Dear Diary,

I have absolutely no idea what week or day of the school year it is today for my journal timeline. I have lost track since my last entry. I do know that we are nearing the end of April.

Hmmm…my last entry happened somewhere around Christmas break. Geesh. I didn’t even publish it. Let’s flip back through the entries to see what was floating around in my mind back then. Here it is:

Dear Diary,

I promised myself to only lay hands on my laptop over Christmas break when my designated time for January lesson preparation was upon me. Monday was the day I had set aside in my mind to spend hours on the computer, planning lessons that would accommodate my district’s new and improved hybrid model that takes effect on January 11. At this point, I feel as though all of the work I spent creating curriculum maps aligned with state and national standards, studio habits of mind, themes, media centers, and all that goes along with mapping out an instructional year in art has just hit the brick wall, laying in broken scattered pieces in front of me.

Up until Christmas break, I managed, through a lot of flexibility, to plan lessons for both in-person and a handful of remote-learners in each class and grade level that were happening simultaneously. The families who had selected the remote-learning hybrid option to begin the school year, the one that allowed their child to learn from home and tune into their own classroom with their peers, were prepared with instructional materials and supplies to create artwork at home. When our district went fully virtual early in November, I scaled back my lessons, really focused on artistic behaviors and studio habits of mind, Choice-based art education, and we all worked with materials that were available to artists at home. For some, that was their computer, or maybe a dry erase board and marker, and for others, they had loads of art supplies.

To be honest, I am anxious and intimidated by this newer hybrid model. I don’t know how to approach planning lessons for it. On each day, I will see only half of my artists in person, while the others are remote. We are moving to a cohort model, allowing in-person instruction for the first half of the alphabet on Monday and Tuesday, while the second half of the alphabet tunes in remotely. Wednesday is a remote day for everyone. The second half of the alphabet attends in-person instruction on Thursday and Friday, while their counterparts are remote.

Thinking about all of this makes me stress out and causes procrastination. Adding to this stress is that I am in a department leadership position, which I love by the way, but my leaders and administration have also deemed the department leaders as support persons to help our department members as they prepare for this transition and for teaching during this crazy historic time. I feel so unqualified as a department leader during this pandemic. How can I support my department when there are times when I don’t have a clue? How can I support others when I am also struggling?

My stress levels also increase when I consider that in the fall, I decided to postpone my final graduate course until January, hoping that we would be virtual. I could kick myself in the butt.

There are times when I become so paralyzed with anxiety about returning to in-person learning as our region’s Covid-19 cases increase. For example, I must go into one of my schools and organize materials, now that some storage cabinets arrived during the in-person closure. Now is the perfect time. My normal recess duties could be used just to organize. It would be quiet and I could focus and take pleasure in something I enjoy – organizing stuff. However, I have bailed on myself twice. Once prior to Christmas break, and the other today. Why? It has to be the environment. But at the same time, is it? Again, I’m suspending my visit to one of my final full virtual days when I am assigned to this school. I can’t not go.

When these thoughts consume my mind, I give myself time for resolve, time to brainstorm, stew, research, and allow grace before devising a plan. As I type, I recall that The Art of Education University put together an incredible resource for art teachers, covering just about everything under the sun when it comes to the instruction of art education during this pandemic. I need to slow down, browse through the articles, reflect over what worked for me up to this point, and prepare a plan of action. Fingers crossed that I can manage this before the weekend arrives. Until I write again, my regards.

So what happened to me for the last 4 months? It felt like I went off the grid without notice!

Once January hit, I immersed myself in academic writing, teacher action research, and intensified my time management schedule to accomplish and acquire another MAEd. Honestly, I expected that I would be able to continue my diary entries alongside my final degree work, but the universe denied my plan. As I reflect with you today, my final Capstone Research presentation is now a thing of my past, my paper is being finalized for submission, and graduation is on the horizon.

As I concluded my virtual Capstone presentation last night for the university faculty, my professor and cohort, I shared my reflection of the journey that I’ve had with AOEU. I advised that it would be extremely personal, and I chose to recite it verbatim in order to keep my focus. Gosh, I could hardly make it through the first sentence without my emotions taking full charge of the situation. My audience witnessed my authentic, vulnerable, human self as I shared with them. My gratitude for this university and community of art educators runs deep, right to my core. Not a dry eye in the zoom meeting existed when I finished. We all teared up because we have experienced a magical transformation of our own because of this university.

Allow me to share with you what I shared last night:

The Art of Education University has led me on a transformational journey in my profession as an art educator and teacher leader. The entire AOEU community has become my circle of mentors, guiding me to places inside myself that I never knew existed. Through my learning, growth, and connection with other AOEU students, I have flourished.

I have found a strong sense of value and worth, my confidence has increased, wounds have been healed, and my passions revealed.

I now know what brings me to life. I am incredibly thankful that AOEU is part of my story, my journey to here and will accompany me on the road ahead.

Thankfully, dear diary, that was easier to say to you than when I was in the moment last night. When the tears were wiped away, and my audience shared how relatable those feelings were to them, I likened this culminating experience to having to say goodbye to a beloved friend who was moving a far distance away. The goodbyes can be so heart wrenching despite knowing in your heart that the friendship isn’t over, it’s simply changing.