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Stepping gingerly into 2021: Molding our future

Laura FrostAt the end of the fall semester, I looked out at my students taking their final exam in masks—sitting in a room at half capacity with social distancing in effect, barely recognizing them—and I couldn’t help but wonder what their future holds.

The same question I ask my students at the conclusion of every class, I now ask myself about 2020: “What have I learned?” I learned that we can mold and change our future, all we have to do is fight for the things we believe in (nod to RBG). I learned that there are many heroes among us. Our health care and other essential workers have put their lives on the line, our scientific community raced to produce life-saving vaccines, our educators put their own lives at risk to keep our children engaged, and by many screaming loudly, we may finally advance some social justice issues. I have to believe that the many heroic efforts that took place in 2020 will result in change for the overall good of humanity.

2020 was a year that will never be forgotten. We were forced to learn how to use Zoom and Teams just so we could get our jobs done. We were forced into instructional practices that we had to learn on the fly.  Many of us were asked to pivot quickly, as we faced professional challenges. And, out of necessity we learned lots of teaching and collaboration strategies that will benefit us all moving forward.

We were also forced to confront racism and equity issues and to ask ourselves if we are part of the problem and how can we contribute to the solution. Now, more than ever, Gandhi’s words speak loudly: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

With the start of a new year, join me in taking a moment to reflect on some of the things we learned in 2020 that we can carry forward into the future. Whether it’s professionally regarding our writing, teaching, learning platforms, digital supplements we hadn’t thought of, etc., or personally by understanding our own biases and extending a little more compassion to all of our neighbors.

I hope you will engage with TAA as we work to support changes in scholarly publishing and writing. We have formed a committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion (CDEI), examined our DEI survey, and developed a strategic plan that we hope will benefit all academic and textbook writers. We are engaging in work that will impact our future, and the future of our students.

As we step gingerly into 2021, I wish you and yours good health, safety, and peace.

Laura Frost, President, Textbook & Academic Authors Association, is Professor of chemistry and Interim Associate Dean at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is co-author of an introductory chemistry textbook in fourth edition.