Be the Light and See the Good in 2020 [Interactive]

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The top 10 things Shannon Jarvis Irwin is choosing to celebrate about the year 2020.

[0:02] On today’s, PE Express podcast, I’m choosing to see all the good 2020 has brought.

[0:27] No doubt 2020 has been a rough year. The struggle for me as a Pre-K through Eighth-grade Physical Education teacher, as well as an Athletic Director for one of the largest Catholic schools in the state of Texas, has been most challenging. I have spent most of my school year so far just trying to survive, juggling all the new mandates and guidelines in regard to COVID-19. Even with over 15 years of experience, nothing could have prepared me for teaching during a pandemic.

[0:57] While I could write a list about how awful 2020 has been, that’s not my personality. I’m choosing to see all the good that I was able to accomplish. In no particular order, here are my top 10 things I’m celebrating to close out the year 2020.

#10. Our school was the first private school in our Metroplex area to reopen after the big shutdown. We opened on time and in-person for the new school year. All eyes were most definitely upon us. With our first semester coming to a close, I’m proud to say that we have maintained staying open the entire time with limited cases and no mass spread of the virus.

#9. Something I’m most proud of – we were able to host all fall sports for our student-athletes and bring our community some kind of normalcy during this pandemic. It was a lot of extra work on my end as Athletic Director, managing all of our covert guidelines. But by the grace of God, we were able to finish up all of our seasons with no cancelation.

#8. My class sizes are much smaller this year. One of the biggest things we implemented this school year was maintaining cohorts and not mixing students. This lead to smaller class sizes during their PE time. I am only seeing one homeroom class at a time this year instead of two, for the lower grades are all of one gender, for the whole grade level in the older grades. My average class size this year is 14 vs 40 in the previous years.

#7. Due to the smaller class sizes, I feel like I’m able to interact and engage more with my students. In the past, I would tend to take a step back away from my classes so my field of vision was wider, allowing me to be able to monitor a broader space to ensure everyone’s safety. This year, I’m able to be in the mix of things and engage more with my students.

#6. The use of gym equipment. Because we maintain the integrity of our cohorts, I’m still able to use our gym equipment. This is something that most professionals in our field have not been able to do this school year. Luckily, that’s not the case for me. As long as the equipment is fully sanitized after each use, gym equipment for me is encouraged.

#5. My gym and PE equipment has never been so clean. In all my years, I have never washed the needle before or sanitize my bleachers. These cleaning practices will most definitely continue.

#4. I have noticed a greater acceptance for my students because they’re staying in cohorts. While my students would love to switch classes and see their friends that are not in their homeroom and many parents or professionals will argue the same. However, this is what I’m seeing in PE. Those students who normally get lost in the mix of a sea of students have found their true place of belonging within their cohorts. They are accepted for their differences. My students treat their cohorts as family, and no one messes with family. Students who may have felt outcasted for the differences before are now being stuck up for by their peers. They’re now being included fully during games and don’t stand off to the side while cliques in or them. It has been a true joy to see the confidence being built in those students who don’t consider themselves popular.

#3. 2020 has pushed me to learn new technology. While I failed terribly at synchronous PE, I was able to learn and implement online learning platforms like Microsoft teams and Seesaw.

#2. I’ve spent more time at home and with my family. With all the shutdowns after spring break, last school year, and the cancelation of our spring sports season, I spent more time at home with my family during any other year of my whole career. That means more home-cooked meals, a cleaner house, and a lot of quality time with my kids. This athletic director cannot complain about that.

#1 The most important thing to celebrate for 2020 has been focusing on my mental health and well being. With the extra time off, I’ve been able to start exercising again. Plus, I’ve taken three vacations so far this school year. Not long ones, just a day trip or taken off extra day attached to the weekend, something I’ve never done before in my career. I’d never dare take off during the school year or let alone during a sports season. Yet all of these short trips were most necessary for my sanity. There has been much-added stress this school year, especially on the sports side of my job. Taking a break for my day to day reality has been important for me to rejuvenate and truck on upon my return.

So 2020 wasn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things for me, I have many things to be thankful for, and I hope that you could see the good that this year has brought in the midst of a lot of crazy stress.

So what’s on your list? What are you choosing to celebrate about 2020? I am choosing to see the good and to be a light for others to see. I leave you from the words from Mother Teresa. “Yesterday has gone tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin.”

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