What a year! This is a statement that could be an expletive that could mean many different things. Instead, let’s make it a year that will help us appreciate all the other years we have experienced. I have lived long enough to know that you never focus on wishing it was “next year” because it results in not living today. So, in this podcast, let me focus on today.
I am so impressed by all the physical educators that stepped up to the plate and worked diligently to offer students meaningful social experiences and physical activity. As you might guess, I have been questioned many times about all the issues facing teachers during the COVID teaching crisis. It has been a difficult time and you all have faced problems such as assessment, motivation, activities without equipment, learning classroom software, physical distancing, limited space issues and more. Often, physical education teachers have felt as though they were unappreciated as it seemed their role was to support classroom teachers. I heard about teachers having to support classroom instruction, grade papers, supervise students at recess, while teaching three groups of students at once (at-home, in the classroom, and face to face). Yes, it hasn’t been a great school year, but from my viewpoint, most of you stepped up and did what was necessary to take on the pandemic. Most of you did it without excessive grumbling and complaining which makes you heroes in my eyes. I can’t thank you enough. Refresh your spirit and get ready for what comes your way.
This past year has been a cantankerous one to say the least. With COVID, protests and everything being politicized, it would have been easy to lose your way. Instead, you gave your students hope and a reason to live on. I want to share a few year-end thoughts and wrap them around the word HOPE. I think we offer students a sense of hope and optimism that their life can be improved through hard work and long-term effort. I use the four letters of HOPE to remind me what I can bring to those I teach:
H is for Help. Remind yourself how hard the pandemic has been on students. They have been restricted in their social interactions and forced to learn with a new teaching style. Virtual learning is not easy because it comes with few embellishments such as humor, interaction with teacher and peers, time outside of the house, and being around other adults who aren’t parents. Students need understanding and support. Your help makes a huge difference in their lives. By the way, helping others makes a huge difference in your life as well.
O is for optimism. Think about the world students endure during this crisis. Many of their parents are out of work and trying hard to make ends meet. They are with their families around the clock and often hear parental issues that erupt. Many are missing out on sports, social events, movies, playing with peers, shopping, and all the other things in life we take for granted. Students need reassurance that things will be better. That the glass is half full. That crisis often brings out the best in all of us. Spread your optimism – it often becomes contagious and above all, it rubs off on you.
P is for persistence. It reminds me of how hard it is to teach virtually. Good teachers always want all students to be on task and learning together. It’s why many of us are coaches because we love to get everyone on the boat and working toward a common goal. And, then along comes COVID and virtual teaching. Now all it takes for a student to show they are bored or that they don’t want to learn is a keystroke to turn off the camera. It would be very easy to quit on these students and yet I see all of you trying hard to find ways to get them back in the fold. That is persistence, that is caring, that is the true mark of a real teacher.
E is for expectations that we have for ourselves. It would have been easy to let 2020 take us down. COVID and all our social and political stressors made it easy to get down and fall into depression. I have to admit there have been times this year when sadness and feeling blue found its way into my life. That is when I reminded myself that I expect myself to rise above these rather short-term issues. COVID has impacted us for less than a year. I think of those who survived being prisoners of war or living in concentration camps. We are all in this life together and it behooves us to help others when they feel down and, in return, to accept their help when we need it. Expect yourself to weather the storm. Enjoy today by remembering that yesterday will never come back and the tomorrow is always a day away. Today is your life. Expect to enjoy today.
I close by thanking all my fellow teachers. You have been persistent and maintained high expectations for yourself and your students. So many of you have worried that you aren’t doing enough, but you are. I believe that you are doing the best you can. Stay the course. Stay optimistic. Enjoy the holiday season and make it a time to refresh your spirit and personal drive. In my mind, you are all heroes. It makes me proud I used my life to be a teacher and to think about the welfare of others. It makes me proud to be one of you. Happy Holidays! See you next year!