Lysol wipes, masks, toilet paper, hand sanitizer: all things that are not new to education but have been a major concentration and demand in 2020. With so many changes during this unprecedented time, it is a great time to reflect on the positives and the silver linings that have come from this pandemic. For decades, teachers have been struggling to meet the needs of their students in their classrooms, and this year are feeling even more defeated as their lifelines (high school helpers, senior citizens, parent volunteers, and more) have been taken away from them. With all of the changes and struggles of this school year, teachers’ hearts and passion for helping their students remains.
Education is forever changing and evolving alongside our students. Technology is the forefront of this school year with webinars, video conferences, online assignments and so much more. Teachers who have taught out of the same old textbook for decades have now successfully gone digital. Unfortunately, educators are even more stressed and underpaid than ever before. Some students and families are having a hard time finding a balance between work and home life, and have come to hate virtual learning. We need to also focus and have conversations about social isolation and depression in our children and young adults, people are struggling physically, emotionally, and socially. Along with the craziness of teaching this year, there are so many silver linings and we will see more along the way. Here are just a few of my favorites:
1. There is a big shift in education that has needed to happen for years! We have found a great, new way to reach and engage all learners in different ways. I hope this year has helped teachers reach the unreachable student and encourage new techniques such as flipped lessons and project based learning. Students can now learn from anywhere at any time..
2. Flexible professional development is now an option. You can experience PD from all over the world in a digital format. Have you ever wanted to attend a big conference that is located in a different state? Educators have some many benefits to attend professional development this year such as no hotel rooms, no substitute plans, and the comfort of your pajamas with recorded sessions!
3. Teachers are stepping out of their comfort zone, and are exceeding their own expectations. I work with some of the best educators (in my opinion) who are going above and beyond for their students. Some are videotaping their lessons and doing virtual parent/teacher conferences, all with grace and confidence. For others, this might be live lessons or even home visits while teaching from their vehicles. Each and every teacher is doing their best for every student!
4. Students are thrilled to be in school learning (when able) and behavior problems have decreased. Our district gave parents the option to be remote or hybrid learning, and of the 70% in school, we have very little to no behavior referrals. Students are excited and eager to learn! They are focused the half days they are in school. I hope we look at this and reflect to move forward for years to come!
5. Parents see the hard work teachers are putting in as they are now the educational support in the household.. Parents have stepped into the role as teachers across the country and have seen a glimpse into a teacher’s life. They appreciate and are thankful for the job educators have been doing day in and day out. Whether it be maneuvering around a learning platform or helping their child with homework, parents are there alongside the teacher and student in the learning process.
6. Families are a priority and focus! I was able to spend much needed quality time with my little ones playing games and having movie nights as a family! Our teachers and students are given extra, NEEDED time to be with their families without extra curricular activities. Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunities for kids to be involved, but we all got a chance to slow down.
7. If 2020 has taught us anything it is finding out what is most important, especially when you can’t see or do those things. Not being able to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones was very difficult, but we have learned to appreciate them that much more. We have taken for granted a field trip to the zoo or bringing in treats for birthdays. Everyone, whether you are in the education field or not, are able to focus on what means the most and are thankful for what we have.
8. Empathy and respect for our school administrators! I am fortunate to be working with some amazing people who have the difficult job making BIG decisions for our district. The leaders of the district usually don’t get the thanks and recognition they deserve, so please send them love and support. Like many have said, they did not go take the class on how to lead your district in a pandemic.
9. We have been given the gift of time! We had time to organize, plan and clean different parts of our life. Our classroom teachers saw how important the time they had with their students was and focused on the big standards and objectives, rather than every page of every lesson of the textbook. They also noticed a shift in homework.For example, math teachers have found the same results to check for student understanding with 10 assigned problems as they would normally give 40.
10. Most people found new ways to learn and grow. By trying a new hobby, finding the time to sit and read a book or taking the lecture style lesson and moving it into a flipped lesson format, we are all being pushed to learn in a new way. Teachers have found new passions and unique ways to reach their students, such as bitmoji classrooms. There has been so much success in encouraging students to embrace their hobbies and interests while hybrid or remote learning and be able to share them with their peers is possible now! Do they have a pet at home or cute little brother? They can show their favorite things on a virtual meet!
I encourage you reading this to write down as many silver linings of 2020 (in and out of your classrooms), to refer to frequently. May we always remember this difficult time, but also all of the wonderful things that have come from it! With change and discomfort, comes growth and accomplishment. To 2021, may there be many more silver linings.