I’ve put off writing this piece as long as I could. You see, I dislike goodbyes.
When you’ve had the best of times, it’s hard to let go. In the opposite circumstances, one can wish to go back and seek another outcome.
All that is happening in our world is making the release of one of my favorite projects, CORElaborate, alongside the closeout of a school year I’m never likely to forget, all the more challenging. Last year, I wrote this post, and I’ll be the first to admit that last year’s advice falls a bit short for this year’s situation. The me back then could not have imagined, in my wildest of whims, anything like this.
The thing about goodbyes, though, is that regardless of readiness, endings happen. We have the choice to make peace and move forward, and with luck and effort, a better person than when we arrived, or, to cling to what was and wish for what will not be.
I’m going to choose the first, dear reader, and I hope you will, too. Endings make way for other adventures, and what would our lives be without this cycle? I have a few things to let go of in this post, to make way for new beginnings, and I hope you’ll join me in the process.
First, I need to let go of this school year, the end of which is far from what any of us planned. It feels foreign, a bit as though we’ve been disembodied from the essence of school. I watched as my colleagues across the globe flipped their plans on a dime to try to make learning happen in inequitable situations as districts and school systems scrambled to put every resource available in students’ hands. Almost daily, we had new cancelations, stories of student struggle, well-intended but overwhelming cascades of “shoulds” from non-education organizations, and hiccups to technology. We also had renewed camaraderie as teachers reached out to each other to commiserate and share resources, schools came up with innovative ways to celebrate graduates, and we Zoomed just to see the face of a friend. Some known opportunity gaps and inequity in services were made glaringly evident in remote teaching and learning, the results of which will play out in the coming months and years as we demand of policymakers solutions long overdue.
This June I’m also bidding adieu to some young people who I know will take their experience and use it to change the world. In my planned end to the year, we had time to share our learning, time to celebrate all we’d accomplished, and time to plan for the future. In this new reality, I haven’t even seen some of my students since March 13th - definitely not in the plans. I won’t get the opportunity to tell each of them how proud I am of who they are and how excited I am for who they will become, so I’ll tell you, reader. My students, likely just like yours, are amazing. They inspire me every day with fantastic ideas that will change the world and if you are lucky, you will get to meet them some day.
One farewell is easy to adopt, however intense and continuous the work. I’m striving to find and change any racist practices I’ve unknowingly followed, however well-meaning and well-intended I would consider myself to have been because not knowing, not thinking, is not an excuse. You see, being an antiracist requires consistent learning and evaluation; current events compel me to comb my being with the finest tooth I’ve ever used and maintain that level of reflection for the rest of my life. I was a person who thought I was an antiracist but the truth is, there’s no “enough” in this practice. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, and I can do more, grow more, and most importantly, listen more to what is needed of me as an ally.
In my final goodbye, I must share that CORElaborate is coming to a close. We had ambitious goals and met them, changing and challenging conversations about education in Washington State and beyond. For years, this project has been a voice of Washington Teacher Leaders who represent one incredible profession with their truths. I have had the honor of serving as a mentor and coach to many cadres over the years and am all the better human having met these phenomenal educators who exemplify the profession. I also worked with the leadership of exceptional people from the PSESD and Ready Washington and I am excited for how they will continue to advocate for educators in all they do. Thank you, all, from the bottom of my heart.
While we may be closing up shop, our work will continue to be hosted by the Puget Sound Educational Service District. I encourage you to follow us on Twitter as we take off on other journeys, carrying the best of memories and faith in education along for the ride.