These last nine months have been…not normal. We’ve changed and adapted almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives and dealt with immeasurable loss and grief. At times, it seems like everything is awful (and truly, many things are awful).
But throughout these Corona Times, I’ve wondered: Are there things that we’re doing now that we can hold onto, even after the pandemic is over? Things that will serve us well in the After Times?
An obvious answer is that we’re learning to use technology to capture students’ thinking
. I teach pre-service math teachers, and my students have been learning how to use all sorts of new technology in their student-teaching placements. They’re using video tools like SeeSaw and FlipGrid to capture students’ mathematical thinking. This has given them more thorough explanations than when students were working with just pencil and paper, especially for early elementary students who can say a lot more than they tend to write. They’re also planning interactive and exploratory lessons with PearDeck and Desmos, especially in secondary placements. Tools like these show us what students are thinking about during the lesson, and they give students multiple ways of engaging (even with their videos off).
We’re turning to these technologies out of necessity — because it’s so much harder to know what students are thinking when we only see them in a little Zoom box. But even when we can see each other face-to-face, what insights into student thinking can tech tools offer? What new learning opportunities can we foster?
But even beyond the tech, I think (I hope?) we’re learning to cut each other (and ourselves!) some slack
. Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently — and struggling in different ways — but it’s been a hard year for everyone. As a result, I’ve noticed that, when assignments are missing or emails go unread, folks are starting to ask “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” We’re checking in with empathy, instead of assuming that others are being negligent or lazy. Perhaps because we’re going through a collective trauma, we’re more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt.
I hope that we can continue doing that, even when there’s not a global pandemic. Even in “normal” times, students and colleagues are dealing with death and loss, racism and other systems of oppression, food and housing insecurity, physical and mental health crises, and existential dread. What would the world look like if our default was to reach out with kindness and concern?
We’re also learning to connect in new ways — and to disconnect when we need to
. Personally and professionally, we’ve been able to connect with folks from afar. We can join webinars and conferences without worrying about the cost or time of travel. We’ve been celebrating birthdays and graduations and weddings (and funerals) with loved ones that we don’t usually get to see. And the flip side of spending so much time online is that we have to disconnect, too. It’s become even more important than ever before to take breaks from the screen and to get some fresh air.
Some of these have come out of sheer necessity — singing “Happy Birthday” on Zoom because it’s too dangerous to gather together or taking a tech break because we simply can’t bear to look at a screen for another moment. But what if we can continue having joyful moments with far-flung friends and family? What if we can maintain boundaries for our work-life balance?
Of course, none of this negates what we’ve been through, what we’re going through, or what is yet to come before the pandemic is over.
But I’m holding onto hope: Hope that we can let go of practices that weren’t really serving us in the Before Times. Hope that we will make it through these Corona Times. Hope that we can re-imagine and build a more humane After Times.
Written by Brette Garner (@brettegarner)