Merry Christmas, PLN! (2020)

This Christmas blog post is my annual opportunity to reflect on the year and thank my professional learning network for all of their support. What a year it has been! None of us have ever experienced one like it! This year, especially, I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my teacher friends around the world.

Let’s start at the beginning. For one glorious month, life was normal (at least for me). I had a very enjoyable January, in fact. It even included some travel! During the Chinese New Year holiday, I went to London for two events (Bett 2020 and a Google Energiser), and then on to Kraków and Budapest for some short city breaks. I remember hearing about a virus in China but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I was blissfully unaware of how much it was about to impact me and the rest of the world.

BETT Show (London), January 2020

I was in Budapest in early February when the news broke that Hong Kong schools would close. Remote learning has become so normal now, but it wasn’t in February! Along with China, we were among the first places to close schools, so we couldn’t even learn from the experiences of others. We had to make a lot of important plans very quickly. I’m very proud of schools in Hong Kong and China for leading the world on this. It didn’t take long for the virus to impact everywhere else though.

Budapest, February 2020

Looking back over this year’s blog posts, it’s interesting to read how it all played out. With every post, the school closures were extended further and further, and our approaches to remote learning were tweaked and refined along the way. What a journey it has been, and it’s still ongoing. We’ve been in and out of school multiple times. Almost a year later, in December 2020, we’re back to remote learning, and it’s likely that it will continue into January. It’s crazy how normal this has become. Teachers, worldwide, have shown how creative, resilient and adaptable they are (not to mention our amazing students).

As mentioned, this has been going on for almost a year. In fact, we’re approaching the anniversary of our last normal lesson, unaffected by COVID, social distancing or hygiene measures. It was January 22nd 2020, just before our Chinese New Year holiday. My students were using (and sharing!) VR headsets to explore their creations on CoSpaces. It was also our Chinese New Year party day, hence the traditional Chinese clothes.

2020 will be remembered as one of the hardest years in our careers, if not the hardest. But I hope that it is also the year that education changed for the better. It has highlighted what truly matters in schools, as well as what doesn’t. Maybe some of what we changed this year shouldn’t go back. There are big discussions to have around exams, grades, homework and other traditional practices. I’m not saying that these don’t have a place, but we should at least rethink them. It’s healthy to take a fresh, critical look at what we do, and 2020 has certainly prompted this reflection.

I’m most excited about the potential of educational technology moving forward. Remote learning threw us all into the deep end and equipped us with a range of exciting new skills. The platforms that have enhanced our remote teaching and learning also have the potential to transform learning in our classrooms. But, importantly, teachers also know that technology isn’t always the best tool for the job. This year, I’ve missed paper, pens and hands-on manipulatives.

COVID is only part of what made 2020 so historic. Many global issues are reaching a boiling point, such as climate change, divisive politics, inequality and racism. My hope is that our shared experiences this year will bring everyone closer together. In 2021, let’s start with ourselves and strive to be kinder and more open-minded. 2020 has taught me to speak up for things that aren’t right, and this is something that I will continue to do. With all of these global issues, education plays a key role in addressing them. As influential teachers, we must remember that.

I’m amazed at how quickly this year has flown by. My trip to Europe seems like last week! Somehow, the Christmas holiday is once again upon us. I’m sad that I’m not at home celebrating with my family, but I have a lot to be thankful for this year. However bad it was, it could have been a lot worse. We must keep that in mind. Most of us will bounce back to normal. Others have been a lot less fortunate. If you’re reading this and have lost loved ones this year, please know that I’m thinking of you.

Also, please spare a thought for disadvantaged communities around the world. Bouncing back will be a much longer, harder process for them. Let me take this opportunity to remind you that my blog raises funds for girls’ education in Tanzania. They need our help more than ever! Please consider a small contribution through my fundraising page.

To each and every teacher who has supported me and my blog this year, thank you. It is truly appreciated. Let’s hope that the new year brings stability, happiness and health. In the meantime, please stay safe and look after each other. I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.



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