The most wonderful time of the year
It’s that time of the year again – the beginning of a new school year. The launch of a new school year has always felt like another occasion to wish everyone Happy New Year! (Confession: I have definitely been known to exuberantly exclaim ‘Happy New Year’ to colleagues and students in the hallways this time of year.) It feels like a great time to get geared up and aligned for a fresh start. The weather is (hopefully) cooling off, and there’s a crisp alertness in the air.
This year, of course, is different. Again. After enduring arguably the toughest year ever to be a teacher, we’re heading out again into further uncharted territory. Maybe we’re excited. Perhaps we’re anxious. We can’t wait to see our students. And likely, we’re feeling trepidation about how all of this will unfold. As my eight-year-old quipped on her way to summer camp: we’re nervicited.
So, dear educator, this blog post is our love letter to you. Your New School Year care package, if you will. Filled with our wishes, hopes, and dreams to support you in the year ahead. There will be highs and lows, and we’ll be right by your side.
And knowing many of you, you’ve been at it all summer. Reflecting, planning, preparing. And hopefully taking some down time, too. Time to recharge, refresh, and renew your spirit and body. We’re all familiar with the metaphor of putting our own oxygen mask on before helping others. These days, more than ever, that remains important.
With our feet solidly under us, we can do anything. To get yourself ready and grounded, here is some food for thought:
- In To the emotional resilience of educators Katy Farber reminds us of the toll that care work takes on us, and what to do about it (hint: boundaries, resilience, and pausing are key strategies)
- The tips shared in Pandemic teaching: self-care edition are (unfortunately) still relevant. Someday we’ll look back on these years as a specific era that came to an end, but for now, we’re still in that tunnel. Taking care of our big rocks (sleep, nutrition) and ‘settling the ball’ can help us navigate another unusual year.
The world is an exciting and dramatic place these days. To the point of exhaustion, really. If the education-centered hubbub on your social media feed raises your anxiety level, you’re not alone. Equity work in schools is essential and important. And change is hard. As poet Maya Angelou said, ‘when you know better, you do better.’ And that’s what educators are all about. So as you anticipate challenging conversations about your commitment to students and to equity, here are some supporting words:
- Getting personal about systemic equity in Vermont shares the journey many of us have been on in our own schools. What does it look like to move beyond talking equity and put it into action?
- The TIIE four-part series on culturally responsive practices is chock full of clarity, practicality, and inspiration: Start with Culturally responsive practice for equity in the classroom for a grounding in the four aspects of culturally responsiveness. The culturally responsive learning environment applies these to create spaces for belonging and connection. Culturally responsive curriculum by design helps us create learning experiences that engage learners in making the world a better place for all, and Culturally responsive instruction and assessment helps us bring theory into practice.
- Finally, are you experiencing pushback in your equity work? It’s an expected part of doing this work, and it means we’re doing it right. This is one of my favorite posts on how to handle these situation: Student intervention for anti-racist education
After readying and steadying ourselves, we’re eagerly anticipating the good part: being with our students! As we launch into this next school year, our students remind us of the reasons we’re here. How can we engage them in meaningful and relevant learning that will also boost their mental health and resilience? Here are a few ideas:
- Why and how to teach education for sustainability explores an approach to learning that engages youth in improving the quality of life in their community here and now. In an era when many things feel out of our control, feeling empowered to make a difference…makes a big difference.
- Want to hear more about service-learning? Then you should definitely give the #vted Reads episode All about service-learning a listen. There, host Jeanie Phillips chats with our colleague Katy Farber about the what, how and why of service learning. (Bonus points if you pair your listening with a walk in the woods. Forest bathing, anyone?)
- Notice a theme here? How a PTO connected students with community during COVID takes us on an exploration of how to build exciting and engaging learning spaces with community. And that’s something we could all use more of!
So, dear educator, happy new year! While we don’t yet know what this year will hold, we can be assured it will be dynamic, evolving, and full of growth. For all of us. We’re sending you off into this fresh, new year to keep doing amazing things for and with your students. We see you, we support you, and we celebrate you! Welcome back. Happy new (school) year! You got this.