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  • Mary Arena

A New Year

As we begin a new year, my goal is to focus on positives instead of negatives. 2020 was a year where it was easy to be negative about most things, and I was beginning to feel the mental and physical toll. Not this year, this year will be different, and that starts with a mental shift to focus on what is working, personally and professionally.

I am both an educator and parent. I have a daughter in 2nd grade, and son in kindergarten. For the first half of the year, I had a hard time. My school-loving social butterfly was less enthusiastic about learning, and would easily get frustrated and break down in tears on her Google Meets. My active 5 year old already has a bad taste in his mouth about school when Kindergarten is supposed to be a wonderful year of meeting friends and falling in love with school. It was hard to be anything but negative.

As for my professional experience, I was equally frustrated. As the STEAM teacher for my district, I had to learn how to bring fun and exciting “maker” experiences to on-line learning with limited resources. Managing Google Classroom for grades K-6 with students who did not have the resources at home they needed, including devices and internet, was a major challenge, and often disheartening knowing that reaching my students at times was nearly impossible. Days were spent troubleshooting, contacting parents, putting curriculum aside to teach students how to actually use online platforms for learning, etc. Again, hard to be anything but negative.

The end of 2020 brought on lots of reflection, and when I looked back at all the negativity that has built up inside, I knew I had to make a change. I needed to stop focusing on what went wrong, and think about what went right. My 5 year old, for example, was able to go to an app on his tablet, find where his teacher posted materials he would need for the day, lay out all his materials, and get himself ready for his Google Meet, all on his own! He even set a timer on Alexa for when his class started. These are life skills that I never thought he would learn and master at his age. My second grader learned how to multitask. Not only would she be responsible for her learning, but because I was also teaching at the same time, she would be in charge of helping her brother when he needed it and I was unavailable. And my own students, the growth and engagement in the students who joined my class each day surprised me, and I began to realize that it wasn’t always the content, but the connection that was so important in such a crazy school year.

So let's look to the positives. Let's remember that it is up to us to change our mindset. It is up to us to focus on our own personal wellness to make this happen. Finding colleagues to share successes with, taking time to meditate and reflect, surrounding yourself with all the good that is still out there.

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