Reflecting on 2020, Working Toward Better in 2021

Erik EllefsenThe CACE Roundtable1 Comment


In blog posts over the last few years, I have reviewed the year behind us and considered the year ahead. As I look back on my reflections in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, my encouragement to CACE readers aligned with the following themes:

  • ⇒ to lead the way as stronger organizations with high quality teaching and learning;
  • ⇒ to build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning communities;
  • ⇒ to become more active in developing education policy; and
  • ⇒ to engage in our profession globally.

These last ten months have accelerated the importance of these entreaties. Thankfully, without a shadow of a doubt, Christian schools leaders and educators have leaned into the call, meeting every demand they have faced.

2020 in Blog Posts

Through our strategic planning, data analysis, professional learning groups, and blog posts, CACE supported Christian school leaders through the challenges of 2020. The most read blogs from last year focused on three themes: COVID response, improving teaching and learning, and diversity.

The most read blogs on COVID Response included the following:

  • In Reopening 2020 and Christian Schools Doing Things Right During the Pandemic, Mark Beadle shared his encouragement to school leaders as they prepared for a new school year but also faced adjustments at each step of the way. You’ll continue to find his wisdom helpful as our need for flexibility flows over into 2021.
  • In Christian Schools and COVID-19 Responses, Lynn Swaner shares what she learned about the pivot Christian schools made during this pandemic. We should continually point to this research as we affirm our colleagues for their impressive work.

A commitment that CACE made from its inception was to see teaching and learning improve and innovate in significant ways. Some of the most read blogs this year came from CACE Fellows Steven Levy and Dan Beerens as they keep our attention on dynamic ways to ensure Deeper Learning in our classrooms:

We encourage you to join Steven and Dan on February 19 for the virtual Christian Deeper Learning Conference.

Lastly, some of our most frequented posts were from a series entitled Diversity in the Christian School curated by Jenny Brady and written by leaders in the Christian Educators Diversity Alliance.  They provided us wisdom for guiding our schools through tumultuous times, encouraged us to embrace the discomfort of significant conversations, and shared their experience of creating more diverse and truly inclusive learning communities. Because of the popularity of the series, we created an eBook to catalogue these posts.

Hoping for Better in 2021 . . . and Working Toward Better

As I reflect on our blog journey this past year, I am reminded that we do not place our hope in progress or the future, but rather we place our hope in Christ. Because of this anchor, we can anticipate better days ahead, but what will be returning to? Even as our primary focus is educating well through the current crisis, we should always have one eye on what lies ahead. Therefore, I have a few simple encouragements along these lines, and I’ll bring these points back to our attention in the monthly CACE newsletters.

What is your vision for the “next normal”?

In my cancer patient support group, we talk consistently about our desire for life to return to normal. At the same time, we realize and lament that life will never return to the way it was. However, when our emphasis is placed on the “next normal,” our hopes can be lit anew.

How will you prioritize well-being?

Data suggests that even prior to these current crises, the education profession was consistently ranked as one of the least healthy professions. My guess is that the pandemic has exacerbated our stress in new ways. In an ironic twist, this experience could provide us ways to rethink how we do things and create more healthy workplaces and learning environments.

Who are you connected to?

In 2020, we confirmed that Christian schools do not exist as islands isolated from the world. We are affected by national and world events. More specifically, we have been reminded that our schools and community are not immune to the brokenness of the world. Together as Christian school educators, we can navigate these waves and even help steer in times of storm. We at CACE hope that you will develop deep friendships with professional colleagues who can support your work, your school’s mission, and the good works we seek to do in our local contexts.

What sticks?

Too often in schools, we move from one year into another without reflecting on what stays and what goes. It is easy to just copy-and-paste practices from the year before. And tradition is not a strong enough argument in itself to hit repeat. I encourage school leaders to have significant conversations starting today about what deserves to stick in our work and what needs to conclude.

As we launch into a new calendar year, let me close with these fitting words from Ephesians 1: 15-19. Please hear them from the bottom of my heart and from all those of us at CACE:

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.


  • Erik Ellefsen

    Erik Ellefsen is a CACE Senior Fellow and the Director of Networks and Improvement at the Baylor University’s Center for School Leadership. He also serves as Senior Fellow for Cardus, hosts Digital Education (a podcast providing engaging conversations with some of the most innovative education leaders), and is a leading collaborator and author of the Mindshift and Future Ready projects.

One Comment on “Reflecting on 2020, Working Toward Better in 2021”

  1. Thanks Erik. A good reminder to us not to look back with a desire to return there to an already mythologised past but to press on into a new future and to make it better. The past should help us find new and better ways to fulfil our calling.

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