My mind has been swirling with worries as I think of Scranton teachers teaching from the buildings next week on a synchronous schedule: What if my classroom PC, which is almost a decade old, lags so much that the students can’t hack it? What if I try to use the Chromebook assigned to me by the SSD, and it continues to garble the ends of my sentences when I am on Zoom? What if I can’t get the Zoom firewall off of my personal laptop and I don’t have that for a backup? What if the internet is glitchy with so many people using each hotspot? What if the students hate the new schedule because they are losing one of the only perks of learning from home – flexibility of schedule?
Thursday morning, during our first day back to brick-and-mortar as teachers, a fellow teacher asked me for words of inspiration, most likely expecting me to be upbeat. I hate to admit that I told her that I didn’t have time for words of wisdom because I needed to give myself extra time in case there were issues to work out before my Zoom meeting. I wish I had chosen to share my Philippians 4:8 filter instead of rushing away — because the filter actually works wonders – when I remember to use it myself!
Here is the “filter” and my thoughts on how this verse relates to teaching next week:
Philippians 4:8, ESV: “… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Whatever is true: Sticking to the facts, subtracting any emotions or bias. Remembering to do this keeps you calm and makes you realize that the situation is manageable. I believe truth is the first on this verse’s list because truth encompasses all of the other qualities. “The truth will set you free,” right?
What is true? Yes, equipment might fail next week, but we are all in the same boat, and most likely, the students will understand and be patient while we work to remedy the situation.
Whatever is honorable: This certainly relates to teaching. “Honorable” means “worthy of respect or noble.” I think teaching is such a noble profession when one chooses this career for the right reasons. Honor relates to respect — I want to earn the respect of my students by living honorably before them and by honoring them by giving my best in the classroom.
What is honorable? Ensuring that the students understand that we are trying our best, and that we will do whatever we can to help them learn and to make learning as enjoyable and useful as possible.
Whatever is just: “Just” is a synonym for “right” or “fair.” “Equitable,” “impartial”, and “unbiased” thoughts are undoubtedly necessary and expected of teachers. There certainly should be no hierarchy amongst the students in our minds or actions. As teachers, we need to help each student feel connected and vital in the classroom community. We need to help each child recognize his or her gifts, and guide each child on the path to growing those gifts.
What is just? Knowing that we have reached out to each and every child, in a myriad of ways, trying to assist each one to overcome whatever barriers that have had during this COVID-19 era of online learning. And, continuing to make sure no student is ever marginalized, even unintentionally.
Whatever is commendable, excellent, worthy of praise: These involve setting aside our anxious thoughts, any discontentment with which we may be struggling, any whininess or self-pity. It is not entirely honest to believe you can be 100 percent positive all the time, but focusing more on the blessings than on the negatives helps one find the energy and means to tackle the negatives rather than dwelling in the muck of the status quo.
What is commendable thinking? Knowing that, we will find ways to adjust to, circumvent, or fix any problems that arise next week. It might take some effort. It might take some phone calls and some Google forms to the Tech Squad, but we will get it done!
And now that I have my Philippians 4:8 Thought-Filter back in its rightful place, I will tackle some schoolwork!