(Michelle Bostian) April 2020
We are all in a time where our ABC’s (of self-determination theory) are being tested. Researchers Rich Ryan and Edward Deci have published countless bodies of work about the three psychological needs we all have for feelings of autonomy, belonging and competence. And yet, here we are.
Covid-19 has essentially impacted feelings of autonomy for everyone. When, where and to what degree does it have an impact? Autonomy is about a feeling of choice. At this moment, none of us are feeling a great deal of choice as our schools must manage decisions about the best way to navigate around Covid-19, yet keep the learning happening. We are being challenged to learn new ways to teach, communicate, and engage in the process of school. We are leading children to do the same and keeping our game face on at the same time.
Competence is also being challenged during this time. We have varying levels of feeling competent in the realm of online teaching and learning. How will I manage classroom management in an online class? What if I am not as effective at teaching through Zoom as I am through interactive group work in my personal classroom? To some degree, many of us are being shifted, outside of our control, from a classroom environment where we feel a great deal of competence, to a virtual classroom, where we frankly are unsure of our abilities and the outcomes our efforts will produce.
The one place we can really leverage for all of us to come out stronger through this Covid-19 crisis is to lean into our sense of belonging. We have each other. We are a connected, caring and supportive community. Lean on each other. Allow yourself to be a bit vulnerable and ask for help. Or just ask for a listening ear. After all, it’s not that we can’t be successful at teaching through Zoom. Perhaps the confounding frustration is that we didn’t CHOOSE to be in the position to need to learn this skill and we aren’t experts at it. And in the words of Carol Dweck… “not experts YET!”
Remember, we do have autonomy in how we choose to show up for ourselves, each other, and our students while we maneuver through the unpredictable nature of this experience. We also have our experience with being quite capable and effective at facilitating teaching and learning to build on as we enter the virtual space. As it turns out, contrary to our fears, if we dig deeper, we know we are quite competent and will continue to build skills that will affect our growth.
And no matter how challenging or widespread this pandemic proves to be we will be steadfast in our belief in one another and the deep connections that knit us together. Celebrate friendships, laugh from your belly, and be fierce in reminding friends to lead with grit, gratitude, and grace. Let your colleagues know you see them. Let them experience that you hear them. Show how much you know them. Take time to step into the joy of what a true sense of belonging and service to others can bring.
You’ve got this!