by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning SPECIALIST
It’s that time of year again when beach balls are traded for book bags. For many students, fall is a season of excitement: a new term, a clean slate and an opportunity to make new entries in the growing ledger of successes. But for others it’s a time of angst with the shadows of past failures dimming their vision and shrouding their hopes and expectations in nervous gloom. My task is to help these students acknowledge the past but find a way to embrace the new school year as an opportunity to write a new narrative on that fresh slate.
As I join all my colleagues in gearing up for the new term, I am excited to be entering my second full school year with JFYNetWorks. I am thrilled to be back in schools where I worked last year and will see familiar faces of teachers and students. While meeting new people is always energizing, facing new challenges with familiar faces allows us to maximize potential. The last year was a successful one for me and for my schools. Working with teachers who are dedicated to their craft and getting to know students better makes my work personally and professionally enriching.
There is always room for improvement. After taking some time to reflect on professional development, the new school year feels more promising than ever. I have an additional year of experience as a blended learning specialist and some new tricks picked up along the way that I’m anxious to share with teachers and students.
I feel prepared to meet old and new challenges with more skill and, hopefully, wisdom. And I have some new tools in curriculum and ancillary materials to support greater student success. New tools are always energizing. This is one of the benefits of online teaching: the programs always roll out some new tweaks to make the software more engaging for students and more user friendly for teachers.
Even as I welcome the start of school with positive anticipation, I am keenly aware of those students who do not greet the opening bell with enthusiasm. Past failures, fears of future failure and the heavy weight of academic unpreparedness are all too real, for far too many. If they were old enough to recognize the name, I would remind them of Michael Jordan’s sage observation:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
As I enter the classroom, I try to be mindful that my first job is to model the behavior for success. Fortunately, I am equipped with an optimistic nature and excellent instructional materials that can help students bridge gaps in learning. And I am supported by talented, committed colleagues on my JFY team and in my schools. With all this in my favor, I anticipate this coming year will be more exciting than ever. Every time one of my students launches that game-winning shot on MCAS or Accuplacer, I’ll be expecting to hear the swish of nothing but net.