Making Peace with Uncertainty

Close up of feet walking in the rain

The article below, written by Avanti High School Counselor Heather Kazda, is adapted for teachers from a message she wrote for parents in a recent Avanti High School newsletter. Thank you, Heather, for agreeing to share this article with all employees in Here’s the Scoop.

This morning during an individual appointment with a student over Zoom, he exclaimed, “I’m using ALL of my coping skills and IT’S NOT WORKING!” It was a poignant moment and we laughed together, but the truth of it is stark — the ways we have managed our lives and emotions may not work as well in this time we have entered. There is no coping strategy, no mindfulness practice, that can keep us from these truths: our world has changed drastically, we have lost much, the future is uncertain. As I write this, our COVID numbers are climbing and another shutdown order has been enacted. We are being asked to weather another wave of uncertainty that takes us further from knowing when or even if we will be able to return to hybrid or in-person learning this year. We must sit with not knowing and the difficult emotions that ensue.

How do we support ourselves and our children in this loss of certainty and predictability? First and foremost, we do it together, not alone. We must get fiercely committed to connecting how we can. We strengthen the bonds and the bounds of compassion and unconditional love in our own households. We call, Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp and do whatever is possible to see and be present with those we love and those who need us.  We reach out to those struggling more than ourselves and notice that doing so makes our hearts feel more alive. We stand outside in the rain and cold to talk to a neighbor or a friend because those moments of connection help keep us grounded in our community and humanity.

Many of us feel more distracted, scattered and deeply exhausted than ever before. Neuroscience tells us that screens increase depression and irritability and limit our capacity to focus and connect. Yet, there is no escaping screens in this era. I have been working with students to be aware of their bodies and their surroundings even as they are Zooming or completing assignments. It is important to toggle back and forth between the two environments in which we are living (physical and virtual). Noticing the breath, leaning away from the screen and into our back body, and turning our head slowly and gently from side-to-side to orient to our environment are all practices that can help bring us back to the present. It is wise to practice at least one of these strategies for every twenty minutes of screen time as well as to look away from the screen to reduce eye strain.

Other lovely ways to regulate: get up and dance to one song (with gusto), run outside when the sun breaks through, skip up and down the street on a five-minute break,  do 10 push ups as a sensory break (wall or floor), sing a favorite song while walking around the house in between Zoom sessions, take a weekly family yoga class or a nightly after dinner walk. We must deliberately clear time for and invite joy, because it may not appear as naturally as it once did. A quote from Dr. Stuart Brown, who has studied the purpose of play extensively: “The opposite of play is not work — it’s depression.” These words (source unknown) have also been inspiring me, “It is through joy that one resists.” 

The to-do list is never ending; we must decide to STOP, REST and PLAY while tasks remain undone. Moving our bodies through any exercise practice that works for us has never been more important. Remembering to eat every few hours is imperative (especially for young folks who lose track of time and hunger while on screens) and a consistent sleep schedule is vital. While these practices won’t stop us from feeling worry and sadness, they will help us manage uncertainty and maintain our capacity to experience joy and connection. When the future is uncertain, the safest and wisest place to live is right NOW — here together with those we love.

In meeting the heavy presence of uncertainty, we must feel and be in touch daily with our own vitality and genius (the unique gifts we give the world), and we must help our students do the same. To help us connect with our aliveness, here are some questions we might ponder for ourselves and ask our students: When this week have you felt most alive? When today did you feel most like yourself? Looking back on this month, when were you most creative? When this week did you feel powerful or effective? We must look for and cultivate (particularly in our young people) the sparks of life, vitality, kindness and generosity that can pull us into a brighter future.

As we all work hard to educate/prepare our students for the future, it is wise to step back now and then and remember that much of our job is to help them claim and kindle what is already within. Knowing we simply cannot cover our content and curriculum in the way we once did, freedoms and new possibilities emerge, but only if we welcome them. What is most important for our students to receive from us at this moment? “When a person becomes aware of their genius and they live it and they give generously from it, they change the world,” says Michael Meade. The world our students are facing is uncertain and often frightening. How can we help them find in themselves that which will make life meaningful and worth living even under difficult conditions? What might we need to rekindle in ourselves that will help us replenish and continue to be of service in this time when we are so needed? What structures, habits or beliefs can we let go of to lighten our overwhelming load? Taking courageous leaps of faith in the way we are living and teaching may in fact be what great uncertainty is calling us to do. I look forward to hearing your stories.

