Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

by Stacey Ebert / Dec 08, 2020 /
Stacey Ebert's picture

It’s officially the beginning of the end of 2020. December is upon us, and, thanks to the incredible efforts of the scientific community, there’s now a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Vaccines and therapies are showing good numbers, and there’s hope that within the next 6 months, we’re far closer to a more normal, normal than we’ve been in a long time. Hope...it does wonders for the soul. I have hope for hugs in the near future.

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance” - Eckhart Tolle

How are you holding up? How are your kids, your students, your family, friends, and communities holding up. This is hard–and it’s harder for so very many. Over the past year, our lives have been turned upside down, inside out, and we’ve felt pummeled from all sides. In the midst of a polarizing election cycle, devastating pandemic, systemic injustice, economic gaps of all kinds, harsh rhetoric, inequities, job loss, and you know, the constant shifts of day to day life, you’re doing it, you’re putting one foot in front of the other. You’re surviving, and some days, possibly even thriving. Sometimes we manage to do the next right thing, sometimes we stay in bed and read a good book, sometimes we cry into a steaming cup of cocoa, and other times we’re ready for full speed ahead life. 

This year has been full of everything and we’re ready for hopeful, more balanced, positive changes in 2021. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

Employing the travel mindset

How do we honor the past, celebrate the present, and look towards the future tomorrow with grace? How do we teach our next generation of humans that we can do hard things, that it’s okay to not be okay all the time, that lessons are hard, that slowing down is optimal, and the sun will always rise tomorrow? How can we actively participate in the ongoing of the now, reflect on what has been, find gratitude for our today, and set intentions for the future? Well, while in 2020 travel is not really a thing, the travel mindset might help us maintain a bit of sanity to make it through this next month. That mindset, the one that naturally rotates through phases of reflections of journeys past, gratitude for what we have in the moment, and thoughtful hope for what’s to come–that one, if we channel our inner traveler, it might help us forge ahead with balance.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

Living these words

Schools talk about skills–ones like reading, culinary, business, science, as well as creativity, tenacity, curiosity, and flexibility. Depending on the mindset and the attitudes, it’s altogether possible that terms such as grit, resilience, gratitude, fortitude, dignity, diligence, mindfulness, responsibility, kindness, and compassion enter into the mix. Along with the building blocks of character and the actual building of blocks and learning to share your toys skills in kindergarten, many of those aspects of our inner selves begin to develop at an early age. As we grow, we may not mention the words, yet the aspects are still very much in play. They, like us, keep showing up–as continuing learners, how do we honor these aspects and ourselves? 

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” - C.S. Lewis

Whether we fit it into categories of informal education, learning beyond walls, or school of any kind, the learning and growing part is paramount. 

To continue to be that good human, we ask questions, seek the why, enter the unknown, learn to sit with the unanswered and dissatisfactions, and aim to look deeper to be better tomorrow. 

Tapping into reflections and gratitude are features of continuing growth. They are forever ingrained in our evolution, as well as that of the constant traveler. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

Reflection’s gratitude

Consider the wanderer who ventures across borders and barriers, breaks bread with those who are different from himself, encounters division as well as unity, interacts with others who shift his perspective, butts heads with some while growing from others, deals with difficulties and uncertainties of the road, and realizes that some of his travel experiences solely served a purpose and were good until they weren’t, and others will stay with him forever, having shaped his vision for his life’s future. After his journey, he considers each step. Some may have been missteps he learns from, some may have been miscommunications he grows from, some may have been unfortunate incidents he puts into a category of sometimes things happen along the way, and some are adventures he’ll forever carry in his heart–yet in each one, with each story, he finds gratitude. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

Inner wisdom, inner peace

His capabilities of reflection show that potential for growth. His determination to activate that gratitude muscle will, over time, strengthen his resolve and broaden both heart and mind. His ability to meld pieces of some of these stories into the fabric of his life allows the journey to continue to be a part of him without staying in the past moments of either pain or bliss. The reflection provides that inner wisdom, the gratitude, that inner peace. When our younger generation employs these strategies, they instill another facet of that continued engaged learner. Not only do the efforts for reflection and gratitude take hold instantly, their continued activation, over time, emboldens and centers the mind, heart, and soul. 

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” - Albert Einstein

The dictionary definition of self-reflection is “meditation or serious thought about one's character, actions, and motives.” Weekly, monthly, annually, after a charged situation, or whenever you choose, stop for a moment, consider the choices made and actions taken, delve deeper into what’s important to you, and work towards those goals. Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being thankful.” Whether you participate in daily journaling, engage in a gratitude practice, take three deep breaths while watching a sunset, or a few precious moments at the end of a yoga class, bringing that act of gratitude front and center into life is a game changer. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

It takes time

The hard work of self-reflection and practicing gratitude takes time to work their magic. As tools for a balanced and engaged life, these acts develop, grow, and flood life with strength and abilities perhaps unknown prior to their engagement. We learn to respond more while reacting less, we learn to come back to the moment when we’ve lost our way, we learn to observe as a witness in lieu of being sidelined by our own thoughts, and when we feel like things are spinning out of control, we have our own tools and practices to re-engage our minds and cultivate a more positive mindset. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

Tools to meet life’s moments

At this time of turbulence and tumult, we can seek to employ conscious compassion and kindness to ourselves. Our students deserve the wealth and breadth of these tools. Along with all of the other countless lessons they learn along their long adventure of growth and development, having these tools in their toolbox will help to sustain them through the twists and turns of life. When difficulty arises, derailments occur, and encounters with demanding humans happen, powerful emotions ensue. When travel returns, those with an ongoing traveler’s mindset will be ready to meet the moments with reflections and gratitude as their swords of strength. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

Wishing us all a more balanced and peaceful year ahead.  

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Reflections and Gratitude in a Sea of Change

 

 

 

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 thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.