A Letter of Encouragement to Inspire Teachers for the 2020-2021 School Year
No one saw this year coming.
Even with the crazy end of last year, there were still some glimmers of hope this summer that there would be some form of normalcy for the 2020-2021 school year.
Normalcy, I’m afraid, has been tweaked quite a bit.
The “new normal” or “now normal” seems to be the new reality.
Everything from social distancing, PPE, temperature checks, hybrid method, teaching remotely, rearranging your classroom, having real students in person and virtually, etc.
Just listing that stuff is exhausting!
Bottom line: This year is going to be different.
In. So. Many. Ways.
But for most of you, this is the only option.
Press on. Move Forward. Teach. Reach little minds. Impact lives.
And also collect your paycheck and pay your bills. Phew!
I thought it would be great to take a break from your super long to-do list and and just be poured into for a change.
Drink in some encouragement and have your heart, spirit, and mind be refreshed.
Are you with me?
On that note, here are 6 statements to remind you of the great calling on your life, and to encourage you that in the midst of the fires and storms you can most certainly rise above and be used by God to make a difference.
Especially when it’s hard.
*This article contains affiliate links which means I may make a small commission from any items (2 inspirational books for teachers!) that you purchase.
1. Your Students Are Looking to You: Set the Tone
Let’s be honest, open house and the first day of school are going to look much different than in years past.
But regardless, there are children ready to meet their teacher and find out about the year.
They are ready to learn! They are excited (most of them anyways). You are a HUGE part of fueling that excitement.
If you can’t meet them in person, make a fun introductory video that you email to all your families. Maybe it’s something you and your teammates can create together.
Wear a silly hat, use some puppets, read a book, give them a virtual tour of their classroom. Hopefully they will actually get to see it this year!
Believe in this year, and show your students from the very beginning that you are here for each of them.
You’re not going anywhere.
Tell them how happy you are that they are in your class!
If you are pumped and excited, that will filter down to them, and it will put the parents at ease too.
Your students are looking to you and need that positive energy!
2. Your Parents Are Counting On You: Help Ease Their Worries
Think about the roller coaster that the parents have been on this summer as they’ve waited to hear what school will look like for their child.
MANY of you are parents too and just walked that road. Very. Stressful.
Multiply the stress with 2 full time jobs and 3 kids learning remotely, and it’s a recipe for a panic attack.
So how can you as the teacher help this situation?
Just be yourself! Do what you do best.
Think about what you would want to see and hear from your child’s teacher that would put your mind at ease.
Yes, you may be wrecked with worry and unsure about the week ahead, but you can still be positive with your parents.
Obviously don’t be Positive Patty and go over the top like you have no idea about the realities in the world…that’s definitely fake and not relatable.
You can be honest that there’s a certain amount of unknowns with the school year.
But assure them you will be forthright about any new information you receive and will communicate with them in a timely manner.
Keep them in the loop and remind them of your passion for teaching.
You are fighting for their kids to have the best year possible, given the situation.
You’re all in this together!
3. Relationships Will Be Built: Cultivate Classroom Community
You may be thinking, How do I build relationships virtually? What if I go all year and never physically meet any of my students?
How do I have classroom community if my students are in 2 locations? Am I really cut out for this? What the heck is happening in my life?
These are all good questions! Even the last one. You have to be honest and just process all the crazy. =)
And you want them to be strong, authentic, and positive.
Remember, your students, no matter their age, will be looking to you to set the example in this area.
Pursue those relationships.
How would you normally cultivate community in your classroom? Think about those ideas and see how you can change them to fit your current reality.
In my kindergarten classroom, every morning we had a time called Morning Circle. We all sat down in a circle at the carpet, and it was a time to build relationships as a class.
I explain this in greater detail in my article called 10 Classroom Management Tips that Work! Definitely check it out.
If you’re teaching younger grades (K-3), how could you do something similar online? Maybe the first 5-10 minutes of a zoom call could be for cultivating classroom community.
If it’s awkward the first couple times, don’t give up!
Figure out how to make it work for you and enjoy the break from teaching curriculum.
Your students will see that zoom calls aren’t just for learning math facts and practicing their reading fluency.
It will show them that relationships matter to you and they can still get to know their classmates and teacher even if they’re not together in person.
Recess Time: You Deserve A Break!
You’ve made it through over half of this article, so why not treat yourself to a good book? Here a couple of wonderful books to inspire teachers just like YOU!
Pocket Prayers For Teachers by Max Lucado
What Teachers Make: In Praise Of The Greatest Job In The World by Taylor Mali
4. This Year Matters Most: Don’t Waste It
That might sound cliché, but I think it’s very true.
Why does this year matter more than others?
There are students counting on you, as well as parents and administrators. They need this year to work!
