The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed a lot in our world. Education has flipped on its head. We’re learning online, working from home, teaching remotely and, for many support staff, we’re left to question the validity of our jobs.
What can an outreach coordinator do if there are no events?
What can a pathway coordinator do when everyone is struggling to teach their courses online? How can a career and technical education (CTE) director plan for the upcoming school year when they can’t get stakeholders together? How do you keep going?
CTE professionals are searching for relevance.
In a time of crisis, we are redefining our jobs to make it work. Work-based learning coordinators can’t help with internships because students have to stay home. CTE teachers had to scramble to adjust hands-on lab work into an online format; they still have to teach how to fix a dent in a car or sauté vegetables to perfection.
When my institution switched to remote learning, my workload practically disappeared. Quite suddenly my job was no longer essential. My work as a pathway coordinator wasn’t critical to students just trying to make it through the semester.
It was heartbreaking. I love my job.
Then, for that to change… I wasn’t needed. It was a struggle to overcome that gray cloud. Some days that gray cloud still wins. But there are plenty of CTE professionals in my position right now. And I realized that I needed to find ways to make this job essential in whatever way I could. I needed to find projects to show myself and the school that the job was needed and necessary, if only to keep my sanity.
What could I do? Last year at the time, my calendar was full of events, conferences and planning meetings for the upcoming school year. Today, my calendar is an empty canvas. So, I’m looking ahead, months ahead. I asked myself,
“How I can begin planning for the next year?”
What new classes can I consider adding to concurrent enrollment? What new certificate could be made to create more stackable degrees? I fill my days with tasks related to marketing, data, website changes and updates. Even extra writing, like this article, helps keep that gray cloud of unimportance at bay.
Motivation can still be a challenge on days the gray cloud settles in. “Does this need to get done today?” “Can it wait a couple days?” “Hulu has a new season of Brooklyn 99 to watch.” The cloud whispers, “You’re getting paid to work from home. Send a couple of emails a day and spend the day watching Netflix.”
Focus on your goals.
Every year on the anniversary of my start date, I rewrite the goals I want to accomplish for the year. Those are now taped above my computer to remind me that my job is relevant, that the work I do, despite these circumstances, still matters. It’s not at the top of everyone’s to do list, but it is nevertheless significant.
Torrie Costantino is the CTE pathways coordinator at Utah Valley University. Costantino was a 2019–2020 fellow of the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program at ACTE – Sponsored by ECMC Foundation. She is intensely passionate about CTE and improving the world of education for all students. Email her.