Looking Back Can Move Us Forward

Three weeks ago, we welcomed our faculty back to campus. For those of us that had been working on site since July, we were excited to have more people, energy, and ideas inside the building. And when the students joined all of us a week later, we found ourselves hoping to have some sense of “normal” back in our professional lives. In alignment with the state of Texas, our district allowed students to choose whether they wanted to remain virtual or opt for in-person learning. For October 19 – December 4, nearly 84% of our students chose to remain virtual. Essentially that is five of every six students decided that staying at home could work for them at least for another six weeks. So while we saw kids walking our halls for the first time in seven months, and we offered smiles through our eyes, it certainly was not the same as before. And as we close out this second full week of students on campus, I have to admit that I find myself harking back to “old times” when more than 3000 kids filled our halls and classrooms with laughs and questions and retorts and all that I adore from this age group.

A month ago I finally read an article I had bookmarked, Why We Reach for Nostalgia In Times Of Crisis, and I realized that what I and others were feeling was both okay and helpful. The article makes a point to share that nostalgia can serve as a transitional object that helps us navigate stressors as we move from before the trauma to the inside of the trauma (and then out the other side). Dr. Stoycheva goes on to say that “It increase your ability to self-soothe during a stressful time.” Presuming that what we are all experiencing is certainly trauma, I would contend that looking back on old pictures, watching old movies, and reconnecting with old friends can be healthy. It can assist us as we navigate through the uncertainty. Now, to be clear, the article also points out that we should be careful not to dwell too long in the past nor apply any revisionist history to relationships that were unhealthy. We must remain self-aware enough to respond positively to the question, “why am i craving this and what do I hope to get out of it?”

During our professional learning in late August, I took my faculty and staff through a bit of a trip down my personal memory lane. I shared pictures of when I was young and memories that I rekindled since March 2020. I then split them in to small groups and asked them to briefly consider and share something they longed to do again – something they missed. It could be personal or professional, and most found themselves easily in either category. And to a person, it wasn’t a specific event or a lesson or day at work that they necessarily longed to engage in again. At the core was a relationship; a connection to others regardless of the setting. A sense of being together.

What are you hoping to be able to safely do again soon? How can you lead your team through #NostalgiaNovember? I plan to share images that bring me warmth during this month and I hope you will consider doing the same. Let’s remind others that “waxing nostalgic” can be healthy by using the hashtag #NostalgiaNovember. Stay classy, live long & prosper, and may the force be with you.