Updated: Jan 27, 2021
Finally, 2020 is in the record books! It will be many years - maybe decades - before we truly understand its impacts on our schools and children. The COVID-19 pandemic, the civil unrest, the economic slump have hit us hard both personally and globally, and exposed many flaws in society that some people had previously believed were healed. As we look ahead to the hope of the new year, give yourself a moment to process 2020, take stock of the strengths and challenges of your school community, and be sure to find some grace for yourself.
What Were the Silver Linings?
The pandemic started with “temporary” measures that stretched… and stretched… and stretched educators, families, and children into new ways of being. School administrators thoughtfully, but under much pressure, made hard and often controversial decisions to protect the community while maintaining rigorous educational opportunities. These decisions were made with incomplete information, changing guideposts, and strong opinions on all sides of the debate. While hindsight will provide 20/20 vision, we’re not at the end of the pandemic’s havoc yet. Looking for positive outcomes and revelations will help you and your community not only make it through the rest of this time, but can also lay the groundwork for lasting improvements. What creative staff solutions need to be celebrated? Were students more resilient than expected? Did families come up with flexible ways to engage in their children’s schooling? What technology lessons and upgrades have accelerated modern learning? Reflect on which of these new ways of being are worth keeping, regardless of what schooling looks like in the coming year.
Of course, not everything that happened this year showed the assets of a community. Plenty of pre-existing cracks and crevices opened into chasms this year… of inequity, of injustice, of misinformation, of missed opportunities, of lack of infrastructure. It is important to examine what has been exposed in your community that directly and indirectly affects the well-being and growth of your students. Which of these issues, left unaddressed, are most dangerous to your students, leaving a lasting legacy of injustice and inequity? Which bridges need to be built or built back better? While these challenges are maddening and certainly can be overwhelming, looking at them as opportunities for growth instead of deficits will help your team move forward and make real change.
In the midst of all this turmoil, remind yourself that we are all - every one of us - doing the best we can under extraordinary circumstances. Recognizing that every stakeholder has changed the regular cadence of their daily lives and likely sacrificed something along the way, can give us the motivating compassion we need to continue our important work in education. This compassion, or grace, needs to extend to yourself as well as to others. This is not even close to a perfect year and, while 2020 is over, 2021 will no doubt bring new challenges. The most important resolution we can make is to have grace with ourselves and everyone around us.
Let the new year begin!