By Emily Francis
hApPy New Year!
As a year ends and a new year begins, we often hear the phrase “Out with the old, in with the new;” this phrase may suggest that to move forward, one must leave it all behind and evolve new ideas and changes.
To some extent, this may be what we want to do, considering the rough year we’ve all had as educators. I feel like 2021 hit us so hard – the uncertainty, the stress, the fatigue, & the emotional roller-coaster in schools drained us. Yet, we showed up. We did what we are passionate about. We poured our heart, soul, and energy into those we love…our students!
As the year came to an end, I began reflecting on the core of my persistence and endurance through these difficult days. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE students. They are why I remain in the teaching field. However, we can argue that we are facing some challenges we’ve never faced before. The pandemic is stealing our strength, love, and passion for what we do. Too many excellent teachers are leaving the field. The teacher shortage is undeniable. So, as I think about the core of my persistence and endurance in the field, I can’t help but think of my professional learning network.
In Late September 2021, I started getting messages from teachers from all across the country. These teachers were not only under the pressure of the pandemic but also facing a fast-growing enrollment of newcomers (English learners new to the USA). I could sense their frustration but at the same time felt their desire to be the best and do what’s best for their students. I felt a very strong connection with these teachers and decided to connect with them. I sent out an invitation on all my professional social media accounts using the hashtag #PLC4newcomers inviting teachers to join a virtual PLC to collaborate.
By October 2021 I had a list of over 150 teachers of newcomers who were willing to meet via Zoom to learn and share.
Our PLC began meeting the first Thursday of the month. We invite guest speakers – professionals and researchers in our field – to share their expertise with us. After hearing from our presenter, we go into breakout rooms and just chat. We encourage one another, we share ideas, we provide resources, we have meaningful collaborations.
Now, I know that Zoom meetings are not new… in fact, some of us have probably had countless Zoom meetings. However, through these PLC interactions with other passionate teachers, we started gaining strength. Through these interactions, we began feeling competent. We began embracing learning as part of growing.
We began validating each other – praising each other for the work we are already doing. Teachers lifting up other teachers. It’s the greatest feeling!
We also began a Twitter chat to stay connected. Every Thursday at 7:00 pm ET, teachers know that we are connected either via Zoom or Twitter chat. We’re just a hashtag away.
Something I realized while interacting with other teachers was that the burden on our shoulders may be blinding us from seeing our full potential as educators. We begin doubting ourselves, not because of what we’re doing or not doing – but because our best is not being recognized or validated.
So, as you reflect on last year and brainstorm New Year resolutions, don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t let your overthinking discredit your growth. You don’t need new strategies, or a new YOU, to be the best version of yourself! Connect with others and continue unfolding your love and passion for your students. Create and maintain meaningful connections that will cheer for you and will lift you up. Share small celebrations with your professional network and seek their support. We don’t need coaching right now – at least I don’t.
I need support.
Support is exactly what we need to continue all fired up while serving to the best of our abilities.
If you’re looking for meaningful connections, please, join us. Add your name to our monthly meeting invite form and come learn with and grow with us: bit.ly/PLC4newcomers.
So, going back to the phrase “Out with the old, in with the new”: I choose to keep the old – because the old is working for me right now. I’m keeping my meaningful connections, evolving new ideas and changes as they come. Unfolding the real me.
Yours In Equity,