I usually end the year with an exploration of my chosen word for the upcoming year and yet, this year, this one whose last day I simmer in today, seems to call for a different exploration. One of the year that has passed, a moment to not only contemplate the lessons learned, but also all of the things that were wrapped in good, otherwise, I fear this past year will only be known for all of its tragedies. For the missed opportunities and not those I gained. So inspired by Dr. Kim Parker’s review of her year, I thought I would do the same.
While it was a year marked by less, I only wrote 48 blog posts this year, it was also a year marked by more. More time with my children, more time sitting in the quiet, the most time I have ever spent home in a stretch as all my normal travels ground to a halt. More nature. More purpose. More innovation (maybe too much). More work to be done. And yet, there was writing, not as much as I normally do, but then again, this was not a normal year. This blog turned 10 (!) and so at times it feels like I have said it all before, being distanced from my students and forced into 9 months of virtual teaching also changed the space I made for contemplation and writing. The energy reserves were drained a lot sooner than ever before, the energy had to be preserved for the kids’ whose educational success was entrusted to me no matter what the world threw at us. So I collaborated, created, and shared as much as I could on this blog, through a series of live webinars this summer, and also through our Facebook group but rather than focus as much on pedagogy and philosophy, there was a larger emphasis on the practical. The tools I found or created in order to navigate our new normal.
The top blog posts this year reflect our new reality.
- Picture Books Read Aloud Videos for Lesson Use that Don’t Break Copyright
- Choose Your Own Learning – 4 Learning Options As We Go Virtual/Online
- The Best Books for Middle School According to My Students 2019
- Dear Teacher
- Great Picture Books to Teach Theme
And the continued work with my own students reflect this year too, one that needed to remain within the same pedagogical framework of safety and community, while also molding itself to the magnified inequities either new or pre-existing. And so my students reminded me again of what mattered; choice, community, time, and grace. That we celebrate the kids that show up and those that cannot. That we continue to find ways to magnify their voices and give them back their spaces to create and reflect. That engagement doesn’t always just mean camera on but takes many forms. That we celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, that we continue with expectations that match where each child is and that nothing in our curriculum will supersede health and wellbeing because we are still in a global pandemic, no matter how much people outside of education want us to forget that.
In book news…
I paused a few writing projects because there was no brain energy for them but am quietly working on a fully re-worked and updated edition of Passionate Learners. While I want to make sure there is enough new thoughts and materials in it to warrant a new edition, I am glad to be revisiting the foundations of my educational philosophy and reshaping what that same vision looks like, 7 years later after its initial publication. The world has changed much since it first came out and yet the urgency of the pedagogy of centering each child’s identity in the work we do remains the same. How can we create spaces for all kids to feel safe, valued, and seen within our curriculum? How can we co-facilitate our classroom spaces with all? How can we give our classrooms back to students after we have drilled into them that the best way to succeed in school is to be silent and compliant? How do we give spaces for their voices to be heard and pack away our own fragile egos?
I also continue to dabble in a potential new book, writing when the pages call my name. It will be centered on the day-to-day work I do with middle schoolers when it comes to reading identity and their literary journey. It is slow-moving, like many other things, and also fills me with imposter syndrome yet I rally around the knowledge that I am simply sharing ideas of what you can do by sharing our own journey.
In professional development news…
While I had a full year of professional development teaching scheduled, with the shutdown much of it shifted online. What an incredible learning opportunity this has been! This shift has given me one of my greatest joys, the ability to work long-term with fellow educators as an embedded virtual coach, something I was not able to do before because it would require too much time out of our classroom and away from the students who are in my care. I am thrilled to continue this opportunity in 2021. If you are interested in having me collaborate, coach, and/or plan with your teachers, please reach out! If you are wondering where I will be speaking in 2021, go here to see what has been scheduled so far.
I will also say that one of my most exciting opportunities was speaking to both Icelandic and Danish educators this year. To be a part of eReolens fall conference from afar and doing my first presentation in my native language of Danish was incredible and allowed me to sink further into the innovative work being done in Scandinavia when it comes to authentic literacy engagement, as well as student well-being overall. While travel plans to Iceland didn’t happen after all, to be able to help Icelandic educators from afar, both in Reykjavik and though Utis Online, was also an amazing experience. It is magnificent to see educators around the world all coming together to serve students better.