Please complete staff survey by Friday, Dec. 4

Laptop computer on table with paper displaying a variety of different graphs for tracking survey results

Below is a copy of an email sent to all OSD employees on Friday, November 20

We ask that all employees please complete a district survey to share their thoughts about the effectiveness of the current remote learning model. We also ask that you answer questions that relate to general topics such as school/work climate, and cultural awareness and action. Survey responses will be anonymous. Data gathered will be used to inform planning going forward during the Pandemic response and gather baseline data to use as we strive to improve all workplaces in Olympia.

The deadline to complete this staff survey is 8 p.m. on December 4.  Families were sent a similar feedback survey.

  • Certificated staff onlyClick to take the survey
  • All other OSD employeesClick to take the survey (Note: For employees who work in support buildings, when you see questions that reference “school,” please answer as they relate to your support building site).

Shift to hybrid learning surveys sent to grades 1-12

On November 20, the district emailed families of students in grades 1-12 requesting they complete a form in Skyward Family Access indicating their preference for hybrid or full-time distance learning once the district is able to shift to a hybrid learning model. The surveys are due by Friday, December 4.

Staff interested in seeing questions and background information shared with families on the form may see the information on the staff Intranet. Be sure to log in to Google to access the staff Intranet. The forms, which are formatted sightly different in the Skyward Family Access tool but contain the same information, are posted on the Surveys webpage in the Communications department folder.

New version of Return to Work Safety Plan posted on website

Read the latest version (Version 4.4) of the OSD COVID-19 Pandemic Return to Work Safety Plan. The plan is posted on the staff Intranet, so be sure to sign in to Google to access the file, which is located under Departments, Safety & Risk Management. A copy of the plan is also posted on the district Internet site on the Support Services Department webpage, on the COVID-19 Response Protocol webpage, and on the In-Person and Remote Learning Updates webpage.

The latest changes to the plan include:

  • Page 12: New page outlining what employees do when they receive a report of a positive, but unconfirmed case of COVID-19 at schools or support buildings.
  • Pages 13-16: Pages have been updated to reflect the most current COVID-19 flowcharts from Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.

Please remember to follow all safety and health protocols outlined in the plan.

Resources for interfaith celebrations and observances

White ceramic teacup sits on railing with mountains and lake in the distance

As part of the district’s work related to the board-approved Student Outcomes, specifically Outcome 1, Indicator 1, we are providing you with some resources of various interfaith celebrations and observances.

These resources are designed to make you aware of interfaith calendar events so you can be mindful throughout the year. As a reminder, Outcome 1 states “Our Students Will: Be Compassionate and Kind.” Indicator 1 states our students will “Be aware of and appreciate one’s similarities and differences with others.”

Remember you can always return to the staff blog at any future date to access these resources. We will continue to update this list as we become aware of new free resources:

  • Key Dates – April 2020 issue of OnCall, published by the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA). This annual calendar lists a combination of special months and weeks, as well as holidays and some interfaith celebrations.
  • OSPI website: Common Religious and U.S. Public Holiday Calendars
  • There is a free online interfaith calendar that appears to have been last updated in 2017; however, there is a link from this calendar to an A-Z list of definitions of interfaith observances. The definitions include specifics, for example, about when holy days are observed and those that include fasting. You may find these definitions helpful.

Tips for setting up a home workspace

Woman types on computer keybaord at table while sitting up straight in chair, wrists aligned for proper posture/ergonomics

The following are tips for setting up a home workspace shared by the Educational Service District (ESD) 113 Workers Compensation Trust.

Under Pandemic restrictions, some staff work from home. Proper ergonomic setup can help prevent injury. When telecommuting, remember:

  • Designate a specific area for work setup
  • Ensure adequate lighting
  • Clear clutter
  • Watch for potential trip hazards
    • Cords or items on floor
    • Furniture legs
  • Don’t overload electrical circuits
  • Consider Ergonomics
    • Use good posture
    • Place monitor so the top is at eye level
    • Keep head level, avoid bending neck down
    • Relax your shoulders
    • Keep wrists straight
    • Use a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor for laptop if possible

View a one-page “What is Ergonomics” flyer also shared by ESD113

Kudos to our newest Everyday Hero

Everyday Heroes Logo with the words: Celebrating OSD Employees

Everyday Heroes is a regular feature in this staff blog. Remember to submit names of employees districtwide who have done something deserving of encouragement and praise. Give a shout-out to one of your colleagues at your school or support building and watch for it to appear in an upcoming Everyday Heroes blog post.