Is it fair to have that much pressure on your shoulders?
But the pressure is there, and you can rise to the challenge!
Just think for a minute about your different classes you’ve taught over the years.
Some harder than others. Lots of different learning styles and needs.
For me, I saw each class every year as a new family. And there were always a few little ones each year that found their way into my heart.
I loved all my kids. But some had more needs than others.
Rough life at home. School was their safe space.
In some ways I was like another mom in their life. That’s a lot of pressure!
So my encouragement to you is to use that pressure to fuel your approach this year. Even if your classroom isn’t a physical home for your students, think of ways for it to be that safe space.
What makes a teacher and the classroom a safe space?
- Clear expectations
- Kind and Compassionate Teacher
- Accepting and Loving Environment
- Celebrates Small Victories
Be consistent by showing up each day with a smile on your face and a passion and joy for teaching your students.
Set the expectations and follow through with your students. Set the bar high. Encourage them to reach their learning goals.
Model kindness and compassion by addressing the worries of your students and parents. Don’t just be about teaching the curriculum and checking off the boxes.
You can do this!
Make time for classroom community and for FUN!
Accept and love each of your kids where they’re at.
But keep accepting. Keep loving. And celebrate those small victories.
They made it to the next reading level: Celebrate! A student showed up to 3 zoom meetings in a row: Celebrate!
A friend had the courage to read aloud in front of his classmates: Celebrate!
All of those things are worth celebrating!
Teachers, YOU and your classroom may be the safest place for one of your students this year.
Never stop showing up.
Accept and love each of your kids where they’re at.
5. You Will Walk Away From This Year Changed: Trust the Process
I don’t think anyone (students, parents, teachers, people) will be exactly the same at the end of 2020 as they were when all the chaos started.
So much has happened.
There are so many new ways of doing things: masks, social distancing, staying at home, not seeing grandparents, churches closed, etc.
It’s hard enough to process everything as an adult. Think about what it’s been like for the kids.
Lots of processing and adapting. And even some crying. From the adults too!
You are most likely starting this year off with a to-do list a mile long, containing way more items than are normally there.
And your cabinet in your classroom probably has three times the volume of cleaning supplies.
There are so many unknowns, that when you play the “What if?” game, your mind is reeling with all kinds of catastrophic scenarios.
You pretty much can’t answer any of your questions because you are just trying to get through the day.
Lisa, this is so unhelpful. You’re just fueling my worries!
Just go with it friends. There’s a great illustration coming.
Many times in life, it’s when we are in the trenches, in a seemingly impossible situation, where we end up coming to the end of ourselves.
There’s no way out but to cry for help.
We are humbled. We are broken. But we are teachable.
And we start to see the light. A glimmer at first. But we can see it.
Scrambling toward the light sometimes, clawing and fighting our way to get out of the darkness.
But once we are out, and the darkness has lifted, we usually see a different reflection in the mirror.
A few more wrinkles, maybe a couple new scars, but they are evidence of the battle. Of the journey.
We are changed, but for the good.
Our faith has been shaken, but not destroyed.
Our trust in God is deeper because we’ve seen Him show up in miraculous ways.
We have been through the fire, but were not consumed by the flames.
The dross has been removed and we are shining brighter than before.
What’s the point of this illustration?
It’s to remind you that teaching is a process.
Every year requires a new road map for a fresh journey.
It’s a chance to grow, change, and improve.
My prayer for you is that you will trust the process that comes with this school year.
Have an open heart to what this year will bring and how it will change you as a person and a teacher.
And have a mindset of grace…which brings me to my last point.
6. Grace Upon Grace: A Great Theme for This Year
A teacher friend of mine posted on Facebook that she wanted the theme for this year to be grace.
She wanted that to be a word that would help motivate her in hard moments and carry her through the crazy unknowns of this year.
That’s a genius idea!
On that note, here’s my illustration:
G: Give each day to God
R: Remember your purpose
A: Accept the new challenges
C: Choose your mindset
E: Expect to be changed
As you start each day, make sure you start it well.
Whatever that looks like for you: a workout, cup of coffee, reading, a hot shower, praying, a good breakfast…just do it.
Grace for yourself, for your students, for the parents, and for this new world of teaching you’re currently in.
You are not here by accident.
Show up each day ready to give it your all for your students.
And know that even if you never hear a thank you or it seems like the new system is failing, your labor is not in vain. It matters so much.
May God richly bless you as you embark on this new school year, and may He strengthen you with His love and bring you comfort when you are feeling weary.
May you be motivated each day, knowing that God is working in and through you to impact these students and parents in huge ways.
Lots of love and prayers for each of you!
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
~I Corinthians 15:58
Please share this on social media and with your co-workers and other teacher friends in your life!
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