It was back day at Bruinton Fitness and tears were slowly sliding down my face at 5:30 a.m. It wasn’t the workout. I had just endured the craziest 24 hours: schools across my state would be closed to in-classroom instruction for the remainder of the year due to the novel coronvirus.
It would be a shock and a tough pill to swallow, but there was plenty of communication work to do. My role sits at the intersection of a lot of things–both internal and external. We needed a response to the Governor’s announcement. Thankfully, my team was ready and came through with videos, graphics and even translations. The local hospital even contacted us to assist in finding N-95 masks in our schools. Needless to say, we delivered.
It went smoothly, or so I thought, until my phone rang just after 6 p.m.; it was a former student who moved to another school and needed her email in our system reset. The reason: so she can access her Nintendo Switch credentials. Then, there were the social media trolls who suggested teachers shouldn’t be paid because parents would be the ones doing the teaching.
That was a cut so deep, I cannot explain. I am a fourth generation public education employee. My great-grandmother, grandmother, mom and dad were all teachers. As a school PR practitioner with public school children of my own, I realized that for my family, for the first time in five generations education would not happen in a classroom in the spring.
My own daughter told me after the news broke “I just want to go back to school.”
Things didn’t get easier when I checked my email this morning before my workout and read that a coworker was praying for me by name and the job for which I am responsible. That is why the tears rolled in the middle of a back workout.
My husband looked at me and asked if I wanted to stop. “No,” I told him. “Put on some more weights” on my barbell. He looked at me and smiled. It was time to step up.
As I repped out my deadlifts, I reflected on my career: nothing has ever been this tough. As a former journalist, I have covered dozens of crime scenes, murder trials and gruesome accidents. I never cried.
But today, I did. For the lost year for our students and those across America. For our teachers who didn’t realize the last time they saw their students this year would be the last time. For the students who were looking forward to spring rites of passages, like fun field trips, prom and graduation.
Working in School PR is a calling; I have never been more proud of my profession–the creativity, the generosity, and the commitment. The work is hard, but important. Especially now. The weight school PR practitioners are carrying now is immense. It is hard to explain volume of work we are doing right now. Our roles now include understanding the impacts of large decisions and putting them into an easy-to-understand way to help others understand them, too.
Communication is two way and there is a lot coming back in like concerned parent questions, anxious teacher questions and probing reporter questions.
I know that when this is said and done we will come out on the other side transformed. Personally, I will continue to get up and lift weights in our home gym, because I will be at home for quite some time. Amid the tears will be the gains.
Students will learn more about themselves. Teachers will challenge themselves to meet the needs of students through a virtual platform. Education will see changes in the way we do business. Professionally, I will grow my own skills.
After all, that’s what working out is about: transformation. As I finished my workout and my mind started to wander to the list of tasks that would need to be accomplished, my husband looked at me and the weights I was lifting and said, “add some more, you can handle it.”
Yes, I can and I did.