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Looking Back and Moving Forward

We made it! The 2020/2021 school year is coming to a close. You've either just finished or are just about to be done with the most harrowing of years in education. In my 30 plus years in the field, nothing compares to the trials and challenges we've overcome to help our students. From mask-wearing to hybrid instruction and everything in between, the constant drumbeat of change has impacted all of us in ways that we might never have thought possible. No matter your role, you've been asked to redefine how you lead, teach, coach, and interact with students, their families, and our colleagues. While I know that some may take this with a grain of salt, we must acknowledge and recognize the outstanding jobs we've done this past year.

I recall one of the very first days of virtual instruction. Students had joined the Google Meet, mostly on time. A few had their cameras on, but generally, it was a precursor to the days ahead of looking at icons, not faces. And for somebody who rarely, if ever, gets nervous in front of students, I could feel some butterflies churning in my gut. Just calling their names and waiting for a response is something I'm hoping I never have to do again! People talk about this being the new normal. Not for those of us who teach. We are performers, tacticians, magicians, and folks who strive for connections with young people. As we’ve also learned, we are up for the challenge of constant change. Between schedule updates, quarantines, technology outages, and the dozen other events thrown our way, nobody can fathom the hurdles conquered by educators and leaders each day. Our students and their families faced similar issues. Let's never forget the challenges that students and their families faced this past year. The list is too long to cover in one blog post, but I know the stress and anxiety many students dealt with because of my job as a wellness educator.

With all that said, I'm excited to think about our future! Not too long ago, being an educator or professional in our field was fraught with criticism. I know some might argue with this, but because of Covid-19 and other factors, a more positive change towards educators seems to have taken over. People recognize and admire the work we do each day. Of course, some may never appreciate the magic in our schools, but I genuinely believe the past has led many viewpoints to change.

So how can the past shape our future? @Shapiro_WTHS and #teachpos - As a huge favor of lists, I've bulleted some keys that we may want to consider when school starts in the fall.

  1. Wellness matters! Yes, I'm a Health and Physical Education teacher. But it's hard for anyone to argue that overall wellness for staff and students is critical. Even the smallest amount of wellness education goes a long way to a happier, healthier learner.

  2. Connections create learning! I mentioned my initial experiences with staring at icons. There isn't a doubt, I wasn't alone. We must connect with our students. Those experiences shape learning in ways that can't be measured.

  3. Sharing is caring! Please don't go into your four walls. Too many staff members close their doors and never share all the great things they do. We should have the same goals. Teaching isn't a competitive sport. Let's learn and share from each other.

  4. Advocate for yourself! Stand up for what you believe in. If you genuinely want your voice heard, it can't be through back avenue gossip channels. Speak out in joyous, authentic ways. People will follow your lead, and change will happen.

  5. Take risks! If nothing else, this past year forced us out of our typical comfort zones. Learn from that and keep going. Teaching and leading is never a stagnant process. We must always strive for growth.

  6. Listen more, talk less! Pay attention to what your students and colleagues say. Sometimes the best method of instruction is just listening for feedback. We don't always need a response or answer.

  7. Be positive, passionate, patient, and persistent. It's hard to imagine outstanding teaching/leading/coaching without some or all of these words. They can be cornerstones of meaningful change.

Yes, 2020/2021 was daunting beyond words. We made it! Let's not forget the obstacles we faced. More importantly, though, is a look forward to all that can be great about the upcoming year and beyond. I'm grateful for being in a field that's all about making a difference for others. Thank you for all you do each day!

About the Author

Craig Shapiro

Twitter: @Shapiro_WTHS

I’ve been a Health and Physical Education Teacher/Coach/Trainer for 30+ years. I enjoy all types of fitness, writing, speaking, and spending time with my family! Stay positive, stay happy, stay well!


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