Here it is the second week of January and I’m probably one of the last to wish you a Happy New Year. After hosting our children and grandchildren over the holidays, the first week of January arrived in a blur as I caught up with emails and end-of-the-year and beginning-of-the-year tasks. And I’m re-learning how to load this email after my awesome VA recovers from the flu. (Get well soon, Tasha!)
So, this week feels like the New Year to me. Except not really. It feels a lot like the extension of last year and the year before.
One of my favorite non-work activities is to Chair the Board of a local Charter school. Last Fall, we started our next five-year Strategic Planning Process (18 months late – you all know why.) As we were doing small group work, I was chatting with one of the principals who shared with me one of their many challenges.
“Students are socially and emotionally behind,” she said. “It’s taken us a while to figure out that we can’t assume that they know how to act at school.”
She then went on to share that because the students didn’t go through the “normal” routines and rituals the last two years, many show up a year or two behind. For example, Juniors act like Freshmen because they missed being in school their Sophomore year. Sixth graders show up like Fourth graders because they missed being in school their Fifth-grade year.
“We have to constantly remember that they didn’t acquire social and knowledge skills that they would have normally had from the previous year,” she said, “and it’s hard.”
My sister is a kindergarten teacher and I asked her if this was true for her as well.
She said many of her students were at least two years behind.
“They don’t have kind words, they don’t know how to share, and they expect everything to be brought to them. They spent the last two years at home with their parents who were trying to keep up with their jobs online. They are used to having parents bring them everything to stay entertained.”
Please know that I’m not criticizing pandemic parenting. I believe we need to assume that everyone is doing the best that they can. However, it did get me to wonder what similar impact it had on us, our employees, and our companies.
This is what I know. Trade shows and conferences were canceled and then moved online. For those that could, they left the office “for two weeks” and never returned. For those that couldn’t, they stayed behind masks and social distancing and kept moving. For owners and leaders, it vacillated between this is the worst thing that could ever happen to there just might be a silver lining (or even the best years of the company.)
But similar to the educators I spoke with, the last two years can feel a bit lost. Outside of work, our employees missed family celebrations, concerts, and vacations. They stopped going to the gym or church or out to dinner – for a while or forever. Their off work hours were a daily whipsaw of what they should or shouldn’t do.
The big and small rituals of our adult life have blended into one very long Groundhog Day.
This is why my New Year’s UN-wish for you is to not do “new year, new you.” Instead, take a few moments to think about the plans you had last year or two years ago – both personal and professional. Some of those plans, for whatever reason, are no longer an option.
But maybe a few are worth dusting off and re-examining? Perhaps it’s the adult version of connecting the dots between your “freshman” and “junior” years.
For me, it is brushing off my Italian to prepare for a trip to Italy.
Our trip may or may not happen this year, but I can definitely pick up a few key phrases,
“Dov’é l’enoteca?” and “Si, mi piacerebbe un po’ di pasta!”
‘Where is the wine bar?’ and ‘Yes, I would love some pasta!’