“525,600 minutes. 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year? How about love? Measure in love.”
- Seasons of Love from the musical, “Rent”
December is always an interesting month for me. While I prefer the summer months because of the sunshine, longer days, and many outdoor activities (especially lake kayaking!) to partake in, December always signals a time for getting still and quiet, reflecting on the 11 months that precede it, and thinking about the new year to come. It is also the month where my birthday falls, so in addition to starting a new calendar year, I am beginning another trip around the sun myself, causing even further desire for self-reflection, exploration of personal growth and goal setting.
2017 was an extremely difficult year for me personally. In addition to my own difficulties, I feel like there were a lot of challenges in 2017 for many people on our planet. I don't feel I am inaccurate in saying that I have very few friends, acquaintances or people who I follow through social media who would express that it was their best year yet; in fact, for many, the opposite may be true. Nevertheless, we have made it through to the end of it. We learn from both our successes and our challenges, and sometimes the most powerful lessons come from the most difficult of circumstances. Here are some of my most important takeaways from 2017:
I forgot that one of the hardest things about being a classroom teacher is the amount of sleep I lose worrying about the students in my class.
Mindfulness and meditation practices can help you process and work through some pretty difficult stuff that medication cannot.
It is ok to stop, breathe, and take time to take care of yourself.
There are many people around you going through hard things, including the students in your class and school - and your colleagues too. Be kind to everyone.
When you are really, really struggling, sometimes you are often surprised by the people who show up to support you that you never expected… just as you are sometimes bewildered by the ones who you thought would be there for you, but are not.
Sometimes when things feel the darkest, you don’t have any idea how close you actually are to getting to the other side of the tunnel where the light is shining.
In addition to personal contemplation, this time of year is a great time to ask your students about their own reflections on 2017 and their wishes for the new year. I absolutely love this article about doing a nightly debrief with your children at home, and have borrowed some of the questions to add to a quick reflection for 2017/18 printable (go to "File - download as - PDF document" for the most printer-friendly formatting.) I left it in grey-scale for photocopying purposes. You are welcome to use it with your own students, and I will be using it with mine. I am not a gifted graphic designer, so if anyone wants to take this template and improve upon it, I would love it if you would do that and then please share it back with me: firstname.lastname@example.org, so I can share it here on the blog for others to use as well. We are better together. UPDATE: Thanks to @mrmaltais for sharing his version of the above reflection printable.
One thing I know for sure: my life has been made better in 2017 through the incredible gift of connection. I am lucky to have so many rich connections with people - both face-to-face and online, and I can’t imagine having gotten through this year without them. I am always slightly mystified by people who still blame technology for disconnect between humans. So many of the people in my friend circles, my “tribe”, and my support networks have been those who I connect with from a distance, and this would not have been possible without the use of technology. I cannot adequately express the gratitude I feel every day for the ability to spend time with these people via the use of the Internet and my technology devices. It is possible to feel a dark, deep loneliness and disconnect with someone whose face you have an opportunity to see in person every day, just as you can experience absolute joy from a connection with someone who feels like sunshine to you, in a time zone 9 hours different from yours. It really is what you do with technology that matters. If you are purchasing technology devices for yourself or others this season, please keep that in mind. The best technology is that which allows you to create and connect, to share stories and support, and get to know and understand others better. There is no better gift than that.
As you think about the 525,600 minutes to come in 2018, how can you use your devices and Internet connection in the service of human connection?
Happy holidays and here’s to an amazing new year! 2018 is going to be the year that love wins. For me. For you. For all of us on planet Earth. I just know it.