Fresh Beginnings

The new year always brings with it a sense of optimism and excitement. Gym memberships are purchased as people try to overcome the holiday indulgence, resolutions are devised (and almost immediately broken), and a sense of hope and desire to make this year better than the last is all around! However, 2021 is different. The drastic changes to our lives over the previous ten months have changed the outlook for 2021. Instead of the desire to make the new year better, we just want this year NOT to be 2020 again! As I scrolled through my Twitter feed on New Year's Eve, I was tickled by the many jokes made about the year 2020 and how happy people were for it to end. As a fan of The Office, I share one that is near and dear.

But as I was scrolling, I noticed that people only seemed to be excited for the new year because it wasn't 2020. The optimism and excitement that is normally all-around were lacking, and it was more just a sense of relief that 2020 has come to an end. It would be naive to say that because we have rung in the new year, the last year's challenges will suddenly disappear. As a society, there are still huge hurdles for us to overcome, some of which will hopefully be achieved in the coming weeks and months. Still, others are going to be longer-term and will require uncomfortable moments and institutional change. As I reflected over the holidays, I was struck by an idea that famed author, coach, and motivational speaker, Jon Gordon, proposed which is the idea of having a word for 2020. The word I landed upon for the year ahead is "positivity." I approach 2021 with my eyes wide open. It is so easy to look back and think about all the terrible things that happened in 2020, and make no mistake; this was a truly catastrophic year. But instead, I plan, and I encourage you as well, to look ahead and think about the possibilities. What good has come from this experience? How have we grown as individuals, and how can we take these lessons forward? How can we find the optimism and excitement that usually exists on January 1 into this new year?

I'm hopeful that we are closer to the end of this pandemic than we are to the beginning. I'm hopeful that the inequities and injustices that exist in our society can be used as a starting point to making everyone feel like they belong and are valued. The negativity is there, and this year's tragedies cannot be erased, but an opportunity exists to learn and move forward as one. 

With optimism, excitement, and positivity in mind, I share with you an exciting opportunity coming up in a few weeks. Over the last number of years, Far Hills faculty has been delving deep into the field of Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE). Fusing neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and educational theory, we have taken research from these fields and applied it to the classroom experience. By integrating choice, supporting motivation, implementing retrieval practice, strengthening memory, and prioritizing emotion in everything that we do, the role of MBE has strengthened the classroom experience for students and teachers in our community. 

Enthused by our experience with MBE, we had an idea (pre-pandemic) to host a conference that would offer teachers an opportunity to hear from MBE experts and other educators who have grappled with these strategies and integrated them into the classroom. We are excited to announce the conference will be on January 26 from 1-4 pm. Join us! Our dear friend and Director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) Glenn Whitman will lead a discussion on how MBE has changed the game for teachers and students alike before giving participants a chance to hear from teachers who are working with MBE each and every single day. You will hear how they have taken MBE research and made it applicable to their students and be able to ask questions and "pick their brains." It will be a great way to start the new year!

I'm a big fan of finishing articles with one final message. On this occasion, I leave you with these words from Jon Gordon.

Happy New Year! Be well, and I look forward to seeing everyone on January 26.