Through the Eyes of an Educator: Educating Amidst the Trauma of Sustained Chaotic Turmoil
Simultaneously, in most places around the globe, children are home, teachers are instructing in a whole new way, and the threat of an unseen virus is at the heart of it all. We scroll through the memes measuring this time akin to Groundhog’s Day; some of us feel safe at home, while others feel ‘stuck’ in a cycle with an unknown ending.
Through it all, our students are taking in this new ‘normal’ of sorts.
It’s a strange situation, that’s for sure. The majority of the world has never before been faced with something of this magnitude. While there are a few humans on the planet who lived through the 1918 pandemic as well as others who survived MERS, SARS, Ebola, and, of course, heaps of natural disasters, I don’t remember ever reading about a time when the whole world was literally on lock down together, do you?
This pandemic has certainly shined a light on the inequalities around the globe–and perhaps in your own postcode. All of a sudden, the dwelling you reside in (if you’re lucky enough to have one to call your own) comes into play. There are studio apartments and six bedroom homes, and in each of those, various numbers of people are housed. Access to technology for all in the space is an issue–and don’t get me started on the fact that everyone learns differently and it’s definitely harder to reach all of those multiple intelligences when trying to quickly transition from a brick and mortar three dimensional space to even the awesomeness of the technology that exists today.
For kids who were homeschooled or world schooled prior to the pandemic, the educational shift isn’t as paramount. For kids who have often learned through streaming services or online classes, the change is minimal. But all of a sudden, those who were schooled in a traditional setting now have to make their own classroom, set their own schedules, be more accountable for their own work, and go without the tactile hug of the safe space of school (if. of course, it was a safe space). We don’t know who has a safe home, has an environment open and useful to learning, who has guardians in the midst of their own panic-stricken situations. or who has access, care, and adults who can facilitate help when necessary. And we know that those inequalities and stressors like food insecurity, job loss, finances, health. and safety (among others) all play a part in one’s ability to be in the headspace to pay full attention in a learning environment. All this means that education has gotten even tougher than it was before the stay at home orders and physical distancing began.
Education takes place in all sorts of ways. Education is happening every minute of every day, if only we open our eyes and see. Kids notice things, they take in emotions, learn tasks. and listen actively. Children pay attention to attitude, mindset, stress levels, and of course, those lessons that are taught in schools. No one will be left behind, no one will be super far ahead of the game, and all of these education things can be fixed in the future.
But being there, stepping up, showing up, and using the resources available to us to be there for our students matters.
When looking back on our time in schools, people often remember how they were treated, if they felt cared for, respected, encouraged, and loved far often more than dates, formulas, and grammar rules.
We can show up and keep showing up.
Education wasn’t equal before all of this began, and it’s certainly not equal now; we can do our best, we can pay attention, we can be there–and that is enough. You are enough–and collectively, we are enough.
7 Ideas for At Home Learning
FIND YOUR PEEPS
This time for sure, it really does take a village. Essential workers aren’t able to stay home. Perhaps, if you’re in a two-parent household, one is an essential worker and the other is now in charge of everything, including homeschooling. Maybe all the adults in the home are frontline workers and some other kind human is helping out with the kids and the pets. Or perhaps you’re on your own in the parenting thing, and it’s all you all the time. Whatever the approach, find your peeps. Your peeps are who you look to to lift you up, raise your spirits, or help you hit that pause button for a moment and reset yourself. It may be workout friends, old friends, new friends, family, or an online community of strangers who provide that virtual high five when you need it; gratitude abounds for that lift your peeps provide. Reach out to friends and family to see if someone can help. Perhaps others can help with video chats with the kids, reading books together, helping with homework, or solely figuring out ways to keep your brood and you happily engaged, occupied, and sane.