While I return in-front of my students on February 8th, and I cannot wait even if I worry about COVID, I will still be doing this work, so reach out if you think I can be of help in the journey you are hoping to create for others.
In Global Read Aloud news…
This summer also brought a hard decision to pause the GRA for now after 11 incredible years, BUT then I wasn’t able to even do it with my own students and so for right now, I am not sure whether it is done or not. I continue to read as I normally would, searching for just the right books to potentially select. So the GRA may be back in October. It may look a bit different. It may take a year off, the decision does not need to be made right now and so for now I will continue to read and contemplate which conversations, understandings, and moves into actions potential read alouds could garner.
In reading news…
The COVID reading slump hit hard at my house as well, while I wanted to read, my thoughts were simply elsewhere most of the time. Yet rather than feel disappointed, I embraced the pop culture I finally got to sink into (I am currently holding off on watching the final Schitt’s Creek episodes because I don’t want the series to end), and the great learning I got to do instead such as the PD put on by Liberate and Chill and Nehemiah here in Madison. I am so grateful to be working in a district that is diving into hard conversation and taking action in order to disrupt racism and inequity, we have so much to learn and do.
But I find myself slowly falling back into reading as evidenced by most more frequent shares on Instagram and this end of year favorite reads post. 2020 once again gave us the gift of incredible books and the time to read them if life allowed us to. I am already eyeing my to-be-read shelves for the new year and cannot wait to share what I read. I also started moving my book lists to Bookshop.org as part of my pledge to move away from Amazon as much as much as possible. If there is something I want to help survive the pandemic it is our local bookstores.
In personal news
While I share much of my life through here, there were some really big heavy things that I did not share. While some are ongoing, some have also become hard memories to carry instead of a living reality. But there were huge things to celebrate as well such as the incredible achievement of my husband as he graduated with his teaching degree in Technology Education, a journey he embarked on 25 years ago but then detoured into 20 years in the construction business. We now have another teacher in the house and I cannot wait to see which school community he will get to be a part of as we search for jobs both in Denmark, and in Dane County, Wisconsin.
We also celebrate the time with our kids. While I never imagined that I would get to be a substitute K, 2nd, and 5th grade teacher at the same time as teaching my own students, I have seen my own kids try so hard it hurt at times. We celebrate our outside time. Our quiet time, our bike rides, and our shared meals.
I also turned 40 the day after Wisconsin shut down, my poor husband had spent months planning his first ever surprise gathering for me alongside my sister only to see it fall apart, but we celebrated as best as we could as we tried to make sense of the news coming at us. He commented the other day that my 41st birthday will also probably be a COVID birthday, he is right, of course, but the reminder was stark. So we continue going outside as much as possible, reclaiming skiing as a family event when we can afford to, going for walks, watching movies with the kids, and just being together. And I continue to connect with as many people as I can, treasuring all of the people that I get to call friends, the conversations I get to be a part of and the work that continues.
2020 will be another year to remember, aren’t they all? But as I look back the year, I am also grateful, grateful that we still have our health, that we still have my job, that we can continue to look forward and work for better rather than live in the past. I know there is much work to do, but I am grateful to be in a position to be a part of it.
And the lessons I learned are plenty. I re-learned that I cannot and should not have to be a superhero that should be able to navigate whatever the world of education throws my way. I re-learned the power of hard boundaries, no, and closing my computer. I re-learned that everything is better once I get outside, that I am terrible relaxer, that books can be refuge while also feel overwhelming, that there are many ways to make great soup. That we thought we lived a fairly quiet life until COVID showed us just how much more quiet it could be. And I continue to work on raising my voice, giving back space, and taking action whenever I could, especially when it was my place to do so.
So I leave you this year not with a word, but with a hope; may the new year bring you as much or more joy than the last, may you stay safe and healthy, may you know that if you are reading this I am so grateful for you being here and being a part of my journey. Thank you for giving me your time, for sending me your questions, for sharing ideas and finding value in the ones I share here. What an honor it is to have this place support the work of others.