As we prepare to start the 4th quarter of the 2020-21 school year with our students all in person full-time, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the expression “Finish strong.” What does that look like this year? What does that look like at any time. I’m going to take this in a few different directions, so this isn’t one linear line of thought I’m sharing in the coming paragraphs. I’m thinking about a year of Covid, racial inequities and the recharged BLM movement, and our general patterns of segmenting our work and lives. And, I’m interested in your thoughts on any or all of these, so please share!
Let’s think about Covid (as if it’s been far from our minds). We’ve been through over a year of students being in and out of school, jobs being remote, no real social gatherings, no travel, following protocols to stop the spread, highly politicized public health measures, and a lot of loss and learning that we never anticipated. Now, we see some light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines becoming more and more widely available. Our MN governor announced that all people 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting tomorrow. Wow! I can feel the return of some of my favorite things. Yet, often this has seemed so close and so far away at the same time. We still have some hills to climb. Moreover, we have learning from this year to leverage as we move forward. Rest. Restart. The end of this year is not the end of our journey, and going back to life as it was isn’t right either. We need to go back to better.
Today was also the start of the Derek Chauvin trial. This is one landmark in the journey of anti-racism and equity. While Derek Chauvin is on trial for one act, the heartache and glaring disparities of many other acts are pulled to the surface in pain for hurting communities and the constant reminder that we all need to do better in the work of real equity. I saw this tweet a while back and it struck me. See, it’s my privilege to decide whether or not to continue to learn about systemic racism and to seek to understand the experience of my BIPOC friends, colleagues, and neighbors. It’s also my privilege to decide whether or not to use my energy and resources to support equity. This is White privilege. If I do nothing, I’ll still be fine, but my friends and the community around me will continue to suffer.
Finally, the ongoing rhythm of life…we all need rest. We all need a break from time to time. Some of us wait a long stretch in between those breaks. As we approach the end of a school year, what if we looked at it more as a building block for the next year than an end? As we approach the post-Covid times, what if we looked at our challenges and experiences as building blocks for the future? When we come to the finish line of a race or wrap up a big project, what if we took time to reflect on what we accomplished and how it all leads us to the next thing. This doesn’t mean that there’s never a stopping point or a time to celebrate accomplishments, but that every stopping point is just a breather and a time of preparation for our next great move. This is what makes the future better than the present or the past. Rest, celebrate wins, and take those wins forward to a better tomorrow.