Among many dumb things I’ve done in my life, one of the dumbest might have been skydiving. I’m certain some readers are thinking, “Are you kidding that’s the most awesome thing in the world.”
I’m not going to argue.
When considering the risks of skydiving, everyone focuses on a singular facet, does your parachute open up and hence, do you live? As far as I can tell, this happens almost always. What gets scant attention is the fact that even with an open parachute, on a warm day with little wind, when you hit the ground, you feel like you are a nail being driven into a piece of wood with a hammer. Your knees and other parts of the body don’t like it. But that was just my experience. My encounter with skydiving would provide fodder for at least half a dozen blog posts, but I wish to examine one particular aspect that relates to our current situation.
When I carried out this ill-fated pursuit, there must have been a Republican administration in power because personal injury litigation was clearly at its nadar across our region. I suspect this to be true because I was able to drive to New Jersey with my friends, train for about seven hours and then get taken up in a plane and jump out of it with my parachute-backpack tethered to the plane so that it would deploy after I had free-fallen about 150 feet. You jumped out of the plane at 3000 feet. So yes, you can go to a sky diving school early in the morning, train all day, and jump out of an airplane later that afternoon. That fact alone should tell you that this is a dubious undertaking at best.
Maybe this was for the best because if I had the opportunity to train and then went home to the safety of my couch I might have come to my senses. As such, going through the various training exercises throughout the day my adrenaline had risen to a point where I was willing to climb out of the plane, stand on a metal step, launch myself away from the plane, assume an arched back, spread eagle position, so as not to interfere with the tether cord that opened my parachute and begin my trip back to earth. That’s correct, as you prepare to jump from the plane, you are standing on a small steel step holding onto the wing of the plane.
Anyway, at some point during the day, one of my friends asked, “What if we have second thoughts when we are up there, can we chicken out?”
The instructor replied, “Sure. In fact, if you get cold feet, and you return back to the hangar in the airplane, we’ll let you come back on another day and try again. There is one thing you need to know though however. Once you step out onto the metal step, you can’t come back in the plane. It’s dangerous. If you step out onto the metal step and you’re not willing to jump, we’re going to push you.” That unsettled a few of us but the instructor blithely pointed out, “What’s the problem, you have a parachute.”
Demanding more explanation, the instructor was compelled to offer several anecdotes about people who had tried to climb back in the plane and broke their arms, suffered concussions, tangled their legs on the metal step and had to be rescued dangling from the plane at 3000 feet. He obviously had practice offering these stories.
As the instructor put it, “It’s more dangerous if you don’t commit. Once you’re on the step, you gotta go, you’ll do more harm than good if you don’t jump.”
Like I said, this is a post about COVID-19. As I write this, school is just three weeks away. We spent all summer examining different plans for the opening of school. In New York, as in most of the country, schools are opening under some version of: all remote, all in school, or some hybrid of the two. With school opening just over the horizon, we are now past the point of wondering what is going to be. We are now on the metal step. We need to commit.
Regardless of the approach to reopening at your school, you need to commit yourself to your purpose. In my school I am privileged to work with the most amazing staff who are possessed of an unflinching clarity of purpose. They know that our role as educators is to nurture the learning and well-being of our kids, to love them so that they know they belong and that we are their champions.
I love this video that’s been going around.
It’s a TickTock video, nothing special I guess. But there’s something that strikes me about it. Watch the Dad in the middle. Why is he so awesome? Why? Is he the best dancer? Is his technique superb? No. He’s awesome because he commits. he is totally into it. You can see it. He is all in. And the result is amazing. This video has been seen hundreds of thousands of times because of the Dad who commits.
So, my friends, that is the deal. We’ve got to be all in. I know it might be hard, we’re going to have our bad days, our bad moments. We are standing on the metal step. Whatever path your school is taking, we’ve got to commit to this. Whether you’re going to see your students in person behind a mask and maybe a plexiglass barrier or on the other side of a screen, we’ve got to commit. If we go into this half hearted, we will be doing more harm than good. We must commit. I know that’s what I’m going to do!