This time of year, educators experience a variety of emotions. There’s the excitement and buzz of the season, full of family holiday traditions. There is the absolute relief to be on break from work, as you focus on relaxing, to be ready for January. For others, there can be anxiety and disappointment that accompanies the season, especially when asked to figure out a new way to connect with our families during closures, while staying socially distanced. We definitely start to think of returning to school after break, and all the things we want to accomplish with our students. After what we’ve gone through with distance learning since spring, many of us are ready to see 2020 end, and hopeful for what 2021 could bring.
Before we shut the door on this crazy year, we encourage you to think about what you have learned, and how you’ve grown as an educator, friend, spouse, parent, and in all the roles you hold. Overall, yes, this year has been a bummer full of cancelled vacations and unmet expectations. However, what are the positives you’ve experienced? For us, it's been home cooked meals with our families, elimination of the crazy morning rush out the door, and the ability to actually switch out the loads of laundry or start the crockpot during the day. (It’s the little things, people).
Another positive of the 2020 school year, was our school district’s expectation to meet with each family for 20-30 minutes to start the school year. While this was time consuming, and initially felt overwhelming connecting with each family, it was a gift to have our families welcome us into their homes virtually. We got a quick snapshot of each students’ home and relationships with the adults they live with. Barriers were broken down, and relationships were formed. This is a win for us, our families, and students. How can we continue this level of service as we move into 2021? For us, it’s through a focus on relationships.
Our pivot to online learning has felt impossible at times, and we are all looking forward to a time when we can get safely back into our classrooms. To attempt to beat the blues, one thing we’ve had success with is feeding our minds with empowering and inspirational messages. At the end of a long day on the computer, we will watch movies, listen to podcasts, or read books to listen for a message to support us through what we are going through. Recently, we watched the Netflix movie “Jingle Jangle.” Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch this! The main character, Journey, is an inspirational girl who believed not only in herself, but also in her grandfather. (Did we mention this is a musical??! There is nothing like a musical to stir up emotions and send a message!) In one scene she sings, “The square root of impossible is me.” What if we used this quote as a reminder to ourselves as educators?
Do you feel that building relationships in distance learning is impossible? What if instead of only focusing on the next novel study or chapter you’re covering in math, what if relationships were at the foundation of EVERYTHING you plan? How are you supporting relationships with families, between students, and with your colleagues? Is there some amazing activity you’ve planned that could incorporate breakout rooms with opportunities for connections? Maybe there is a low key, lunch bunch meeting you could hold to let students eat and talk. All you do is set up the meeting, turn off your camera, and let them talk like they normally would while in the cafeteria. (Without the strict “Talk quietly, stay in your seat, and raise your hands to ask permission to get up” expectations we have in the building). Go about your business eating or grading and just give them the gift of time together.
For us, we’ve often said that relationships are the “bread and butter” of what we do. For our upcoming blog posts, we’ll be focusing on intentional strategies for connecting with your students. We have no idea what the start of 2021 will look like for teaching. Many of us are starting in full distance learning, some are in hybrid, and others may be masked up teaching full time in the classroom. Whatever the delivery model you are engaged in, don’t lose track of the MAIN GOAL: forming relationships that create a safe space for our students.