As an educator I frequently remind students, teachers, and staff when they are in the doldrums that there is a lesson to be learned from any experience. My intent is always to look at the growth we can have based on the past experiences we have lived. The response to my advice varies drastically: some people recognize me as a sage dolling excellent guidance, others side eye me leerily, and many just ignore me as if I never said anything in the first place. This is the same set of reactions for just about any quip I like to share such as, “Fun is a choice,” “It’s a great day to be a Marshall Eagle,” and “Put your phone away.”
The lessons of this past year are not easily surmised into a saying we can slap on a coffee mug and move on with our day. Admittedly, the moment graduation ended I felt a sudden relief as the weight of the past school year was lifted. Finally, this year was behind us. No more trying to figure out distance learning, no more health screening checks each morning, no more calling student homes trying to cajole students to log on and participate in classes; simply put, no more… I was ready to be free of this past year.
But life does not work that way. We do not become free of our past; but we are able to control how our past defines our future. Indubitably, this year will carry on in us as individuals and as a community. We experienced sorrow and tragedy in the loss of our loved ones, the loss of time, the loss of experience, and the loss of the memories we hoped we would have had.
Through these losses I have come to appreciate more the joy students bring to a school building, the power of community to heal and grow together, observing the magic of learning, and hearing the chatter and laughter every day at Marshall. Could I have come to appreciate all these gifts without a pandemic? Sure. But life gave us this path and this journey and as we rise out of it, let us work together to shape how we want to let this past year be a part of our collective Marshall future.
I cannot help it; I remain an eternal optimist; it is in my bones. We cannot and should not forget this past year - the whole of the past year - the sorrow and pain alongside the lessons for growth and hope that have emerged. This year has proven our mettle and our resolve when we found a way to make a school musical, athletics, academics, labs, concerts, and even prom happen. It has shown us that the Marshall community is one that comes together to support our students. It has shown us that empathy is at the core of who we are.
As we happily look forward to a new year, let us all choose to be better together by our shared experience of this past year. This past year does not wholly define us, but it is a part of who we are. I look forward to a fresh beginning where we are stronger, healthier (mentally and physically), and ready to move forward and flex our educational muscles to be better tomorrow because of our shared struggles of yesteryear.
Mark Anderson, Ph.D. Marshall Fundamental Principal, 2011 – 2021 (Message Spring Semester 2021)