I am very ready for 2020. I hope 2021 will get better, but my optimism is being held back by recent experiences. Although my immediate environment has remained stable and my loved ones and I have managed to get out of the way, my trust in democratic institutions has been indelibly shaken in a shared notion of what we have in common.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about abstract things like “creating space”, “getting out of the way” and “letting go”. Inevitably, these are all personal issues on my mind. They have to do with respecting others, evaluating their contributions, and recognizing my own position in relation to them. And they extend to everyone I interact with: from my preschoolers to educators. My Twitter threads this year about distance learning or group advancement methods or leadership and privilege return in one way or another to a similar message: let’s honestly observe, dare to ask questions, and really prioritize nursing.
In one of the best essays of the year, Colette Shade describes the numbing effects of the pandemic. When people are consumed with the Herculean effort required to survive in a society without safety nets, they move on because they have to.
“With so little leeway, we adapt to this situation, learn to filter it out or defend ourselves against our real feelings in order to do what we have to do.”
We soldiers in our kitchens and dining rooms, on the sofa, in the garage, in our basements and attics. We are exhausted and vulnerable. I cannot write about education, school, distance learning or technology in this year of our Lord 2020, or apply a pandemic that causes so much suffering, insecurity and loss.
In contrast, my working life as an educator for small children is populated by people with great imaginations and wondrous visions. When they’re excited, my best step is to give way to the onslaught of their excitement and make sure there are enough boundaries to protect them. Teaching and learning go both ways. I created the conditions for their exploration; They instruct me on what is useful and relevant.
In my public thinking about letting go and making space and getting out of the way, I want to emphasize the importance of holding onto our humanity with both hands and a full heart. I want to encourage us to open doors to fantasies that are wilder than our own. I beg us to notice how and when we can be the thing that is preventing a necessary change. My students require me to keep thinking about what we’re doing, whether we’re face to face or sharing texts and videos. They demand space, insist that I let go of my preconceived ideas and let me know when I’m their sticking point. However, these services of the spirit are only possible when care is the focus of my efforts.
If this year has taught me anything, then teaching is not for the faint of heart. Neither do learning. My students pulled me through this year with their adaptability, openness and warm future orientation. Their eyes are open to wonder when we only see destruction. It is wonderful. They have their humanity and, unlike us, do not struggle to hold onto it. Watch them. You can’t help but notice.
This statement is part of a series of year-end considerations that EdSurge will publish at the end of 2020.