Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

by Stacey Ebert /
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Dec 06, 2021 / 0 comments

It’s that time of year again: the time when resolutions get made and reflections are shared; where we take stock, think back, and dream big dreams to come. It’s a funky time of year. For some families, it’s hard, hurried, and filled with hassles. For some, it’s festive, fabulous, and full of joy. For some, it’s reflective, reserved, and riddled with resolutions. 

Whether it’s one we look forward to, one where we hibernate til it’s over, or some hybrid version of the two, no matter what we do, December comes around each year. How do you greet it?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

In some parts of the world, the school year is coming to a close, while in others, December marks a break, an almost middle term, and a shift from the start towards another step closer to the finish line. Each year, our young people see how we respond to the month-long journey that closes one calendar year and opens another. Whether we know it or not, they’re watching, learning, and forming their own ways to meet the year’s close. 

It’s a weird feeling, reflecting and dreaming simultaneously. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Sometimes, it feels like it’s impossible to do and that we must finish one prior to setting our sights on the other. That’s just not true. Feelings—these big, overflowing feelings—can be felt at the very same time. 

How do you manage those big feelings?

The past two years have been filled with extra angst and anxiety. Amidst pandemic, dis-ease, disgruntled communities, vaccine hesitancy and inequity, and constantly fluctuating protocols, the landscape we’ve all traversed has been a first for many. There have been joys of scientific discovery and difficulties of death, all sharing the stage with whatever can still be called regular, normal life occurrences. For young people, they’ve managed their education in an unprecedented time all the while growing, changing, and witnessing anew right in front of their eyes. Can we take a step back, can we give ourselves time to breathe, can we allow ourselves a bit of grace to look back from where we came, reflect on what has been, and think of the path we wish to walk? 

How can we reflect, look back, and journey to go forward?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

In the shifting face of day to day, it’s not easy. There’s always work to do, laundry to fold, kids to feed, places to go, and people to see. Often it feels like we’re spinning on a top and wherever we land is where we’ll stay for awhile, as perhaps, we just don’t have the energy to get back up and do it all over again. 

You do. 

You are far more resilient than you imagine, and you have the power to spin or stop the top, ditch it all together, and/or choose what to do when you land. Coaches, teachers, and helping professionals of all kinds deal with these questions on the daily. By using all sorts of versions of Jonathan Whitmore’s GROW model, we can find ways to commit ourselves to new goals, work towards seeing the actual reality amidst the stories we tell ourselves, find options to move forward, and do exactly that. It’s not a quick fix, not a simple task, and one with which we need to allow ourselves the grace and time we need, but it’s always possible. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

The GROW model (goal, reality, options, wrap-up) happened far before the likes of Arendale’s Anna & Elsa, and the lyrics to ‘Do the Next Right Thing’ in Frozen 2, but, whether or not you’re up on your animated Disney classics, amidst the year’s end, the words resonate with much of our reflections and growth mindset. Whether your hardest thing is picking out the most appropriate gift, picking yourself up to begin again, reflecting on where you’ve been and where you’d like to go, or recognizing an obstacle in your way to your best self, take the breaths, rest when you need, give yourself grace to feel the feelings, remind yourself that you’re not in the same spot as you were last year (you’ve got 11 more months of experience under your belt), and make the choice to hear your own voice and do what you need to move yourself a tiny bit forward. 

You’ve got this—I believe in you!

Take a step, step again
It is all that I can do
The next right thing
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make

~Anna, Frozen 2

5 ways to mindfully reflect & move forward towards your dreams

5 ways to mindfully reflect & move forward towards your dreams. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Gather your thoughts

It’s rare that we stop for a moment and take the time to think. The past nearly two years have been a lot to take on top of what already often seems like a lot to take; have patience with yourself. It may be an hour on a yoga mat, a walk in the woods, or five minutes in the car before going from place A to place B, but take it. Deep breaths, journal, reflect, think, let it be, and consider your resilience and endless capacity to be authentically you. 

How are you feeling? 

