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Swift Advice for the Coming School Year

We have been dealing with a lot of change lately. Most schools were shut down in the spring due to COVID and now that the school year is starting back up, there is much uncertainty. Some schools are having students back full-time, others are doing a hybrid where kids come a couple of days a week, and some are virtual only. What exactly this school year will look like is unknown and that is part of the problem; teachers don’t like the unknown. There is a routine to the school day and a way of doing things and that is being tampered with, causing a lot of anxiety and stress. As I talk to teachers from around the state, most seem very uneasy about how to navigate this uncharted waters. They need inspiration.

When you need inspiration, look no further than the poets who always know how to express what we’re feeling. I will turn to the greatest poet of the 21st century, a bard on par with Shakespeare himself, the voice of her generation and one of the most influential people on the planet. Yes, I’m talking about Taylor Swift. Here are five lyrics from various songs of Taylor Swift that can guide us through these turbulent times. 

The first and most obvious piece of advice comes from her album Lover

“You need to calm down” from You Need to Calm Down

There is certainly a lot of anxiety for teachers, but this goes for the students as well. For better or worse teachers have to be that rock for them, so calming down and showing them that everything is going to be OK is crucial to their social and emotional health. Teachers are like the flight attendants of the classroom. On a plane, no matter how rocky the ride, you simply need to look to the flight attendants to know whether you are in real trouble or not. If they are going about their business like usual, you know they have seen this a million times and are not concerned. But if I were ever on a plane and the flight attendants were panicking, I would have good reason to be concerned. We need to be that steadying force in the classroom and schools, we need to be their flight attendants.

“All I know since yesterday is everything has changed” from Everything Has Changed 

From the Red album, the lesson is very apparent which is that change can be very difficult. Especially when that change is forced on you, but know that change is not a bad thing. It is the mindset you have about it. I try to see change for the positives it can bring. Sometimes I need to have my thinking and processes challenged. If you see change as a bad thing, that transition is going to be very difficult for you. Instead, embrace the change because it is going to be this way for a while. Take advantage of it to try new things, things that you would not ever have known about if you hadn’t been forced to do something different. Keep in mind that we are a profession built on the skillset of pivoting and adjustment. Use those super powers now to roll with the punches. Flexibility is the watch word for 2020.

“All eyes on us, you make everyone disappear” from So It Goes

A song on her Reputation album, the focus of this lyric is obviously meant for two people romantically involved, but it applies to the relationship you have with your students as well. Focus on your students and not all of the outside distractions that are taking place beyond your control. Giving them your full attention and showing them that you care about them will make that other stuff go away. It can be tricky in a virtual setting to make these connections, but making sure to have morning meetings, reflection check-ins, virtual office hours, and other means for them to see your face or hear your voice even when you cannot be there in front of them live will go a long way in making sure a lot of other problems will disappear. 

“I just want to feel OK again” from Mean

On the Speak Now playlist, a lot of people keep saying to me, “I just want things to go back to the way it was, I want things to be normal again.” There is a lot of truth to the terminology, the new normal, which is what a lot of people are calling the COVID-influenced world. We all want this but understand that things are not, and should not necessarily go back to way things were before. There are some things in education that are outdated practices that need to be reconsidered such as grading and too much focus on accountability and not on the learning. This pandemic is causing us to take a long, good look at our practices and determining what is best for kids. This is a great opportunity to approach teaching in a different way and fix some things that you might not have realized needed fixed. 

“It’s a new soundtrack. I could dance to this beat forever more” from Welcome to New York

A track on her best album, 1989, the idea behind this is that even if things have changed, this new soundtrack has a good beat and we should be dancing to it. Many of us have been out of our comfort zone, but this is where the best learning occurs. Think about your own students and their learning. When you give them material they are comfortable with or already know, is there a whole lot of learning taking place? Absolutely not, it is our job to challenge our students and their thinking by pushing them out of their comfort zone. It is when you are merely comfortable that we become complacent and don’t make great efforts to think outside of the box. You are being given license to do that now, as long as you are doing what is best for kids is all that matters. 

And just to prove the point that these changing times can force us to produce some of our best work, just look to Taylor’s album just released a month ago, Folklore. Writing during her isolation from COVID-19, it marks a change from her albums from recent years and a real growth as an artist. One wonders if she would have been able to produce such a lyrical and deep album without the pandemic forcing her to. Makes one think about the wonderful changes we could be making to the classroom.

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