Monday, March 23, 2020

Finding the Sunlight in the Shift

March 23, 2020

I absolutely believe that we find what we seek, and that we see the world through lenses that focus us on either the positive or the negative, depending on our chosen perspective.  Looking for the positive is a conscious choice.   As we continue to hunker down during our "Shelter in Place" to stop the spread of COVID-19, this continues to be true.  Of course, the world of Coronavirus is frightening and has upended our way of operating.  We have changed what normal looks like, and there are challenges and anxiety with those changes.  However, just because one acknowledges the uncertainty and stress in our current circumstances doesn't mean one can't look for and be bolstered by some of the positive outcomes we've seen as a result of our new normal.

First and foremost, we've seen an incredible dedication by many of the professionals in fields that are necessary to weather this storm:  our medical professionals who put themselves on the front line to keep us healthy and safe, the folks who are working overtime to make sure food and other necessities remain available to everyone, and the businesses who have come through for their people in order to support them with continued paychecks and health coverage, even when they may not be able to work. (We see you, and we're watching how you respond.)

In the world of education the shift has been sudden, but administrators, educators, and students have jumped in to try to create an online environment where learning still takes place. It's taken flexibility and creativity, and both teachers and students alike are doing what it takes to make the learning curve surmountable.  I have been incredibly impressed with the ongoing communication from our administrators and the support they have offered in moving our content online.  Our students, too, are wanting to make the shift so that they are not missing out on classes or learning opportunities.  Teachers--every one I've spoken with--know that there is no substitute for the kinds of relationships that are built in a face-to-face classroom, which is a huge reason many of us step foot in our classrooms day after day and year after year.  However, knowing that we have fostered those relationships in the months leading up to our grand societal shift means that our kids know how much they mean to us, and know that we are working hard to maintain those relationships while supporting their learning in whatever way that learning takes shape during this global crisis.

There are those who have looked down on some celebrities for not acknowledging their privilege when they post positive messages online.  Not everyone can simply enjoy 'time off' when worried about making a rent payment, or worried about how to get the food on the table, or even worried about how to get medical care for a loved one who is falling ill.  I get that.  There are people who do, in fact, have more privilege and therefore can take some things for granted that others cannot.  I don't, however, believe that negates their ability to spread a little bit of positivity and light when they gather their friends virtually to sing and share a song, or read books aloud for children to enjoy.  I appreciate that feeling of shared experience, no matter who is sharing it.

Other positives are the ways every day people have challenged themselves to stay connected and engaged while being sequestered in their homes.  All over you see virtual family game nights, online book clubs and study groups, girlfriends' virtual happy hours, and zoom fitness and yoga classes.  Kids are checking in more with their parents and grandparents in addition to their friends, and parents are finding fun and interesting ways to share meaningful experiences with their kids.  We had Snapchat and Facetime and other versions of meeting one another digitally before, but now that we've had to slow down by necessity, these virtual meet ups are more focused and purposeful, even when the purpose is just fun--a way to pass time. 

For years now we as a society have been lamenting the digital age as an era where our technology has been used as a way to keep many quick, short-term, far away connections alive at the expense of the real, face-to-face, day-to-day deep and meaningful connections to those who are in our close proximity.  Perhaps when life goes back to whatever normal will eventually look like, we will have made another seismic shift in the way in which we use our technology.  It will never be a substitute for a warm hug and in-person connection, but we are indeed learning that these tools can be a means of truly bringing people together in ways which haven't been fully embraced until now.  And I believe that's a positive outcome we can all embrace.

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