So, this has certainly been a year. Almost unbelievably, it’s already December and the semester is quickly winding down. Soon, students and faculty will retreat to neutral corners for a month to try and get our wind back before the next round starts. At this point, it’s tempting to already start looking towards what comes next – putting together readings and assignments for the next term while also making plans to be better organized. While it’s good to always be prepared for the future, I’d also encourage my fellow educators to take the time to pause for a moment as well.
Then, as antithetical as it may be for this profession, relax and take pride in your accomplishments over the past few months. 2016 will likely go down as one of the most divisive and contentious moments in recent history, but if you’re reading this, that means one way or another, you survived it.
For someone who teaches U.S. history specifically, I don’t imagine that I’m alone in the experience of struggling to figure out how to do your job and what its responsibilities are in the current climate. If nothing else, with recent events I’ve at least had to quickly rethink how I talk about the years 1876 and 2000 with my students. (“Can you guys imagine what it like back then? Those were some crazy historical moments, right?) Beyond that, however, pausing and taking time to reflect on the things you feel went well in your classes and those that in hindsight could have gone better, is never a bad idea.
As others have pointed out, things are about to get interesting for those of us who do this job. A lot of students will be looking to us for guidance on how to process and navigate an environment that is quickly changing around them. However you feel about the current state of America, the work that historians do both in and out of the classroom will be especially vital. So, after you’ve caught your breath and centered yourself, then go back to preparing what comes next. But do so with the frame of mind and knowledge that: 1. Your work matters, possibly more than you’ve ever considered. 2. You’ve got this.
After all, if you’ve managed to make it this far through 2016, short of a meteor falling from the sky, there’s not much more that can be thrown at you.*
* In the event of an actual space rock hitting the earth before New Year’s, feel free to disregard all of the above. 2016 is officially The Worst.