In Conversation: A Both/And from the Classroom

The last year and a half has been a year of both/and. Struggle and strength. Hope and healing. At NGS, we believe that your stories matter. And that all need to be heard.

As many educators navigate a new school year, we want to remind ourselves and our community of the ongoing complexity and nuance that awaits us on this horizon. So we are sharing some of the #BothAndStories from educators who shared with us to create a space for reflection on all that the last year has brought to you, your students, your communities. We hope to honor the past as we all begin to look ahead.

From educator Tim Black in Paris, France.

National Geographic Society (NG): What stories of struggle have you witnessed this past year and a half?

Tim: Amongst the many challenges experienced this year, I have found the entire COVID experience too deep for words to capture its essence. I often felt frustrated during conversations I had with family, friends, colleagues and of course students. Finding the words which often always come naturally was now far more of a struggle for me. What were we allowed to say? What couldn’t we say? How much could we say? It was always going to be a difficult time and we had little time to prepare ourselves for it. More recently the Covid crisis has had an enormous effect on the number of children globally who are able to access quality education and to achieve a sustainable future it is imperative that these groups of children are supported and not left behind.

NG: What stories of strength have you witnessed this past year and a half?

Tim: We have had time to invest in our relationships, our family, friends, and co-workers. We have been able to really establish who our people are and from where we can draw our strength. Thanks to the rapid advances in technology and innovation we were able to connect with these individuals and groups in our lives, check in on one another, offer support and keep each other motivated. Both online and offline there are individuals and groups dedicating their time to ensure our youth are not falling behind in education. We must reimagine solidarity to create a world where we can all survive and thrive.

NG: What stories of hope have you witnessed this past year and a half?

Tim: The amazing community of educators worldwide who have stepped up with a driving sense of purpose providing hope to those around them and to those they teach. Taken out of their comfort zones for long periods of times to find new and inspiring ways to support and offer encouragement to their students.  I am excited by the conversations regarding the reimagination of education. Hit the reset and focus on what matters. ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow!’ – Albert Einstein.

NG: What stories of healing have you witnessed this past year and a half?

Tim: The emergence of real mindfulness and being kind to yourself. We are often so caught up in pleasing others that we don’t take time to restock, re-energise in order to kick on. The effect can be significant as we become more patient, more caring and considerate of others. Also taking time to connect with our communities and explore our own locations for our daily release. With so much experience this year causing heightened emotions we need to listen to our bodies as well as offer a space for rage. Investing energies in a commitment to breaking out of comfort zones, has also been a welcome experience. Despite being difficult at times, afterwards we will be in a better place. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

NG: What advice would you give your fellow educators at this moment moving forward from here?

The Covid19 pandemic has tested the resilience of entire school communities, heaped pressure on teachers and most significantly affected the quality of learning experiences for students.

Throughout the course of the pandemic schools have displayed a unity, collective spirit and togetherness. New teaching methods were adopted using new technologies, Entire schemes of work were created seemingly overnight and students have responded magnificently. We must continue to show understanding for one anothers situations and focus on being kind. If we are to move forward we must continue to stick together and ensure that we focus on providing the next generations with the tools needed to build the societies that will lead to an exciting and new sustainable future.

Tim Black is an experienced global educator and National Geographic certified educator who is passionate about connecting his students to the world. For 15 years he has successfully used creativity and passion for the natural world to motivate and inspire the many students he has encountered along the journey. He has taught in mainstream and independent schools in Europe as well as delivered language training in SouthEast Asia. He is pursuing a project that will connect educators and students worldwide with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals because he has a keen interest in the environment and sustainable living.

Stay tuned for more reflections on #BothAndStories from the past year and a half and check out the storymap created from the voices within our community. For support and resources during this back to school season and beyond, check out our curated resources.

Header image designed by educator, Wendi Pillars.

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