2020 – the roller coaster no one in education asked to ride

Please secure any loose items and keep your hands inside the car at all times.
Do not exit the ride until it comes to a full and complete stop.

Most of the time the exhilaration of a fast fun paced ride, filled with brief mind boggling G-forces, would come next. At an amusement park perhaps, but it is 2020 after all, and this ain’t your average roller coaster of a year. From the get go, it was destined to be different as it was determined to distinguish itself from the decades of other “normal” years before it. To add even more gravity to the moment, we all had take this ride, and hold on for dear life regardless of height. I want to share what it felt like for me this year.

2020 AsAroLLerCoaSTerInEdUcatIon

Instead of the fun and excitement that might normally have been anticipated, this year felt more like being in a time warped slow motion sequence while being suffocated inside of a dumpster that was on fire and rolling down a steep mountain. WEEEE! quickly gave way to AAAGHH!!!

Everytime I opened the lid of my own flaming dumpster car to look out at 2020, I saw flashes of things to grieve, endure, flee, confront, fix, stretch, and learn from.

It was as if the ride was designed to keep going non-stop and at a nauseating speed while everyone was expected to remain strapped in and trying not to lose what they brought on the ride. At times, it felt like working in a vacuum. My lungs empty of air while my mind and body rush up and over the same structure over and over again.

2020 AsAroLLerCoaSTerInEDucaTIon

A year.
A strike.
A job action.
A global pandemic.
A great deal of uncertainty.
A move to emergency distance learning.
A realization that not everything is equitable.
A lack of direction, support and resources at times.
A realization that things may never be the same again.
A new virtual space to occupy, connect, and teach within.
A nagging concern that students may not be coping with this.
A continuous uncertainty around teaching in September.
A cautious return to the classroom – or virtual school.
A heightened vigilance around masks and sanitizing.
A disruptive reorganization with new schedules.
A newly updated math curriculum added in.
A cough that clears crowded classrooms.
A constant need for mask checks.
A need to maintain distances.
A muting mask and shield.
A gasp for fresh air.
A firm resolve.
A bit of hope.
A new year.
A dream.

As this ride finally runs out of track, I’m thankful to be physically in one piece, but still in need of greater peace of mind over this winter break. Recovering from this ride is going to take time. While figuratively staggering off of this year’s roller coaster, I am already heading back to the line to wait and go again.

Looking back on the past 52 weeks of this ride, I am trying to see how this year shaped my personal practice as an educator. I mean, the 2020 roller coaster possessed all the thrilling twists, stomach churning turns, dizzying highs, and sinking lows which no one could have expected. It came as no surprise then that enjoying the ride, catching my breath, or being able to re-orient myself relative to the world around me would not come easy. Despite it all, I find myself resolved to bend, blend or break what has been my instructional practice in order to do better in 2021.

It is perhaps because of this discombobulation, I have questioned everything that I have ever done as an educator. Stay tuned to see where this goes.

In the meantime expressions of gratitude, encouragement, and optimism to all educators who held on through the tumultuous ride that was education in 2020. You have indeed been the models of grace, resilience, resolve, creativity, persistance, and integrity in our profession. You have been inspirations to me whenever I lifted the lid of my flaming dumpster car to look out and take a breath. I’m looking forward to teaching in 2021 because of y0u.

 

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Updated: December 29, 2020 — 11:32 am

The Author

Will Gourley

P/J lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

1 Comment

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  1. Micheline says:

    So beautifully written. A perfect analogy. I’ve had the in class experience early in the pandemic and now teaching online, I consistently think about what it must be like for all my friends in the classroom. I know th courage and dedication teachers have. This year has been a test of all your heart and soul. Keep safe we’re almost there.

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