Happy New Year!
We can all agree and say that 2020 was a crappy year because of the COVID19 pandemic. Despite the upsets, I tried to make the most out of it while being stuck at home the past 9+ months. Some of these takeaways will definitely have its uses in my classroom and beyond.
Here are a few of my takeaways and New Year's resolutions:
1. LEARNING TO LET GO
I can't stop reiterating this. All of this stuff going on isn't normal. Stop treating it as normal. Seriously, learning to let go and being more flexible have relieved me a lot of (unnecessary) stress. Unlike trickle-down economics, this is the one thing that I can agree will trickle down to your students. You being more flexible and letting go of some things will undoubtedly relieve some stress from your students.
2. WORK SMARTER
Practically everyone I've spoken to who are doing distance teaching have said this year is like Year One all over again. Educators who have never taught online or barely use online programs have to learn and/or readjust what they're doing. It's rough, especially if you've been doing things the same way you've been doing for years. Adapting takes time. However, you're not alone! You don't have to reinvent the wheel. There's plenty of online resources and an excellent supportive community of educators out there. I don't mean just use everything from Khan Academy. That's just being lazy. There are plenty of programs out there that can make your job easier. One I heavily recommend is www.GoFormative.com. I've transferred a lot of my worksheets to this site and it syncs with Google Classroom. It also allows you to live monitor student progress. It is freemium however. Prior to the pandemic, I've been using it predominantly for a few of my assessments.
Once you optimize your time, that's more time you can focus on other endeavors...like catching up on grading...
3. MAKE DO WITH LESS
Honestly, I don't even remember when is the last time I wore jeans or pants. I've practically worn sweatpants every day since March. Even when I go out for errands, I still wear sweatpants. I'm wearing a mask anyways. No one will recognize me (except that one former student who works at Five Guys. He recognized me right away). Looking at my wardrobe, I've probably worn less than 15% of what I own the past 9+ months.
So what does this mean for the classroom and my practice?
It's all about quality, not quantity. More than ever, students feel overworked. A few of my students have voiced they don't feel like they are learning in some of their classes. They're simply just completing work. Reduce the amount of work and focus on the key takeaways you want the students to leave your class with. Like is it necessary for students to remember it's Eli Whitney who invented the cotton gin or the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell? Okay. The latter is probably important. I'm not a science teacher. Then again, how often do mitochondria and the cotton gin come up in our daily conversations?
4. EXPERIMENT WITH MY CURRICULUM
This is crisis teaching. Yet it's also opened up so many new opportunities. We are in uncharted territories. Have there been something you always wanted to explore and try out, but never had the chance? Well damn. This is a great opportunity for it!
Also, if you have the luxury of not being micromanaged by admin or other rules and regulations, definitely consider experimenting with your curriculum! I am fortunate that my administrators leave me alone which has allowed me to experiment with thematic teaching.
The US education system is a mess and we can't keep doing things the way we've been doing, especially letting people with little to no classroom/teaching experience guide our policies. This is the time to bring about change!
5. MAKE TIME FOR MORE SELF-CARE
"Make sure to set time aside for self-care." I think I'm getting to the point that I get annoyed when people tell me that and here I am being hypocritical. Screen fatigue is real. Just everything about this school year is extra exhausting. If you're in-person teaching, there's already added stress. It is okay to walk away from the screen. It is kind of crazy to hear that supposedly 27% of teachers have thought of quitting because the pandemic! Hang in there! Take care yourself first!
6. READ MORE
I found myself reading more during this pandemic than before. There are days where I am so tired from the screen I just want to do something besides staring at said screen. Hence the motivation to read more. The more I read, the more I can take back into my classroom.
Just want to share this Match.com advertisement. I think it sums up 2020 pretty well. I know it's for a dating site, but the brilliance of it really just made it one of my favorite commercials of 2020 even though I hate ads. 2020 was hell.
Let's hope things will improve in 2021!
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I'm Jayson, a high school social science teacher with a strong passion for social justice and public education issues.