Looking Back with 2020 Vision

January 2021

We start the new year by reflecting on everything that happened in 2020. Readers contributed with their stories of surviving the craziness that 2020 had to offer: remote teaching, lockdown fatigue, and more. 

Our cover: Curtis Kelly says, I’ll never forget the morning my 8-year-old daughter held up this plate and shouted “coronavirus!” The mask was one that Harumi Kimura made for us.

Watch before you read...

Our January issues are always special. So, to start off 2021, we asked our subscribers to send us their stories on one way they changed, as teachers, because of the amazing year, 2020. And so, we offer you 13 stories of transformation from all over the world. Some stories are about emergency remote teaching, some are about personal change, and others are about coming to a new understanding. We are sure you will find a part of yourself in each of them.


To get you in the right mood, we are also giving you two introductory videos that review the most important events of the year. As the first video says, 2020 was a year like no other. But so will 2021 be, and every following year. Going back to “normal,” as defined by what we were like in 2019, cannot happen. The world has changed and so have we. This Think Tank is a farewell to that normal.

Our Thoughts on 2020 Vision

Why We Are Here Curtis Kelly

Assuming that, on some future date, there will still be enough people around to remember 2020, we will not have to state that it was a year of upheaval and change. And so, since we always devote our January issues to stories from subscribers, what better topic could there be than how 2020 has changed us as teachers, as humans. And that is what we offer you: thirteen stories from people all over the world about their pandemic-related growth.

Think Tank Articles

Tiny Squares Amy Brazelton Little

As an extrovert, I need people. I crave the stimulation that comes from interacting with a dear uncle, an old college friend, or a stranger at the bus stop. When the pandemic blindsided us all in early 2020 and the lockdowns started, I feared that, as a social person, I would not fare well. 

Predictions, Habits, and All that Fat Stephen M. Ryan

A lump of lard. That’s what the pandemic turned me into. Doing all my lessons from home (i.e., none of the exercise I usually get by walking to the bus stop) + the ready availability of cookies and other tempting snacks in said home environment = more Stephen. Much more Stephen.

What is Normal? David Scott Bowyer

If you are a human on planet earth, then you’ve probably had a rather interesting 2020. Congratulations on your newfound IT powers and commiserations on your shriveled-up adrenal gland. Looking back to April, it’s amazing to think how suddenly the education system changed for educators and our students.

Survival of the Fittest Maruska Nizzi

Living in Bergamo, Italy, a daily commuter as I am employed by a language school in Milan, I knew the future was unknown. I was one of the first teachers to have all my face-to-face classes moved to online teaching. I probably should add that I fall into a “high risk” category, the so-called “vulnerable.” 

Building Sustainability Through Online Learning Chris Clancy

Chito wants the United States of America to be run by a President who feels a sense of crisis about the environment, and who tries to solve environmental problems. Seto routinely criticizes more progressive political agendas as being socialist. “Which one, Chito or Seto, do you want to talk to?” asks a Japanese second-year high school student. 

Notice the Change Nigel McQuitty

Lockdown in our small house in Melbourne this year meant: no travel, no office, no commute. For the first time, I was restricted to our small house and our small garden, but I learnt that this might also be an opportunity.

Keeping it Going Alessandro Grimaldi

In their book The Psychology of Work and Organizations, Woods and West (2010) remark that organizations and the individuals that comprise them are in some ways like a single organism with an immune system ready to fight change. However, COVID’s arrival created an unprecedented need for educational innovation…

Techno-savvy or a Passionate Language Teacher? Nitin Suryavanshi

It was mid-March when we were busy with the 2020 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Annual Examination for grades X and XII, used to determine grades and college paths. Suddenly a brake was applied to the usual educational scenario due to the lockdown announced in our country, India.

A Very 2020 2020 Julia Daley

I read a book this week!

I know, that doesn’t sound very exciting, but trust me, I’m dancing at my desk with this news! You see, I’ve been having a very “2020 2020,” as a friend so aptly put it…

Adapting Positive Psychology in ELT to On-line Teaching Marc Helgesen

One big change for me is that I’ve started using Positive Psychology on-line. Last July, the Think Tank did a special issue on Positive Psychology, particularly on using the “Science of Happiness” in language teaching. In that issue, we led with a video of Seligman explaining his model, PERMA.

Rise like a Phoenix from the Ashes of Scattered Dreams… Manisha Parchure

2020 started with beautiful dreams: a promotion at work, buying a house, a vacation to some new country, a secret wish of finding a soul mate, and then, Corona happened. It felt like God was determined that I face all my worst fears—Fear Factor 2020—and may the strongest person win.

A Beautiful Gift from Corona Sagar Junawane

March 2020 started in India. Life was on its wheels, keeping us on the daily challenges and beautiful night dreams. And what? NEWS started flashing on the television saying “Corona Virus has attacked the world and it is spreading across the globe, taking life away.

Lost in Citations Jonathan Shachter

2020 started off pretty great, actually. I attended a JALT conference in Hokkaido in early February. Around this time, though, news of the virus was picking up steam and, as I was watching local and national news outlets in Hokkaido, I did get the impression that the “Corona” virus may be very different from previous virus scares in Japan.

Call for Contributions: Ideas & Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

We almost chose this Google “Year in Search” video for a lead-in. It is a bit US-centric, but it will still touch anyone’s heart, which is probably why it has over 150 million views.

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The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

        Curtis H. Kelly                 Skye Playsted                Heather McCulloch   



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