The end of the year is a special time. Starting with November’s Thanksgiving celebrations, we begin to publicly acknowledge our gratitude for those who have inspired and challenged us. However, this year has been different, and much more stressful, than past years. Typically, there would be social media threads dedicated to enhancing collaboration and mutual support, but this holiday season, social media has been full of messages about how 2020 is a year to forget, not to be thankful for.
Christmas is approaching, and I am already beginning to hear voices clamoring not to celebrate it or even mention it. I understand that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but I also know that the end of the year is a special time when we love to feel closer to the important people in our lives. There is nothing religious about that, and celebrating does not hurt anyone.
We teachers always want to motivate and empower our students, especially when they may be feeling defeated in their academic, social or family lives. We are aware that we are responsible for academic content, but we also know deep down that nothing teaches more than the constant support we give our students through a positive and hopeful attitude. However, I keep finding the same kinds of messages: “2020 is to forget. 2020 has been the worst year in the history of the world. There is nothing to celebrate in 2020. I hope 2020 will end soon.”
When these are the messages we create and focus on with social media, what message are we bringing to our classes? Is it appropriate to bring our frustrations and negativity into the classroom? It is not the students’ fault COVID-19 has affected the lives of so many adults around the world. Perhaps they feel the same frustration. Perhaps COVID-19 has impacted their lives so much that they have even lost hope. Or conversely, maybe COVID-19 has allowed them the personal space that comes from not having to fill their lives with school and extracurriculars.
While it is true that taking virtual classes can be tremendously challenging for many of our students, it is also true that they have had the opportunity to connect more with their families and interact more with their neighbors. The relationships COVID-19 has fostered may indeed be long-lasting, heartfelt and resilient. So, tell me again: What's wrong with 2020?
Many good things have happened around the world during this pandemic, so I created some videos to share the news with our students. You can find the Noticias Positivas videos HERE.
Thanks to COVID-19 I am no longer the same teacher I was 10 months ago. COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to attend conferences and professional development opportunities that were not possible in the past because of distance or price. COVID-19 has pushed me to find other ways to connect and teach. Suddenly, technology is a necessity, not just an option, and that has made me a more creative teacher. And because I have had to develop new ways of working, I will have more tools when I return to the classroom.
Work and home have merged, creating a new reality for all. Every day since March I have invited dozens of students to my virtual space, while they simultaneously “open their home doors” to me. This has allowed conversations that never would have taken place before. Now I know Stites loves spending time in the basement, Parker cannot live without his fan on all the time, and Caroline must take her classes outside of her house. My lessons began to change when I began to recognize my students’ idiosyncrasies and individual needs.
Someday soon, life will return to normal, but hopefully we will remember everything 2020 taught us. When we sit down to plan our classes, maybe we will first consider each of those students with whom we spent quarantine, and the curriculum will be a distant second. Maybe we will think about their stories, their looks, and their surroundings during each distance lesson.
2020 has been nothing more than an opportunity. No, it has not been easy, but I know that each one of us has the conviction of having learned something, of feeling more human, and of knowing our profession beyond schedules and professional responsibilities. Let us bring hope, not defeat, to our students.
Cheers to a Happy 2021!