kick format (best of five) and in determining the prize, we decided that if I won, I got to get out of the pool to go cook dinner; if she won, we stayed and played.  With dinner on the line, the pressure of competition took over and my nerves got the best of me.  She won.  We stayed and played.  She was thrilled, both to beat me and to continue to get to me (and my attention) to herself.  

And as I played along, watching her joy and silliness, I realized that this was really the message I needed to share today.  School will be there tomorrow, dinner will be ready when it is, but this little bit of fun is right now and I need to live it.  

Last week was the toughest pre-planning week I’ve had in 23 years.  Every teacher I work with is overwhelmed, uncertain, exhausted, and also a little excited.  We’re going to do this, even if we’re not quite sure what this is.  We all have so many questions (How do I….?  Are you going to….?  What about….?) and we are navigating the challenge of helping each other while still keeping our distance.  There’s so much to do, and, if I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times—thank goodness we get two weeks for pre-planning this year.  We definitely need it.  

But we definitely need to remember what we’re coming out of, too.  I, like many of you, have spent nearly five months at home, working and living alongside my husband and daughter.  The togetherness was good for us.

Last week, was tough on them, too.  I was at school during the days and still “at school” at night, always thinking about tomorrow.  As abrupt and challenging as this shift was for me, I figured out last night, that it’s been equally tough on them.  I was always thinking about what needed to be done for school, trusting that my family would be fine.  And they would be.  But so will school. 

The work-life balance is a tricky equation, and like everything else in 2020, it’s now even more challenging.  Teachers have a tendency to go all-in during pre-planning—we want to make sure everything is perfect.  Let’s get one thing clear: Perfect isn’t going to happen this year.  I can’t even imagine what it’s going to look or feel like next week with students.  So, rather than stress over it during every waking hour, I’m going to focus on being present–letting “school” stay at school, and being “home” for my family.

Although that plastic inner tube clearly states that it is not a life-saving device, it brought a change of perspective that will keep me afloat through this, whatever this turns out to be.


Although not originally planned, this post, too, is part of my Making Lemonade series–blog posts about making the best of the situation in spite of the circumstances facing us in the 2020-21 school year. Follow my blog to be notified when I post new ideas.

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