Saying goodbye to another year can stir up a lot of emotions. I found myself reflecting about a farewell post to share with you knowing it will be one more that brings me closer to the end of my time here on this platform.
This in itself is not yet a goodbye, as there are still 6 plus months of writing to come. It is, however, a great chance to look back and look forward from the precipice of one year’s end and towards a new year ahead. Maybe this is a function of age or some other memory related trope, but I will prattle on nevertheless.
As a result of this melancholic thinking I find myself asking, “what did I do in the past year that was daring as an educator, and what will I do in 2024 that will be daring as well”? I guess I need to consider what counts as daring because this can be construed as mere subjectivity if it does not mesh well with the minds of others as it is intended. Dare I go on?
Daring can conjure up a lot of imaginary thinking from one to the next so before you conflate ‘daring’ with dangerous please read on.
Looking back on 2023
From an outsider’s point of view, 2023 couldn’t have been more normal considering the turmoil of the lockdown, online, and hybrid models we taught through in the years prior. The joy of not having to prepare and deliver lessons for two different grades of in-class and online learners while not having to worry so much about social distancing, masking, or illness was cause for much rejoicing. As 2023 started, it felt like we were really coming out of the pandemic and I was able to really focus on my students.
This meant taking time to reimagine what learning needed to look like for students who experienced learning in a manner that had never been delivered to them before. Daring to go back to old(er) ways didn’t seem right with my students. They needed something else, and that came in the form of social emotional learning more than academics.
So 2023 started off with more team oriented and collaborative projects that asked students to recapture their abilities to listen to one another to accomplish a goal with just as much importance as succeeding at learning the curriculum infused within it. My goal was to put the individual learner back into the spaces that were stolen from them by COVID19.
Admittedly, there was a lot of work to do when it came to assessment, but that in itself was also a chance to be a bit daring too. Before you dial 911, please remember that we were all given a new hand of cards to play with during the pandemic. What we knew beforehand was only going to serve as a starting point and not a return destination.
It was, to forgive the pun, like the beginning of new year. It was full of promise and without any mistakes in it. Assessment became a chance to have students see themselves reflected in how they wanted to show their learning. We took time to democratize rubrics and methods to demonstrate understanding. For us that meant fewer pencil and paper tests, more conversations and check-ins, more feedback, and many more chances to revisit learning. Instead of teaching, testing, and moving on we learned, lingered on what needed more time, unlearned, and relearned as often as needed.
Yes, we still managed to get the whole curriculum and it was a government mandated standardized testing year as well.
I think that 2023 also allowed me to dare a little more boldly into my lessons when it came to social justice focused on BIPOC excellence and culturally responsive and relevant learning opportunities that went beyond the heroes and holidays. Instead of a single day or month, these conversations became part of our class logos, pathos, and ethos. Ultimately, it allowed my students to feel seen, heard, and empowered with greater understanding of one another which also led back to the social learning I set out to teach to start the year.
Being able to work with my class to start 2023 carried over nicely from January to December even with my new, much quieter, cohort of students and I am seeing the fruits from taking those chances earlier in the year even though the delivery is definitely different for this group, the goal to teach to their social emotional needs first remained.
On a personal level we sold our house, moved, and continue to unpack. In between all of that were 3 weeks of summer school teaching, and a quick trip to bury an uncle. Life did not skip a beat when it meted out the highs and lows of 2023. For all of them, I am thankful to be working in a wonderfully led and staffed school filled with caring and curious learners each daring to take the steps towards discovering and developing their talents.
My next post will look at how I might be daring in my classroom in 2024. I ask you all to consider that too and share your thoughts in the comments below.