Reflective Keynote Speaker Helps Educators Find “The Way Forward”

In Janell Burley Hoffmann’s keynote presentation during the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center’s virtual TELL Awards ceremony, educators had the opportunity to pause and reflect on the past year from a professional and personal standpoint.

On March 16, Ms. Burley Hoffmann – a consultant, author and founder of the Slow Tech Movement – led an interactive discussion with participants about what they learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and what will serve them well in the future.

“This keynote is a reflection on what I am carrying forward,” said Ms. Burley Hofmann. “My offering is that you hold a space for yourself. The space we are creating together does not hurry. We need to hold onto the idea of ‘the way forward’ – it embodies the past, regenerates and grows from it.”

Ms. Burley Hofmann began with an interactive exercise, asking guests to recall where they were one year ago, and what made them realize the pandemic’s significance. She shared that, for her, it was the concern over whether her oldest child, who was visiting friends overseas, would be able to return home.

Using Zoom’s chat feature, educators shared their thoughts. They wrote about when a relative contracted the virus, annual plans were canceled, grocery store shelves were emptied, schools turned remote indefinitely and the necessity to stay home.

“I hold all of you and your experiences in my heart as we think about this,” Ms. Burley Hofmann said.

She asked what the similarities and differences between their stories were and how they could learn from each other. This discussion was called “a point of connection and validation.”

Attendees also shared meaningful losses over the past year, including the loss of holiday traditions, family time, laughter, hugs, hallway conversations at work, and a sense of safety and innocence.

“That’s a lot of loss that deserves to be recognized and called forward,” Ms. Burley Hofmann said. With a smile, she added: “I am taking you on a road to positivity.”

Her next question for attendees centered on what they learned about themselves or others during the pandemic. Their answers included the ability to handle more than they previously thought they could; a new focus on mental health; an appreciation for talented colleagues; and praising the adaptability, collaboration and resiliency of teachers.

Ms. Burley Hofmann then turned the focus to what educators can “bring forward” with them into a future post-pandemic world. As an example, she said that she wants to “develop comfort or welcome vulnerability in being alone,” as well as concentrate on tasks that give her a feeling of meaningfulness.

Participants shared that they hope to do more social and emotional check-ins with themselves and their family members; connect with colleagues more often; live each day to the fullest; show compassion and find the best in their students; and stop saying ‘go back to normal.’

“You said it more beautifully than I ever could,” Ms. Burley Hofmann noted.

The LHRIC’s upcoming event is the next installment of the TLI Virtual Keynote Series, featuring Michael Horn, on April 30. He will share a presentation titled “Using Blended Learning to Personalize Instruction,” where educators will learn how to infuse the positive points learned during the pandemic into their in-person teaching to personalize learning for each child. In addition, the event will include a special three-person panel that will discuss how educators can create quality blended and online learning for all students. The panelists are: Randy Hall, LHRIC Instructional Technology’s senior facilitator; Dr. Diane Cunningham, curriculum design and adult learning facilitator; and Dr. Gregory S. Brown, the Hyde Park Central School District’s deputy superintendent. Click here to register for the April 30 event.