Change More than the Calendar: Hooray for Monday

December 28, 2020
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

In four short days, the calendar will read 2021. Hooray! January 1 will arrive no matter what we do! Many of us are breathing easier, relieved that this year is nearly done and hopeful about the new year.

However, if we want more than the date to change, there’s work to be done. And as teachers and changemakers, we have the power to help make 2021 a year of authentic, positive change. 

A cornerstone activity of the Inspired Teaching Institute involves challenging teachers to grapple with the question:

What is in my control and what is outside of my control?

So much of what has happened this past year has been outside of our control. We have found ourselves teaching in front of screens filled with a combination of our students’ faces and blank squares, and in in-person classrooms with some of our students seated at desks six feet apart and some participating remotely. We have reinvented instruction over and over in order to meet our students’ needs within constraints we could never have imagined a year ago. Much of the reinvention was necessarily reactive; it happened in response to changes forced on schools by the pandemic.

This moment in time, when we can catch our collective breath and reflect on the past year, offers an opportunity to make some changes proactively, to do what Inspired Teachers do: be intentional in creating learning experiences for and with students, in elevating student voice and supporting student agency, in centering anti-racist teaching practices, and in building meaningful, caring relationships with students and their families.

School needs to be reworked. We can’t afford to wait and hope it will happen. We need to make it happen.

While that may sound daunting, it’s doable if you start, as Inspired Teachers do, with questions. Here are some to get you going on your 2021 changemaking journey:

  • What did I do this past year that I want to keep in the coming year?
    Maybe it’s more inventive ways of building relationships with students and their families or regular check-ins with students or involving students in lesson planning.

    • What are my concrete plans to maintain these things, and incorporate them into my teaching?
  • What did I do this past year that I want to change? Maybe it’s being more proactive and less reactive or striving to make school more human or helping students see the joy in learning science.
    • What are my concrete plans to let go of old ways of doing things? What will I do instead? How will I make sure I have the supports to make these changes?
  • What do I want my students to be curious about in the coming year? Maybe it’s how a vaccine works or how to understand and combat racism or how our brains learn and change every day or why we inaugurate our presidents on January 20.
  • What rituals and routines will I put in place as school starts up again to establish a positive experience for my students and myself? (Tune in next week for more on rituals and routines.)
  • How will I support my students in telling the story of 2020 – from the perspective of our country, our city or town, our school, their families, or themselves as individuals?
  • How can I advocate for meaningful, engagement-based teaching and learning in my school and beyond?

In addition to tackling these questions yourself, consider posing some or all of them to your students. And put students in charge – of collecting responses, and of proposing plans to incorporate those responses into the classroom experience.

As Gandhi wisely said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

We can’t wait and see if 2021 will bring positive change. We have to create it. All of us at Inspired Teaching will be right beside you, supporting you and engaging in our own changemaking work, at the classroom, school, and systemic level. Together, we can make school a place of joy, belonging, and learning for everyone.

Here comes 2021! Let’s make it a truly happy New Year!

September Inspired Teaching Institute

Teachers can’t control what happens between the time students wake up and when they arrive at school but they have a lot of control over what happens when students cross the classroom threshold. Participants in this fast-paced, idea-rich Institute will learn 20 different strategies for starting the school day!