Looking back, moving forward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those who have influenced me both as a person and as an educator: in particular, my dad, my mom, my uncle, my grandmother, a teacher I had many years ago, and a former admin partner of mine.

They don’t know it, but they are often with me in my decision-making. Their words, their examples, and their integrity, guide me to this day.

They stand with me as I strive to educate with passion, compassion, and empathy. They stand with me as I listen to and learn from those I work with, adults and children. They stand with me as I advocate for teachers and their needs.

Looking back on this year, I know I have done my best with the circumstances before me. Might I do things differently next year? Yes. Not because I didn’t try my best, but because I’ve learned a thing or two.

One day, not so far from now, we will return to the classroom. We will bring our students to the reading corner for a read aloud. We will play a rousing game of dodgeball. We will sing and paint and laugh together. It will happen. We’ll hope for September but understand if it takes a little longer.

Before it happens though, we need a break from screens. We need to breathe the air around us, to rediscover what it’s like to be bored, to savour the long, unscheduled days ahead, to read a book unrelated to work. We need time.

I’m taking some time away from my blog this summer, too. When we return ‘together’ in the fall, we will be refreshed. In the meantime, be sure to soak up the summer sun…

We have survived!

For those of us in elementary schools, this coming week is usually one of celebrations, field trips, fun days, and farewells. This year, this last week of school will be unique. An understatement, I know. We are forced to find creative ways to reach out to our students. To celebrate their successes. To wrap up. To end the school year. To say our goodbyes.

Whatever you decide to do, and however you decide to do it, be sure to commemorate this rollercoaster of a year with your class!

Our students have survived. (Their parents have survived.) We have survived!

What are your plans with your students this week? How will you help them remember this year?

Are you tired?

It’s June. Mid-June. Mid-June during a pandemic.

Are you tired? I know I am.

The 2019-2020 school year has been one for the books! We have pivoted: worked differently than we ever have before. We have tried incredibly hard to maintain connections with our students in spite of the circumstance. In some ways we have learned as much as we’ve taught.

We have reason to be tired.

Perhaps more than ever, everyone is in need of a break… some down time… some time away from our screens.

We’re close, my friends. Very close. Hang on for a few more weeks!

Dear Students,

I’ve been doing some reflecting during this global pandemic and I have some sentiments to share with you…

Did you know that you are the reason I love my job? Your spontaneous exclamations, your joy in the simple things, your laughter, your hugs, your excitement for learning. No matter my mood coming into school, you are sure to spark a smile.

Did you know that I consider you and your classmates my school family? I care about your well-being, your emotional and physical health, your relationships. I think about you beyond the time I spend with you in the classroom.

Did you know that my favourite parts of our school day are when we are reading together, talking about books and life? Those times when I see your worlds expand, your ideas challenged, your hearts moved.

Did you know that I miss you? It’s true. I have learned not to take our time together for granted. The time on the screen does not make up for our time together in person.

And finally, did you know that you are the reason I have hope for humanity? Your kindness, your generosity, your compassion. Your acceptance and genuine concern for others. You will make our world a better place.

Actually, you already do.

With love, your teacher.

Disturbing and Disheartening

I had a blog post idea ready for today. It can wait until next week. The events of the last few days have been both disturbing and disheartening. Today my own words fail me: they feel inadequate. Today I have turned to the words of others to comfort me, to rediscover hope, to remind me how I can help drive change.

“No color, no religion, no nationality should come between us. We are all children of God.” Mother Teresa

“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.” Barack Obama

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

“Change is never easy, but always possible.” Barack Obama

Teachers, I challenge you: stand with me and be an example. Our students are watching.

We Are Learning

When we think about the learning that goes on in a classroom, it is typically the learning of students that comes to mind. And in our current situation, they are learning: maybe not quite what we expected, or in the same way as usual, but they are learning.

What has become especially evident during these times: we are learning, too. Perhaps even more than our students!

We are learning to use technology in innovative ways. We are learning how important it is to have connections with our students. We are learning to be resilient and flexible. We are learning that teaching is about much more than academics. We are learning to appreciate what we have previously taken for granted including simple, daily interactions with our students and colleagues. We are learning that returning to the classroom with our students will feel a great luxury.

The learning curve has been steep, unexpected, and tiring. But for the collective good, it is worth our efforts. I am looking forward to carrying my learning back into the regular classroom… whenever that might be!

What are you learning these days?

A Note of Thanks

Today is a day to pay tribute to moms! This year I venture to say that most moms have been working harder than ever.

Thank you to those on the front lines taking care of many more than their own. To those working from home and simultaneously assisting their children with schooling. To those in essential services, risking their lives and sacrificing time with their own families. To those who have lost their jobs and yet continue to find ways to meet the needs of their children. To those who provide much needed comfort, unconditional love, and unending patience. To those whose strength sometimes flickers on the inside but shines bright for others.

To moms.

And teachers, to you on this Mother’s Day, for the mothering that occurs in your classrooms (…or online…) each and every day. Thank you.

Book Share

Considering the probable confusion and anxiety our students are feeling in our current circumstances, I immediately think of books! (No surprise for those of you who know me…)

For young children who might be feeling scared or anxious, consider The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld and I’m Worried by Michael Ian Black. For those a little older, I Am Peace by Susan Verde and What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada come to mind.

With teachers being apart from students, and students apart from friends, you may consider using The Invisible String by Patrice Karst reminding us that we are connected even at a distance.

There is also a new book from a favourite series: The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus. The online snippets I have seen are incredibly timely.

What books have you used with your students during distance learning? Any ideas for older students? Please share your suggestions. I’d love to add to my list!

Cultivating Passion

Recently, a new writing project took shape; as of Friday I have a tentative title, framework, and many burgeoning ideas for a new book! In fact, even when I’m not sitting at my computer writing, I can’t stop thinking about it.

I know I’m fortunate to have found something I’m passionate about doing. After all, passion motivates, provides purpose, and inspires tenacity.

How might we discover and cultivate the passions of our students? How might this time of distance learning provide an opportunity for students to read, write, and explore a passion of their choosing?

In Oprah’s words: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Cultivate passion. The time is now.

Unexpected Gifts

My emotions have been heightened as of late. From what I hear, I’m not alone. During these days of COVID-19, we hear stories of incredible kindness and incredible sorrow. These dichotomies co-exist in our world. Always, of course, but they seem even more apparent now.

Last night, a concert aired entitled One World: Together at Home. Lady Gaga virtually united celebrities from across the world to show support for the frontline workers and the World Health Organization during this pandemic. It served as a poignant reminder that we’re all in this together highlighting both the heartbreak and the humanity around the world.

Selflessness and bravery are revealed in times of need. Faith and hope in times of exhaustion and despair. Innovation in times of desperation. Compassion in response to suffering. Deepened connections in times of isolation and unexpected gifts in times of trials.

Amid the challenges you’ve faced, what gifts have you discovered over the last few months? Please share!