2022 LA Teacher of the Year Semifinalist
9-12 ELA/Social Studies Curriculum Specialist
Evangeline Parish School District
Unwind, Recharge, Transform and Amplify
The 2020-21 school year was one like no other. It pushed educators in new ways. Educators had to creatively transform traditional practices into innovative practices to execute instruction successfully. Undoubtedly, we can all write a genuine list of mishaps in the 2020-21 school year. However, let’s look at the glass half full, as we have several reasons to celebrate. To enumerate, the pandemic redefined society’s perspective of the teaching profession, moving it from extrinsic to essential. Fortunately, the pandemic made hidden educational barriers surface, giving educators additional variables to successfully solve educational problems. As a result of these changes, educators victoriously educated students throughout the pandemic. Indeed, this year’s summer break is most deserving. Unquestionably, educators enthusiastically await the upcoming school year as we are all ready to experience a sense of normalcy.
Before we all start preparing for the upcoming school year, however, I encourage my fellow educators first to unwind, recharge and transform.
- Unwind. Take a moment to write down your thoughts and experiences of the 2020-21 school year, and then let go. I would recommend journaling your experiences from the previous school year to see how much you have triumphed. If journaling isn’t your thing or it doesn’t work for you, try reading a book. Reading a book allows you to escape your stressors by creating a pathway into a literary world of your choice. Find some way to process last year, highlighting your triumphs and the move on and UNWIND with a spirit of gratitude. You deserve it!
- Recharge. Get up and get out, try something new! Creating new experiences launches opportunities for you to get to know yourself better. Sometimes as educators, we lose ourselves and our identity because we selflessly give with little in return. Hence, participating in new experiences can build your confidence and self-awareness, giving you a much-needed recharge.
- Transform. Revisit your unwind journal and take time to reflect on the thoughts and experiences that you recorded. This self-reflection will allow you to analyze the previous year to transform and innovate your teaching practices where necessary. We all have room for improvement, so identify an area(s) you would like to strengthen or improve, whether personal or professional and develop a plan to transform these areas into strengths.
The new school year will be here before we know it. On the condition that things are back to normal without CDC Covid-19 prevention strategies, one cannot help but be overjoyed with happiness. For this reason, I hope that we will all celebrate some of the “normal” we have missed, such as seeing smiling faces, hearing students talking and laughing throughout the school, and experiencing our students’ complete personalities, etc. Excitedly, there are positive aspects from last school year that we can bring forth into the new school year, creating a “new normal.” As we transition into the new school year, we should embrace our “new normal” and amplify.
Amplify. When preparing for the new school year, may we reflect on some recent trends from the 2020-21 school year and capitalize on them. Cultivating these new trends will put us on the road to achieving and reaching incredible levels of student success.
- Increased Parent Involvement. Due to the pandemic, parents had to dig into the curriculum to assist their child(ren) with their academic learning. For this reason, we should continue to foster relationships with parents by communicating and incorporating them into the students’ learning process. In particular, you can implement “Come Learn with Me” days where parents can come into the classroom and complete lessons and activities with their child(ren). Or you can incorporate “room parents” into your classroom schedule, which will give parents the continued opportunity to be a part of student learning in your classroom. A positive impact on student learning will occur if we create opportunities to collaborate and include parents in students’ learning.
- Increased Student Accountability. Changes in the traditional learning environment increased student accountability because of increased learning responsibilities in online and hybrid settings. Let us keep this level of accountability up to ensure we keep educational standards raised for students. Giving prompt feedback to students’ performance is the key to sustaining student accountability. Applauding and acknowledging students’ responsible decision-making in regards to their diligent work ethics promotes student excellence. Additionally, words of affirmation increase students’ self-awareness and ensure positive student impact.
- Increased Use of Technology. To ensure an equitable education to students during the pandemic, many school systems could provide additional technology in the classroom, thus creating opportunities for students to access technology at home. Correspondingly, let us continue the use of technology, if available, to facilitate collaborative learning. Using applications such as Padlet, Quizlet, Google Apps for Education, and Pear Deck during lessons helps students generate unique ideas while engaging with peers, positively impacting student learning.
- Increased Cultural Relevance and Responsiveness. As a result of the pandemic, disparities were exposed and brought front and center. Teachers were trailblazers, creating spaces in their classrooms where students could have a safe and open dialog to discuss social, emotional, and academic topics. Continuing these practices in the classroom will allow students to connect to diverse cultures and life experiences with what they are learning in the classroom. As a result, we will continue to see an increase in students’ growth, as personal connections to rigorous activities promote academic success.
Entering the 2021-22 school year with a new sense of normalcy will be a healing breath of fresh air for everyone’s social, emotional, and mental well-being. Although we are eager to start the next school year because we are excited to return to normalcy, let’s not rush the summer. Educators, please enjoy the remainder of summer by celebrating your successes, indulging in self-care strategies that will positively impact your mental and emotional well-being. Ultimately, with a bit of unwinding, recharging, transforming, and amplifying the last school’s positive aspects, we will all be ready to succeed in the “new normal” this upcoming school year.