As we move through this holiday season, we engage in many traditions such as decorating the Christmas tree, lighting candles, singing, and celebrating. At the center of these activities are the ideas of light and hope that serve as focal points for many cultures and traditions. Historically during this time, many Western cultures have just finished gathering up the remaining harvest and our days are growing shorter with nights growing longer in duration. For us, this has been an eventful year with many unanticipated twists and turns. While we continue to navigate an ever changing landscape, it is these focal points of light and hope that will continue to move us forward.
If you are like me, your life has been up and down much like a New Jersey roller coaster. The first few weeks of quarantine was so unfathomable that I could only process it as an extended set of snow days. However as the closure of face to face school continued, my thoughts transitioned to worries about students and staff at school. Did they have everything that they needed to be successful? Was I adequately serving and supporting them in teaching and learning? Was I doing enough to help everyone? These were all concerns that I dealt with frequently. In thinking back about this experience, I now realized that my concerns were rooted in my desire to make sure that my family was good. Yes, for us, our students and colleagues are part of our school family. As part of that family, we may have many different views and experiences. But at the core of it, we are motivated to care and protect the family unit. We don’t all see things the same way, have different motivations, and may argue passionately for what we believe to be the best for our students. Yet. we strive to ensure that the family is safe, protected, and progressing.
We all have had challenging moments this year both in and out of school. We, as educators, continue to grapple with supporting our students and ensuring that they are learning. We have also had to change the way that we deliver instruction including learning new tools and organizing our content in new ways all while trying to make sense of our world. While these challenges have been great, the one thing that has gotten me through those dark and challenging moments is the sense of hope.
Hope is like a light that helps us find our way through the darkness. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that so many cultures have a celebration of light embroidered with hope during this time of year. Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, was celebrated in mid November this year. It is often described as the celebration of light over darkness, triumph of good over evil, and new beginnings. Hanukkah starts later this week and is often called the festival of lights. Hanukkah celebrates the rebuilding of the Second Temple after the Jews reclaimed Jerusalem from the occupying Greeks. As traditional services were restarted, there was a need for pure oil in order to light the Menorah. But only a small amount of oil could be found and it should only have lasted for one day. Miraculously, the oil kept the light shining for eight days. During this time, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came into the world to light the way. Jesus is often described as light personified.
Within each of these traditions, we see the importance of light especially during the darkest time. Much like a lot of the past months, we must continue to see the light of hope moving forward. For many of our students, we represent the only normalcy that they have experienced in the last nine months. While our experiences with our students may not always show this, know that we have made a difference by showing up and supporting our students. While parts of this year has been extremely dark, and our light may have been challenged at times, we still have our light going forward and much hope. Let us continue to think about the ways that we will continue to light the world for ourselves, our students, and our community. May the new year usher in much joy for each of us.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.