About Jheanell Lumsden

Jheanell Lumsden is a young, black educator who hails from Jamaica but is currently working in Toronto, Canada. She is dedicated to ensuring her curriculum is diverse and reflective of stories from all over the world and from groups that are typically left out from English curriculum. Furthermore, she works to create a revolutionary classroom in which her students are critically thinking about the world and seeking to enact real change.

I’m writing this article as I sit in my living room, on the cusp of a new year, thinking about what it means to be moving into a new chapter, a new milestone, etc. However, I spent the better part of my morning scrolling social media and I saw several people reflecting on the highlights of their year (despite the difficulty of 2020), and on the lessons, they’ve learned from this year. This act of reflection is such a reflexive one, for us all, particularly at this time of year. However, as educators, the act of reflection is particularly ingrained in our practice.

We are supposed to make reflection a crux of our pedagogy. We are constantly asking our students to reflect – on assignments, on their progress, on their lives, on world issues amongst other things. It is important that as educators, we should similarly engage in a constant practice of reflection.

As such, I thought I would share some of my reflections, as an educator, from this year:

  1. It’s okay not to have everything together. – We tend to feel pressured, as educators, to have everything together for our students, and for ourselves. The moment we feel an ounce of chaos in our professional and/or personal lives, we feel as if we are failing our students or ourselves. However, when life becomes difficult, and we feel things falling apart, it is okay to lean into that and it doesn’t mean we are less than. It is important that we acknowledge the pain, pitfalls, and disappointments we feel to properly heal and move forward on our own time.
  2. Online teaching is difficult. – Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve actually done both in-person and online teaching. Having the experience of both, I’ve realized that online teaching is extremely difficult. I was never trained in teacher’s college to teach online and I’m not sure how many of us received that trained but I’ve relied on in-person activities to drive my classes forward. So, when I was suddenly and unexpectedly thrown into online teaching, it felt like being thrown into the deep end of a pool with no floatation device. Keeping students motivated online, creating creative activities, getting students to turn on their cameras, complete their tasks, and choose relevant material (amongst other things) was all a struggle. I’d never had to support my students by virtual means only and it was an extremely steep learning curve. It is a bit of weight on my chest to admit that it was very hard to adjust to that change.
  3. Support is critical. – It’s safe to say that we all recognize the importance of having a good support system particularly during tumultuous times but this year concretized that. Many students (in various cities, countries, etc.) were not properly supported by school districts, local & federal governments, and their school administrators. They were left without the proper tools to succeed as their schools transitioned online. It’s no surprise that the govt. failed to invest effectively in schools and their students, but this led to further isolation of students who were already at risk. Furthermore, this year reinforced how necessary it is for our schools to effectively support us as educators. During the pandemic, Black educators and educators of color would’ve experienced pain at the racial injustice and police brutality that continues to plague the United States and global communities. Amongst our typical teaching duties (for which we need support), these incidents of racial injustice, police brutality, and in-school microaggressions led to me question the ways in which school administrators can properly support their Black educators and educators of color.
  4. Self-care is valuable. – This year revealed to me that I was not investing enough time into taking time for myself and caring for my needs. However, it shouldn’t only be in times of crisis that we pause and give ourselves the care we need, but we need to be actively scheduling moments of self-care into our daily lives. It could be from something as small as watching an episode or our favorite show to taking a bubble bath. Whatever makes us feel centered, relaxed, or grounded, we should be taking care of ourselves. Do not get run down to the point where you are unable to function. Self-care is crucial.
  5. Young people are phenomenal. – As an educator, I’ve had first-hand experience of how amazing our students and young people are. They have engaged in social work, activism, critical discussions, to fight for justice for oppressed groups. They have woken up, showed up for classes, even during difficult moments, and have done their best to engage in the learning process. They have shared their feelings and experiences with us and sought support in moments where they needed it. They supported one another through one of the most difficult years. They knew when they needed to prioritize their mental health. As such, we should continue to celebrate them and all they’ve done. This is not to dismiss their hardships and the difficulties that they’ve faced. Some young people faced disproportionate difficulties due to societal inequities and we cannot dismiss these. They need active, real, and systemic change so that they are accessing the same resources as their more privileged peers. 2020 just showed me that young people rock. I can’t wait to continue to see the change they continue to enact and the personal growth they experience. We must continue to fight for equity for all our students.

Pandemic

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