Here is our newest honoree:

Everyday Hero
Mimi Arnett, English Language Teacher, Garfield Elementary School

I would like to nominate Mimi Arnett, Garfield’s fabulous ELL teacher for an everyday hero.  Besides being in constant contact with our ELL students on a daily basis to see what they need, fill any gaps and assist in testing; her quick resolve saved our portable from a fire.  Thankfully, the damage was minimal and isolated to the ramp walkway. Thank you Mimi for saving our Art Portable!!
Submitted by Office Manager Michell Orwig and Garfield ES staff

How to nominate an Everyday Hero

  • Email the Communications and Community Relations Department (communications@osd.wednet.edu) a few sentences, and no more than 200 words, about why the person deserves recognition. It’s easiest to write as if speaking directly to the colleague, such as “Thank you for helping with…” or “I really appreciated when you…”
  • Write “Everyday Heroes” in the subject heading of the email.
  • Include your first and last name as the person submitting the comments.
  • Include the first and last name of the OSD employee you are recognizing.
  • Include the job title and work location (school or department) of the person you are recognizing.

All submissions will be posted in this blog on a weekly basis and archived each week.

Acrobat Pro Accessibility Part 3 – Navigating the Tags Pane

Person appears to be ready to mark a checklist of items. Next to person doing this is a laptop computer.

This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, continues the series on creating accessible documents within Adobe Acrobat Pro. Please email Robert with any accessibility tips or questions.

The Tags Pane displays the programmatic structure of a PDF document. The goal when remediating PDFs for accessibility is to ensure the Tags Pane accurately reflects both the content and structure of your PDF.

Displaying the Tags Pane

Despite being a fundamental tool within Acrobat Pro, the Tags Pane is not displayed by default. To display the Tags Pane, go to View > Show/Hide > Navigation Panes > Tags. The Tags Pane will be displayed on the left of the Acrobat Pro window.

Understanding and Navigating the Tags Pane

The Tags Pane displays the content of the PDF nested within structural tags, much like HTML. For instance, a section of heading 1 text will be contained within an H1 tag, and images will be contained within Figure tags. While all documents are unique, a standard document’s tag tree may appear as:

  • Tags
    • Document
      • H1
        • Document Title text
      • P
        • Introductory paragraph text
      • H2
        • Section Title text
      • P
        • Section paragraph text
      • Figure
        • Image (dimensions)

When selecting an element within the Tags Pane, the corresponding content will highlight. The Pane can be navigated using either the keyboard arrows or the mouse. A screen reader, or other assistive technology, is likely to rely upon the tag tree when reviewing a PDF, so the order of the tags within the Tags Pane is crucial. Elements can be dragged and dropped into the correct order.

Next time we will cover adding and deleting tags within a standard text document. In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding using Acrobat Pro or other accessibility concerns, please reach out to Robert Hardy in the Communications and Community Relations Department.

Previous posts in the Acrobat Pro Accessibility series:

SEBB Open Enrollment ends Monday, November 23

Below is a message sent to all OSD employees on Friday, November 20 as a reminder that SEBB Open Enrollment ends on Monday, November 23.

Hour glass with sand nearly run out on a wood table with stack of books, pens and paper, and analog clock

Time is running out…

Are you planning to:

  • Change your medical or dental plan?
  • Add a dependent to your SEBB medical or dental plan?
  • Update your spouse or state-registered domestic partner premium attestation or tobacco use premium surcharge?

Changes may be made through SEBB My Account until 11:59 pm on Monday, November 23, 2020. If you requested a paper form from your benefits administrator, the benefits administrator must receive the form no later than Monday, November 23, 2020.

  • The SEBB Program helpline (1-855-648-3100) is available on Friday, November 20 and Monday, November 23 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. only. The helpline will no longer be available for calls after November 23, 5 p.m.
  • The helpline is intended for questions about SEBB My Account (SMA) regarding topics such as screen navigation and document uploads, and assisting with navigation and SAW questions regarding SMA during OE.

Or, maybe you plan to:

  • Enroll or re-enroll in the Medical Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) or Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP)
  • Enroll online through the Navia Benefit Solutions website. If you are enrolling by completing the paper form, Navia Benefit Solutions must receive the form no later than Monday, November 23, 2020.

Smoking Attestation – You do NOT have to re-attest each year to the smoking surcharge. You only need to re-attest if there has been a change in your smoking habits.

Please contact your benefits administrator at sebb@osd.wednet.edu with any questions.