Reflection on the One-Year Anniversary of the Pandemic
Posted by Peggy Procter on 3/15/2021
It was exactly one year ago today that I made the difficult decision to close Echo Horizon’s campus for the first time due to a novel virus that was scaring the nation and the world. I still have vivid memories of being at carpool, sadly saying goodbye to every student and family, truly believing that I would see them again after spring break, and thinking that three weeks would be a LONG time to be separated from one another. The image of sixth-grader Eli staring out his window near tears as he drove away from Echo will never leave me.
We’ve been through so much this past year—separation, loss, loneliness, fear—much of which I wish we hadn’t had to experience. Yet, I cannot deny that this year, despite all the challenges, has been one of growth, reflection, and lifelong lessons. I have learned so much about the power of the Echo Horizon community, and I’d like share my reflections on our one-year anniversary of learning during the pandemic:
Lesson #1: We are an exceptionally resilient community;
Lesson #2: We all rely on Echo Horizon school for much more than academic learning;
Lesson #3: We were reminded of the importance of growth mindset in order to adapt and learn new skills—flexibility, adaptability, patience, and responsiveness were a must;
Lesson #4: We were reminded during remote learning of the divides that exist in our world around equity and access;
Lesson #5: We learned to be more appreciative of life’s gifts and to live each day with gratitude.
Resilience, defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” and “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress,” is a vital characteristic of healthy, happy, and successful people. As parents and educators, we hope that our children develop resilience, but we often do everything we can to protect them from pain, difficulty, and failure, thus taking away their chances to practice it. In this case, we couldn’t “take away” the pandemic, providing our children with a true opportunity to learn and grow their resilience. And boy did they! Our Echo scholars, whether 4 years old or 12, were champions. They embraced the complexity of Zoom learning by putting in great effort to maintain focus. They became more independent as they completed asynchronous work, advocated and asked for help during one-on-one teacher time, and were good participants and listeners during community meetings. Our faculty and staff were resilience rockstars, ready to pivot from online to hybrid to in-person to best meet the needs of the beloved scholars in their care. This year will be considered one of the most difficult years ever for educators, and our Echo Horizon faculty and staff never lost sight of the need to show up for the students. Our gratitude for all that they have done is overflowing. And our parents/guardians—what grace you showed as you pivoted with us, never complaining about the frequent changes, the odd drop-off and pick-up times, the times we sent your child home because of the sniffles even though it was probably nothing. Not once did I receive anything but kindness and gratitude from our parent/guardian community.
The second lesson is really about the definition of school and why we chose to join Echo Horizon. In choosing Echo Horizon, of course, we chose a place that would masterfully teach our students reading, writing, and arithmetic, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. School closure made that clear. At Echo Horizon School, we place equal value on relationships, connections, creativity, advocacy, and communication. Echo Horizon is a school, but it is the community piece that makes it so much more. Community is defined as “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” That fellowship, in which we work collectively towards common goals, creates a stronger bond and connects us on a deeper level. We hold ourselves and the school to high standards in support of those collective goals. We do not drop the kids at school each morning and ask the school to do all the work: we commit to working in partnership with the school and with other families to support all the children to become their best selves. The need and power of partnership was never more clear and vital than during this pandemic. Echo Horizon is love, friendship, laughter, fun, and lots of learning!
Lesson #3 is about growth mindset. I have been obsessed with growth mindset since it first came on the educational scene about 15 years ago with Dr. Carol Dweck’s incredible research. Dr. Dweck defines growth mindset as “a belief that success depends on time and effort. People with a growth mindset feel their skills and intelligence can be improved with effort and persistence.” (See Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.) It solidified a long-standing belief that I have always felt deep in my heart—that all children, all people, have infinite capacity to improve and achieve goals if they work at it, and that we must not limit them with stereotypes and assumptions. Remote and hybrid learning has required our students, parents, and faculty to be persistent, try new things, stay focused and put in extra effort. We have all been honing our growth mindset skills throughout the pandemic, and I believe that we will come out stronger and more committed scholars and educators because of these efforts.
This past year has been one where the divides that exist in our nation and world have been at the forefront, challenging us to consider our role in both perpetuating inequity and in combating it. Equity and access were all the more prevalent during the pandemic, as we considered who our essential workers were and who had access to technology, vaccinations, and childcare, to name a few. We must not forget the ongoing struggle for equity in our nation as we laser focus on the pandemic, as these two are inextricably linked.
Last but not least, no matter how hard things got with the pandemic, we always remembered the multitude of gifts that life has given us and faced each day with gratitude. We felt grateful each day to see the faces of our teachers and friends on Zoom. We felt grateful when our internet connection was strong. We felt grateful to enjoy lunch as a family. I have been so grateful to our Front Office and Business Office staff, who have been in the building every day since April, answering phones and making sure that school operations functioned smoothly. I have been so grateful to our Facilities team, who have worked tirelessly to keep our building clean and safe. And gratitude goes to our Nurse Laura Leyman, who supported our Leadership team in keeping up-to-date with all health and wellness protocols. Our community continually showed gratitude to the school for all our efforts, and we so appreciated your notes, emails, and calls. Oh, and yes, we really appreciated the brownie and coffee drop offs too!
While I hope never to experience another pandemic or school closure, I can honestly say that I learned a ton. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun, but I grew as a person, as a mother, as an educator, and as a leader in ways that I never thought possible. Thank you, Echo Horizon, for being beside me every step of the way, sharing your support and kindness.
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