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Back to School


Did you return to school this week? Maybe you did not return to a school building, but virtual classes resumed around the world in many communities. Here in Antigua, my children completed their first week of school after the holiday break.

I took some time off from my university responsibilities before the new year and returned to the office this week. On Monday, I co-facilitated a presentation as part of the faculty's PD workshop series. I am still in the process of checking and responding to the emails I missed while on vacation.

As you begin another semester of teaching, did you create any goals related to the classroom? If not, you have time. Use this weekend to reflect on what went well and areas for improvement this term.

Many of us remain in the infancy stages of adjusting to online teaching. Despite our credentials, we will make mistakes. We must recognize our challenges and create the necessary shifts toward achieving pedagogical excellence.

Every opportunity to stand in front of a class or computer screen is a chance to improve teaching and impact learning. Let’s attempt to do better about appreciating the teaching opportunities to influence change.

In the accountability group that I am leading, one of my clients is an instructional designer. During our last session, he talked about the process of doing research and reporting findings to his supervisor. Although he enjoys creating training for organizations, the research process requires motivation and necessitates support to meet deadlines.

How do his experiences resonate with you?

The group of professionals and students in my accountability community have exceeded my expectations. Every day they encourage each other inside our exclusive slack channel to make more progress on their goals. Undoubtedly, the instructional designer in our group and others are getting 2021 off to a dynamic start.

Who do you have in your corner to help you achieve your professional and personal goals for 2021? Holding yourself responsible for your success is the first step, followed by leaning on others to keep you motivated and focused on progress. Is goal achievement easy? No, but as you know, anything of value often involves struggle.

As you begin to think about lesson plans and learning objectives, visualize how the curriculum can impact your students' communities. Yes, you want them to do well on their exams. It's also important to plan how you can influence your students' lives beyond the classroom's four walls or digital servers.

This week the United States witnessed the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-president Kamala Harris. Some educators, concerned about the assassination threats, opted not to show the ceremony live. Others aired the relatively smooth transition of power to demonstrate the importance of awareness.

Kamala Harris's role as the first Black woman vice-president is historic. Black sorority members around the world wore pearls and Chucks to commemorate the moment. It's too soon to predict impact accurately, but her position serves as a symbolic victory against white supremacy.

After the last administration's failure to "make America great again," much hope is floating in the air surrounding DC. Politicians and political activists believe in Biden and Harris’s abilities to lead the US toward pandemic and injustice solutions. Only time coupled with their unified actions will determine their success.

As educators, we must prepare our students to positively impact the lives of other people in the uncertainties of today and tomorrow. We cannot afford to put our faith in one nation's leaders to heal the world's ills. It is time to reconsider the intent of education.

Are we shaping current and future problem solvers or working in opposition to viable opportunities for all people? That’s a heavy question to answer right now. Try lifting your response after you take the necessary time to reflect and examine your teaching practices.

For myself, I realize that there is more work to get done. The vaccine has arrived, but it's too soon to determine its impact on global communities. Trump's supporters' violent actions made it very clear that we will continue to live in a world with white supremacy.

I cannot do it alone, and I need you to do what you can in your virtual and physical spaces. We must help our students move from memorizing to creating, evaluating, and applying.

You're a teacher, and I am sure you are familiar with Benjamin Bloom and Paulo Freire's practical teaching and learning theories.

In alignment with Freire and Bloom's pedagogical models, let's disrupt the banking education system and help students apply their knowledge and skills beyond exam performance. This teaching approach is not easy, but we can do better than what we have done up to this point. Let’s commit to doing our part in whatever part of the world we call home.

My work as a university professor at a medical school aligns with my vision for improved healthcare options in lower-income communities. Many of our students come from underrepresented backgrounds in the medical field. Some have life missions to work in places where residents do not have access to quality facilities.

Through my advising and teaching services in my school’s education department, I feel honored to interact with our students and faculty. Are we a perfect institution? No, but our mission to support learning the sciences and preparing students from diverse communities for future medical careers is solid!

How often do you participate in professional development? I have worked in schools where PD workshops occurred every Friday. Due to research and teaching responsibilities, weekly PD sessions are not typical in most university settings.

At my school, we host PD series at the beginning of each semester. On occasion, we also have sessions to accommodate changes in the curriculum or other resources. You get what you put into the PD offerings at your school.

These sessions are important because they provide community-building opportunities and sharing of best practices. I tried to bring the best version of myself to PD every day this week, but it was tough. With my vacation ending on Monday, I am working on getting back into the groove.

You know how it is after returning from a break. It takes a minute to reconnect with that teaching voice and develop the stamina necessary to stand all day. Sure, I could sit and avoid that physical adjustment, but I work best on my feet.

Call me a dork, but yes, I have a standing desk in my office! It keeps me active and alert during meetings and workshops. If you enjoy movement and other kinesthetic approaches to learning, try a standing desk and see how your productivity increases.

I wrote my first two books using a standing desk while living in Mexico and Antigua. A standing desk helped me finish the bulk of the writing for my 2021 book, Dear Brother: 82 Powerful Poems to Guide Your Journey to Healthy Black Masculinity. The desk that I have is no longer available on Amazon, but you can find multiple options with a simple Google search.

As we begin teaching in 2021, let's do our best to expand our skills. Enroll in an online course about remote teaching. Join accountability groups. Stay woke on political affairs and gather resources that support productivity and self-care.

Before you reflect on your teaching practices this weekend, subscribe to this blog and share this post with one educator.

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