Today’s world has so much to offer online. Whether you’re a Broadway fanatic or history buff, budding scientist, culinary enthusiast, or if you’re searching for ways to remain physically active, it’s there. In this time of uncertainty, companies both for and not for profit have gotten involved. You can ‘tour’ museums, national parks, zoos, and check out spaces aplenty. Looking to stay active; there are heaps of yoga classes and free workout guides for yourself or those younger humans living in that space of yours. You can learn a language, find ways to engage in supportive campaigns for frontline workers, and ‘travel’ to spaces far and wide. Organizations and companies like National Geographic, NASA, Sesame Street, and Disney are providing tons of interactive content for learners of all ages. There are so many ways to be a part of the larger outside world from the comfort of your shelter-in-place accommodations; it’s all there - it only takes the click of a key or a tap of a finger.
PLAY (OUTSIDE OR INSIDE)
Growing up, I read heaps of Shel Silverstein poems. One of my favourite one ends with the following line: “goodbye, I’m going out to play.” Play is always necessary, but right at this moment in history, it seems even more vital than ever. Children share emotions, thoughts, and process trauma differently than adults-and play helps with it all. Imagination, innovation, activity, and sometimes inactivity is necessary for the mind, body, and soul. Build a fort, make up a story, hunt for worms, watch the clouds, draw, paint, seek, have a dance party, pop up that tent and camp away indoors. Play time is essential to development, and we all need that ‘escape’ time now more than ever. There is no age limit to play. It may look a little different today, but take the time, put down the phone, and let your inner child fly free.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Move your body in some way each day. Perhaps it’s a time to start yoga, order a stationary bike, or walk laps around your apartment. Perhaps it’s time to do family workouts, order one of the many useful tools online, or do a Zoom class with virtual buddies. Whether you dance in your kitchen, foam roll on your floor, or play a game of tag with your quarantine family in the backyard, move your body. Exercise boosts that ‘happy’ chemical production which can change your mind and your mood for the better. Not all of us can get outside these days, and your place of workout is potentially closed. This is the time to remember that all you need to work out is a mindset, a little time, and your own self. Get to it.
LEARN A SKILL
The other day, the sink clogged and a friend talked us through the process of fixing it. One friend is learning to affix a climbing wall to her outdoor space, another is taking a yoga certification course online, my godson is building models, and my nephew is boning up his skills in a virtual cooking class. Some of us are engaged in constant online learning, as schools move from traditional to the virtual settings. Turn a hobby into a certification, turn a dream into a money making venture, or learn a skill for the sole purpose of learning a skill. Take a course, watch a video, read a book, ask someone in your house to teach you, audit a class, listen to a podcast, or find one of the million other ways to teach yourself something that can enrich your life. There is always time, if only we make ourselves available.
Mr. Rogers' mom reminded us all to always ‘look for the helpers’. This is the time to look for them, see them, thank them, and become one yourself. Whether you’re able to safely leave your house or want/need to remain sheltered in place, there are multiple ways to help. Call a family member, check on a neighbor, join an online group that needs help virtually organizing meals/calls/check-ins, or help with IT assistance for the millions now communicating online. Offer to help kids in school, bring food to someone who can’t get out, or provide financial support for others who are able to provide the legwork of getting necessary items to those on the frontlines. Perhaps it’s thinking outside the box or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Even young kids can get involved and be a helper. Care homes are shuttered, leaving those inside without visitors, hospitals aren’t able to allow visitors, and there are always service members serving on the frontlines. Write a note, send a card, draw a picture for a stranger to remind them that they matter and they’re loved. Foster an animal, check in on those who live alone, or find some way to make life easier, happier, or calmer for someone else. Kindness matters–and at the end of the day, it really does take a village to make it through a pandemic.
SHARE YOUR HEART
This isn’t easy for anyone–and it’s harder for many. In a time where we might not be able to physically hug family, friends, and strangers, we can still share our hearts and do our best to provide that feeling of those warm hugs in another way.
Connect with kindness and heart in mind.
Share kind words with delivery people, write a note to a family member you’re apart from, or rekindle an old friendship. Physical distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. At a time where leisure travel is unavailable and access to others is mostly cut off, we need to think outside the box and be sure that we share our hearts with others even if they’re physically beyond our reach. Whether it’s a socially distant car birthday parade, a FaceTiime with friends from the past, or a chalk drawing reminding all who pass by that they’re loved, make sure to tell the world that although you may be sheltering in place, your love knows no boundaries.
Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.
Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.