December 2020: From Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Dear SPS Faculty,

Many of us are looking forward to the ending of this year, which has tested our limits over and over again. There are a variety of words we can assign that highlight the unpredictability of this past year, and the very overused word, unprecedented. It is not only that we were challenged on several fronts, it is that we were challenged on several fronts all at the same time, one after the other, without a time for a breather to regroup, rest, and re-energize.

Here are some words that stood out for me as I reflect back on this year:

  • Agility: The pandemic was upon us and we needed to rethink the very foundation of how we teach and how students learn. We did not have a choice and so we hunkered down, learned new skills and approaches, and reframed what it means to educate. We understood that we were operating within a new set of constraints and  we became more innovative and shared our creative ideas with others who were eager to learn and adapt them as well.
  • Community: There was a mentality of “we are in this together” and new language about being on Zoom became our signature greetings. We were more intentional on building community with colleagues, alumni and students because we were experiencing isolation and we knew that some were coping better than others. It felt like I was meeting more often with more people than who I met with prior to March of this year and there was a bonding of experiencing something profound together.
  • Resilience: We realized that in spite of all of these challenges being thrown at us we were able to meet them. There were different phases of the pandemic and the assorted inconveniences prompting us to rethink how we do so many taken-for-granted processes. At the end of the first quarter we did not know what was happening and we had the sense that it would be over soon. However, as the year went on each month brought news and we needed to continue to shift priorities and postpone indefinitely what we thought we would have been able to do by the summer. It showed us how we can cope with ambiguity and that in the face of uncertainty we have resilience.
  • Patience: This year really taught us patience! If somebody told me I would be spending the next year or more practicing social distancing and wearing a mask in public, I would have thought they were strange. Yet here we are doing just that! The sense of time has shifted and even though as we are in education we have been good at planning for the future, the idea of planning for a face-to-face gathering is really far off and we need the fortitude to just wait it out.

So, yes, good ridden 2020! It does not mean that miraculously overnight from December 31st to January 1st all of the ills of this past year will be gone and that nothing but joy is on the road ahead (although one can hope). It does mean, however, that we have shown ourselves that we are stronger, more creative, and more caring than we might have thought.

Happy holidays everyone!

Thank you,