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Rules of engagement for COVID-era teams

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

My neighbors and I stood outside looking in the direction where we expected the school bus to appear with the meal delivery distribution. It began to rain. The children went inside, and I went to grab an umbrella. The bus appeared in the few minutes that I was away. No one was standing at the stop, and the driver didn’t stop there for long. It was raining. As I walked toward the stop, the bus moved and began to head in my direction. I thought perhaps she was meeting me to close the distance of my walking in the rain. “That’s nice,” I thought. But I was wrong.

When the bus doors were opened, the driver scolded me. “You weren’t there,” she said, pointing and giving me the street corners where she is designated to stop. I thought to challenge her observation with a reply of “You are late,” but I didn’t. I was wearing my mask as I was instructed to do, which thankfully slowed my sass. When I asked for the bags for my three children and elected not to take the extra milk, I got more of her attitude. She explained that I had to take six milk cartons for my three bags. Did she have to be nasty about it?

With my arms filled with goodies, I kept my mouth closed and walked away. For a first time meeting, this driver and I did not hit it off well. I was convicted and upset with the encounter all at once.

Our emotional and psychological well-being is largely affected with all the change, grief and death that we have endured during the pandemic. We all have bad days, and we likely have more of them these days. Stress does not allow us to behave at our best. I also get that our school administrators, teachers, bus drivers and support staff are under more stress than we know. I am encouraged that no matter the weight of it all, together we can foster an environment of harmony and hope as a team.

Teamwork is the key ingredient to successfully educating our children whether they are attending public school, private school, virtual learning or face-to-face format. When you are a teammate, you commit to show up. Showing up means being present not just in position or name only but bringing the best of you to the commitment. A great teammate serves others with the best of your presence, your talent and your resources.

I consider being a parent of a school-aged child an automatic membership to the human growth dream team. Like any team that is formed by an organization, we do not get to pick our teammates. But we do get to choose how we approach the opportunity to serve alongside our teammates.

The COVID era has given us several challenges to navigate. Now that school has begun in these virtual platforms, we have several more challenges. I will be the first to admit that I have been skeptical of how well we will fare as a team during this virtual learning challenge. I still choose this team. The “us vs. them” approach to this year is ineffective. We are them and they are us at the same time. We are allies and there are no enemies. These are our rules of engagement:

4Give everyone some grace. Sometimes grace means holding your tongue. Grace means giving other people the benefit of the doubt. Turn the other cheek even when you feel like being a bit cheeky because someone approached you the wrong way.

4Master the art of a sincere “smize.” Tyra Banks coined this term for smiling with your eyes. I know it’s difficult to show someone that you’re a friendly teammate when half of your face is covered. The best you can do is put on a happy face with your eyes. No side eye allowed.

4Be positive. As hard as it is to show up for people, it is harder to do it for people you don’t know. That’s why you must amp yourself with positivity before the day starts. Let positive words, tone and temperament be your cloak no matter who you meet. Colossians 3:12  tells us, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Connect with her via iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.