So… 2020 was a thing.
Now that we’re living in the future of 2021 – let’s all take a collective deep breath.
No, things aren’t back to ‘normal’. They never will be back to what they were, that’s impossible given the immeasurable changes that occurred in 2020.
Many of us have been in a prolonged grieving process since early last year. Our entire way of life has been poked, prodded, pulled, shifted into so many new and uncomfortable positions. We long for what life used to be like a mere 12 months ago.
Some of the changes have been for the undeniable and far-too-long-held-back good. Some changes are heartbreaking.
Our entire educational landscape has been flipped on its head. The pivoting we have had to accomplish has been truly remarkable. Please allow yourself a few moments of grace, pride, and kindness when you think back to what teaching became in 2020. The entire world has held its breath, and yet us educators were deemed too essential, education too essential, to pause along with the rest. We have pushed through a veritable blizzard, carrying every one of our students on our back, along with their families and our own.
This new year is going to be different again. Allow yourself to grieve the old, but also allow yourself a sliver of excitement about the new possibilities emerging. Perhaps your tech-phobic administration team are finally seeing the light. Perhaps those students who have truly struggled in a classroom setting are now doing better than ever before because they have been able to comfortably access their education from home.
But we also need to be cautious. Every student has struggled as much as we have. Every student is behind where they ‘should’ be, and this is an important point to emphasise to concerned students and parents – they are not unique in the fact that they are behind. Every child is. Every. Child. Is.
Every student is wary of what this year means. Show them that you truly understand. Go back over concepts and skills they should have mastered long ago without impatience or reluctance; allow extra time for questions; be patient with behavioural outbursts (you never know just how stressful home life might be for them right now, how stressful it has been for close to a year now); communicate a bit extra with those parents who have the time and desire; assure yourself and your colleagues that you truly are doing the best you can, and that the students will be ok. We will all be ok.
If you are coming to a place where you realise education is no longer your passion, that is ok too. Pivot your skills into a different arena without shame, without guilt. Do what is right for you, now, in this new world dynamic.
If you are new to the profession, understand that this is certainly not the norm. You are coming into a barn that has been ravaged by storms. There will be added pressure to help clean up, help rebuild. Use your fresh optimism and energy to lend a hand to those who are burning out. Show kindness to each other.
Above all, remember that the entire world is in the same storm. Not the same boat, certainly, but we are weathering it together.
And for goodness sake, wear a damn mask.