The Gifts of 2020
2020 has been one of the most difficult years of my teaching career, but it has also been one of the most rewarding. So much has been written about the challenges of teaching in a pandemic and I have experienced all of those but I want to focus on the incredible gifts that this year and the weird situation that we have and continue to live through has given to my Grade 7s and myself.
It may seem counter-intuitive but through this year I have developed deeper relationships and a better understanding of the children in my class. Through our Zoom sessions I was invited into gardens and living rooms, met pets and even been given detailed tours of one learner’s most valued possession – his microwave! Each one of these interaction has given me deeper insights into what makes each learner tick and how to best facilitate their learning and meet their social and emotional needs.
One of the best gifts that this year has given us is a slow start to the morning – I am not referring to the traffic, which is fantastic at the moment – but rather the hour that I get to spend in my classroom before school starts. During this time the Grade 7s filter into class slowly and some days everyone sits quietly in their own world, often sipping their coffee or tea and on other days the conversations are lively and the topics wide ranging. I have learnt of one learner’s love for 80s hairbands as she asks to play Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” at top volume while most of the class scratches their heads at her choice of music. We have had in depth discussions on how best to find new authors to read in the bookshop or how to grow herbs in your garden – a skill I do not have. I have learnt which causes the Grade 7s are passionate about and heard their opinions on everything from the pandemic to the upcoming elections in the USA. Some days we are so involved in our discussions that we miss the start of the school day!
This year has also gifted many of my Grade 7s skills and attitudes that will serve them well as they move into High School. Through our online learning most of the Grade 7s have learnt how to be flexible and adapt to new situations. They have also had to take responsibility for their learning and develop good work habits. I have had children reaching out to me and their other teachers, asking thoughtful questions via email and text that have shown me how seriously they are taking their schoolwork. On our class WhatsApp group they have also learned the value of collaboration and helping each other. Often any question posed has been answered before I even see the messages – this has fostered a greater sense of community in our class.
It is easy to long for a return to “normal” but I think the real challenge is look at the gifts of 2020 and figure out how to carry them forward into 2021 so that we have not merely survived this year but have also grown through it. Our Grade 7 t-shirt puts it so well when it says “We survived 2020 – the weirdest year of our lives and finished stronger together… #morethanconquerors”.
Grade 7 Educator
Miss Philip has been teaching Grade 7 at Knights for 15 years. She holds a Bachelor of Primary Education and an Advanced Diploma in Remedial Education. She is passionate about learning and learners and loves guiding her Grade 7s through their final year of Prep School.