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Back to School with Positivity, Change and Solutions

City Year Jacksonville Alum, Chelsea Sanders, headshot

Chelsea Sanders served with City Year Jax at Jean Ribault Middle School during the 2015-2016 school year and is now a Civics teacher at that very same school.

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again”.  –Maya Angelou

This year as we head back to school we will have had time to reflect on the changes that have taken place since we all last saw each other. Our students experienced the first quarantine of our lifetime coupled with virtual school and witnessed a wave of people across the nation fighting for racial justice in the face of resistance. There’s a lot to help unpack for our students this August, but we are ready to face the challenges that come. As I prepare for the year, as a teacher and City Year Alum, there are three principles that City Year helped me identify to guide me as an educator: Positivity, Change and Solutions.

The first thing to remember this year is to stay positive, always. With so many things uncertain, it has become so important to always see the upside of circumstances. City Year’s countless PITWs (Putting Idealism To Work) are major culture pieces that I still use today. These simple quotes help you “put your idealism to work” and will always help you through a tough time. There truly is a PITW for every situation, and they continue to help me stay positive. Relaying this habit of positivity and spreading idealism to my students is extremely important especially since we are all learning what the new normal looks like. Positive affirmations will help keep us going this year.

We will also need to encourage students to accept that changes that have come. Often times we get caught up in the “regular” way of doing things, or the way we did things pre-COVID. While establishing routines is praised for creating structure, we have to understand that things naturally evolve in life. We need to teach them that change can be good and seen as an evolution. The same goes for how we talk and teach about race – things have to change. Racial inequalities are not a new issue, yet so many people resist the changes necessary to solve the problems created by injustice. We must teach our students that only through change will we continue to evolve and find solutions.

Part of teaching flexibility to change is to teach students to focus on solutions to the issues they face. The only way we can move forward and make a positive change is with thought-out solutions. During my time with City Year, no matter what challenges we faced, we sought multifaceted solutions to overcome them. In teaching I carry this with me every day. As educators we have the chance to support our students and lead by example when it comes to seeking solutions. The past six months have not been easy, but we must teach our students hat working towards a solution is the only way to move forward. We must challenge our students to put their ideas to work and come up with solutions they wish to see as they grow up and become leaders in society.

Educators are facing a challenging and unpredictable year. However, we have chosen the important role of leading young people and helping them face their challenges. As teachers we have the opportunity to create safe spaces for opening up, creating positive growth and problem solving when the world outside seems scary. I am ready to lead my students with idealism, empathy and positivity, no matter what goes on outside of the classroom.

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