I keep waiting for journalists to write the stories I’ve seen and lived this past year—teachers, students, secretaries, administrators, custodians, cafeteria workers, parents, and anyone else who supports a functioning school—the stories about all these people who have performed the Sisyphean task of keeping schools open during a pandemic.
I keep waiting for journalists to write the stories of kids who showed up in the face of fear of a virus and wrote papers, solved math problems, prepared for AP tests, took college classes, worked jobs, played sports, put on musicals and concerts.
Yet here we are, at the end of the 2020-2021 school year and I see story after story of learning loss.
And while this year has been anything but normal, there are thousands of stories of students and teachers who saw success.
Was it traditional success? Sometimes.
Did some of us redefine what success looked like? Sometimes.
Did every student succeed? Depends on the metric being used.
Here’s what I know: from teaching in person since August 13, every day I saw some success. A kid took a great photo, or wrote a perfect caption. A kid asked a compelling question. A kid created something beautiful. A kid wrote a story that mattered. A kid took a risk and soared.
My classes were smaller than they’ve ever been my entire career, but every single kid succeeded at something—even if some days it was just getting out of bed and hauling themselves through a too-long school day.
Was this a lost year? For some, perhaps. But what truly mattered in my teaching and in my students’ learning was crystallized. What I needed them to know came into sharper focus. I wouldn’t count that as a loss.
Maybe instead of feeding a narrative about a lost year, a stolen year, we can reexamine the metric that shifts the narrative: we survived a pandemic, and kids still learned. We survived a pandemic, and teachers still taught. We survived a pandemic, and teams still won championships.
We survived a pandemic, and my newspaper staff still published a damn paper.
We survived a pandemic, and Stueve’s yearbook staff still published a book.
We survived a pandemic, and our tiny staff still broadcast over 30 live events.
It wasn’t a normal year, not by a long shot. But success stories are out there.
Go find them.