In North America, many schools are wrapping up their academic year. I’m usually intentional about writing, reflecting, and setting goals. This year more than ever, I find myself encouraged and motivated to make changes...when I also feel I should allow myself to simply collapse into summer because of exhaustion.
It’s been “a year” jam-packed with learning, juggling, and reflecting. We’re all exhausted, but I can’t help but notice passionate educators still finding time to ask the BIG questions and investing in students’ well-being and educational journeys in immeasurable ways. I devoured books and articles about student engagement, problem-based learning, personalized learning, unique assessment methods, and educator growth. Looking back on my year, I see that this deep-rooted desire to learn helped me to face the challenges of constantly reinventing my classroom. It was a mission full of value - not only for learners but for myself as an educator. I know other educators learned more this year than ever...in so many aspects, too!
At times, this desire to “get it right” pushed me nearly to my breaking point. There was no “answer” or “ideal solution” as I sought to find ways to empower students to invest in their learning experiences while also allowing them to connect activities and projects to their interests and current events. However, every time we collaborated, built activities, wrote class norms, reflected, revised...together...it was the sense of accomplishment and excellence I sought. Even if no more than ⅓ of our class was on-campus during any given class meeting and even if there always seemed like there was room for growth, I felt we did the best we could provide everything that was constantly in flux. Our work was constantly unfinished, but eventually, I accepted it.
Over the weekend, a colleague and friend of mine shared a reflection that was published by the Lasallian Region of North America. What's Done is Finished: A Time to Recharge has a wonderful visual and a reminder to accept things as they are and allow yourself to recharge and look forward. You also need to express gratitude for the colleagues who have become friends who are alongside you, accepting the ups and downs of your passionate investment into your career. I hope that others can find a connection to it too, regardless of where you are an educator.
So many of us are ready to return to “normal”, but what if “normal” isn’t the best solution anymore? I know I’m not the only one who has posed this question! In this year full of juggling, adaptability, responsiveness, and emotions, I can’t help but see the beautiful creativity and collaboration that surfaced during so much uncertainty. I’m exhausted, but renewed and actually more in sync with colleagues than I have been at the end of other school years. Like the reflection, I hope that eventually we can look back and recognize everything that was accomplished and identify it with more and more confidence.
Is it possible to maintain our current pace of planning, assessment, research, reflection, adjustments, etc? No, probably not. Were some of the systematic disparities and inequities exacerbated during this year? Yes, sadly. However, there are some amazing solutions, approaches, and principles that should stick around, far longer than our quarantines and pandemic anxieties. It’s time to take this momentum to find our way and address all students’ needs in ways that are current, creative, flexible, and student-driven. Even while completely exhausted, I’m excited and empowered to do better in cooperation with those who enter the classroom and look at me as a guide.. ...after the opportunity to rest, of course, but still soon enough to turn the emotions of “the year” into something that will feed positive changes.
Here’s my challenge for you. Take five minutes to think about your year, in your role in education. Find a post-it or your favorite notes app and jot down some ideas. (If you’d like to share this in the comments so the entire Community can celebrate and uplift together, please do!)
It may be the end of an exhausting year full of (constant) learning, but it’s also the beginning of another phase of continual reflection and growth we accept as educators. How you look back on this year will change over time, but I hope that the frustrations and emotions make all of us stronger, more adaptable, and accepting of teaching and learning in ways we don’t expect.