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Reflecting on the Year of COVID

I think I’m ready to reflect on last school year: the year of COVID-19. While we may not be post-pandemic, and while a myriad of mitigations will likely still be in place next fall, we have three effective vaccines, and nearly no mystery left.

Over the course oof 180 days we had 4 different schedules.

For the first 130 days we had 100 contact minutes with students per week, down from what would normally be 250 minutes.

I created and recreated so. many. materials.

This was the word cloud from our employee engagement survey in September. In hindsight I’m able to see and respect the positive words much better now than a year ago today.

There were two decisions I made at the start of the year:

1. Relationship, connection, belonging and compassion come above all else

2. Teaching students that there is more than one way to learn.

I created and kicked off my classes with this idea

What did I learn?

My students are far more incredible and capable than I’d ever given them credit. Even with half the instructional time, I’m pretty confident about my AP student preparation for the exam. My regular level physics students were doing incredible work by the end of the year, with much stronger evidence of learning.

I need to reevaluate my purpose. I believe my purpose is to equip students with skills to do science and to be critical thinkers about the field of science. This doesn’t require a specific number of topics, it requires depth of opportunity. In my regular level class I slowed the pace way down. Work and energy and momentum spilled into second semester and I did not get to electricity and magnetism. However, by testing students frequently, retrieval practices, standards based grading, among other things, my students truly learned and grew in ways I was surprised and delighted to see.

Digging into identity is a special privilege. I was really surprised by how much certain students opened up in their reflections. I also saw some of my students make growth in their own self-perceptions as we learned about scientist after scientist after scientist.

Where do we go from here?

The easy answer is: not back to the way things were.

We just can’t. It would make all of our time and energy this past year worthless.

I can’t go back to teaching in such a way that I lack trust in my students to truly drive their own learning

I can’t go back to teaching in such a way that my classroom is somehow a bubble of “classical Newtonian Mechanics” rather than a microcosm of the society and systems we live within.

I can’t go back to a place where compassion has boundaries, statutes and limitations.

I can’t go back. Only forward.

Memories and Student Feedback During the Year

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