What mountain did you think you’d never climb, yet you’re on your way or over the hump? What are you proud of? What makes you feel joyful? When do you feel the most unapologetically you? It might be in your notebook, spoken into your phone, sensed in a peaceful moment, or other way...gather your thoughts—it’s a step worth taking. 

Gather your thoughts. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Work on you

No matter which way we look these days, there’s some semblance of personal development in our environment. Be it a podcast, meditation app, video, book store, therapist, coach, mentor, or otherwise, the world of working on ourselves is far more in reach than it ever was; yet, as always, it’s up to us to do the work. Whether you’re fifteen, thirty-five, or eighty-five, it’s never too early and it’s never too late to find the way to access your best self. 

It will be different for everyone. 

There is no one right way to process your unique story, where you are, or where you want to be. It will take leg-work, field-work, and hard work, but, as Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach remind us with their eponymous podcast, we can do hard things. 

. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Reflect on your values

One of the first things coaches may ask is, “what are your values?” Have you ever taken the time to sit and think on this question? It’s akin to what makes you tick, what sets you apart, what drives your soul, yet, how many of us really know how to put these into words? In the work, The Self-Confidence Workbook, psychologist Barb Markway and Celia Ample share that “values are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity.” 

It’s possible that you figured your values out at a young age and they’ve never waned. However, it’s altogether more possible that along life’s journey new values have appeared and potentially shifted the placement of the old. Perhaps you can recite your own off the top of your head, or perhaps the question itself stumps even the most talkative among us. Regardless of where you land, take some time, research a bit, find a list of values, and see how yours shake out. Take a deep look at yourself. Your top few will come into view quite quickly. 

Knowing your values will enhance that grounding feeling as we venture into that new calendar year.

Reflect on your values. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Dream of what you wish to manifest

Years before her Super Soul Sundays, Oprah talked about creating vision boards. Well before then, teenagers were doing their own thing, with magazine cutouts taped to lunch bag covered textbooks and lockers littered with things, ideas, and faces that brought them joy. Whether you follow Gabby Bernstein, Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra, or a vast array of other spiritual, development leaders and works, today’s version of putting what you want into the Universe is known as manifesting. 

You might be the person who doodles dreams on the backs of junk mail, rises early to journal away, sets intentions in a yoga class, or announces your plans/dreams on social media. Regardless of whether it’s personal or public, set those dreams alight in the world. Sure, it may be retooled a bunch of times, resurrected from years past, or new ones that set your heart aflutter today.  

Whisper it, write it, shout it, or share it. They’re yours—and you and they deserve the chance to soar.

Dream of what you wish to manifest. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Take a step

At this time of year, some people love to make resolutions, while others abstain from the tradition. No matter the form, steps forward are meaningful. I know many who write their thoughts or things they wish to do or dream on tiny papers throughout the year and pull them out on the 31st of December. Others grab their old-school tactile calendar, and while adding birthdays and events on the next year’s calendar, get to see what steps they took the year prior. 

You’re not stuck. You are not in the same place you were. 

You may not know it, but there have been steps. The you standing here today has survived (and potentially thrived) for the last 330+ days and is fully capable of stepping into tomorrow. My Dad, who was an avid cyclist and runner, used to tell me about Jens Voigt. He often recalled this professional cyclist and his quotes amidst a big ride or long run. Of course, Voigt was mega-talented, but what my Dad remembered most was his mantra, “shut up legs.” Dad would use it on his rides, and when I took to hiking, imparted Voigt’s wise words to me. In the world of dreaming and doing, sometimes it’s naysayers who are the symbolic ‘legs,’ and while they may speak loudly, we can keep doing our thing. 

Your steps are yours to take. Sure, you might stumble along the way, but neither Jens Voigt nor my Dad ever made it to the finish line without taking the very first step towards who they wished to be. 

Take a step. From Through the Eyes of an Educator: Looking Back to Go Forward

Wishing you a happy, mindful, and joyful new year. 



Please click the photo below for a collection of my Through the Eyes of an Educator columns:

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Compendium



Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.


Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.