It suddenly struck me last week that January 2022 was almost over.

The realization was actually a bit shocking. Perhaps it was the craziness of the past two years, or maybe life was just extra busy, but it’s hard to believe how quickly time passes us by. For many educators, 2021 has already faded into the background. We don’t have time to look back on the challenges of the past, there’s too much work to do in the present! Still, I think it’s worth taking a moment to pause and reflect on everything that has happened.

Despite all the hardship, teachers and educators can be proud of what we have accomplished. Throughout 2021 we created spaces of learning in the ever-shifting landscape of education. We helped students stay safe while also fostering curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Most of all, we supported one another in periods of exhaustion and burnout. It’s no exaggeration to say that you all are rockstars!

So, as we take this time to commemorate our accomplishments, let us also consider the biggest lessons learned in 2021. Here are Inquiry Insights’ Top 5 blogs of 2021 to help you get started:
#1) Hills and Valleys: On Teaching Optimism

“The benefits of teaching optimism extend far beyond our classroom walls. It seeps into those cracks and crevices from the damage and binds us back together. Through challenging times, we will persevere and come out stronger.”

#2) Helping Students Embrace Failure

“Failure is a part of life. Instead of approaching it with scorn or shame, our students need to see the massive potential it creates for learning. Our mistakes are what help us grow, and when applied correctly, they provide the motivation we need to stay curious, creative, and thinking critically. Remember, there is nothing wrong with being wrong, so long as you learn something!”

#3) From After School Cohort to Fulbright Scholar: An Interview with Eli Bieri

“Van Andel Institute for Education (VAI) strives to foster a love of learning in every student who walks through our doors. Whether they join us for Science on Saturday or attend one of our afterschool cohorts, our mission is to teach them how to think and act like a scientist. So, it’s incredibly rewarding when we hear how a former student has pursued their love of science and is using it to make a positive impact on the world!”

#4) Information Nation: Developing Information Literacy

“The internet is an inescapable part of our students’ lives. As they grow, students will turn to online resources to help them navigate their education and build upon what they’ve learned. Yet at the same time, it’s human nature to focus on information that reinforces our preexisting worldview, and many of us passively ingest all kinds of media while browsing social apps. So, how do we teach our students to be responsible consumers of information?”

#5) The Very Hungry Lizard: The Hunt for a Growth Mindset

“You might have heard that there are no bad questions, and perhaps that’s true (although certainly debatable). However, there are a few questions that have the power to supercharge inquiry in your classroom. See how many of them you can use today and watch as they act like a newspaper over a lizard’s sandwich — as they help your students engage in the quest for discovery.”

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