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Starting Off Strong

Okay, I'll admit it! Two months ago, I was super excited for the beginning of the 2021/2022 school year. The prospects of a somewhat back-to-typical school year seemed like a welcome change from what we've all experienced. It was hard to stay upbeat, positive, and enthusiastic between masks, multiple schedules, hybrid learning, hidden icons, and too many "now what" moments to mention. But this year was going to be different!

Even though I'm still optimistic that school will look much improved from the past, the signs of Covid-19 returning can't be discounted. So how do we start the year off strong with Covid here, or even if we are lucky enough for it to be gone? Nobody has all the answers to this all-important question. But it's really about the choices we make. If we understand that everyone can do little things for students and even our colleagues to be motivated and excited for school to start, great things will happen.

While it sounds so simple, coming in with that positive attitude when times have been demanding isn't easy. But in my opinion, it's the most important thing to set the tone for our students and peers. That may seem like a stretch to some, but I'd ask that you reflect on the power of positive words and actions. Especially in the case of students, our ability to smile, laugh and be genuinely happy early on will impact their daily learning in ways beyond just a grade. It's easily understandable why in such challenging times, this can be tough. We can't expect to be perfect when so many hurdles get in our way. But starting on a good note sets a tone that's much easier to keep than doing the opposite. We all know the difficulty in changing attitudes once the year has started.

Please plan to change! If we learned nothing else over the past few years, failing to be flexible is a stressor to everyone. I can't count the number of times my computer zoom call froze in mid-speech. The first time it happened, I mumbled a few choice words that I hope students didn't hear! Then I realized, what's the point? Students laughed, and we just made some minor changes. I'm mentioning this key point because so many folks in education are great planners. We have minute-by-minute objectives and assessments down to a science. Please keep doing those great things, but avoid driving yourself crazy when the unexpected happens. Laugh it off! Students will appreciate your humor and realize it's okay not to be perfect.

Sharing is caring! Finding a silver lining from the past few years is hard. But I've witnessed more sharing of ideas than at any point during my career. In usual times many educators close their doors and go it alone. They may vent, seek help, or share ideas now and then, but their class is their class more frequently than not. Now, and hopefully, moving forward, we will all see the power of sharing our expertise. We all have unique talents that can help others. Whether it's lesson planning, assessments, creative ideas, or just lending an ear, helping never goes out of style. Plus, it allows everyone to be on a similar ship instead of sailing and maybe sinking alone.

Have a "Mantra" for class! I've long believed in the power of having a "Mantra" for class. Mine has been, "come into class positive and excited to learn!" Even though they seem like simple words, having a mantra that students can appreciate helps them think a certain way. The great thing is how every educator can and should develop one that embodies your philosophy of teaching.

As you prepare for the 2021/2022 school year, it's natural to feel anxiety and stress over what the future holds. We've been there and done that! Let's do our best to come in upbeat, happy, and inspired no matter our setting and role. Please, share with your colleagues, be positive with your students, connect with families, and good luck on making this year special. You can do it!!

About the Author

Craig Shapiro

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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