Lessons From An Assistant Principal at the Epicenter of COVID-19
I am an Assistant Principal in the New York City Department of Education. I live and work in Queens, NY, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been quite a rough few weeks for us, as I assume it has been for you since this has affected us globally.
The past few weeks as an educator have been a whirlwind of learning. We are adapting to technology at a rapid pace. The conversations I am having on the phone and through video conferencing have consisted of students who do not have access to technology, families battling symptoms of the coronavirus, fears, anxieties, and a lot of the unknown. These are unprecedented times; we have been faced with bringing the classroom into the homes of our students. Administrators, teachers, teaching assistants, speech teachers, and other related service providers have been working tirelessly in connecting with families and finding ways to keep our students learning. In all our meetings, during our phone calls, during our emails, and other forms of communication, the same word keeps coming up – OVERWHELMED.
Here are five ways we rise up out of being overwhelmed and stay encouraged.
Listen – Everyone is feeling overwhelmed. In my school, we have a family that lost two relatives in the same household, another with parents on ventilators, and staff diagnosed with COVID-19. We are living in scary times, but we serve a big God. The same way He listens to us, He wants us to listen to each other. His word tells us to be anxious for nothing but let our requests be known to Him. I have been telling my teachers to encourage their students to share how they are feeling. During our department meetings, we are doing social and emotional check-ins with the teachers. My first advice for you is to listen to each other. Listen to your students, listen to your colleagues, and listen to your students’ families and validate what they are feeling.
By listening, you are serving the Lord.
Serve & Pray – How can we serve during these times? Listening is the first way to help. Make lists of prayer requests so that you do not forget anyone. When you are talking to your students, ask them for the names of those they love who you can lift up to the Lord. This will encourage them, even if you just tell them you will keep their loved ones in your thoughts. Put those thoughts on paper and bring them before God.
Encourage – We are called to encourage. As believers, the Lord wants us to “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I have been making short videos for families with encouraging words and tips and uploading them to Class DoJo and Youtube. Although I can’t discuss scripture with them because I work in a secular environment, my actions and love are a representation of God’s love.
Ask the Lord to show you what you can do to bless your colleagues, your students, and the families of your students. If you are open to serving the Lord, the Holy Spirit will show you how to shine a light in ways not possible if you were still in the classroom. There is a reason for this season, and as hard as it is, let’s do what we can to serve the Lord through it.
Be Still – Most importantly, I would tell you to “be still.” I have been reading and meditating on the book of Exodus. The Lord reminds us in Exodus 14:14 that He “fights for us, we have only to be silent.” So I want to encourage you to be still before the Lord. Continue to have your devotional time and consider adding to that a moment of just being silent before the Lord. Regardless of all that is happening, He is sovereign. He works all things for good. He called you to be an educator for a time like this one. He has plans for you, plans for you to prosper, even through all this. So keep your head up and fix your crown because you are His child, and He needs you. You are a missionary, and your mission field is your school. So, be encouraged and ask yourself what will I do to serve the Lord through this?
Give Grace – Finally, be kind to yourself. Recognize that so much has happened. Give grace to yourself by managing healthy expectations of what’s doable. Focus on what you can do today, to do your best for your students, and let God do the rest.
We will get through this because God’s got us.