Disrupted, but Connecting · 11 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted us all.

When it comes right down to it, education is just a small piece of the big COVID-19 picture. Lives are at stake. Health and the economy are at serious risk. Still, we all tend to think of how the pandemic is affecting us personally. So naturally, I think of education.

Thankfully, nobody I know has had a catastrophe during this chaotic time. We have just had our lives disrupted. Actually, disrupted is putting it lightly. We have all had our lives turned upside down, twisted around, and shaken up. But we still try to make the best of the situation. After all, what else can you do. This virus is disrupting the lives of everybody. In the whole world!

When it comes to education, we think of brick and mortar buildings. We think of teachers standing in front of students telling them to get busy or their future is going to be at risk. We think of crowded hallways and all the vagaries of life in a school building. But education is so much more than just the buildings that house our learning. Education is all about connecting with students in an effort to get them to be able to learn in any situation. Education is about the relationships between students and educators, and between students and students.

When I think of the building where I work, I think of every adult there as an educator. For regardless of their positions, they are working with students. Either directly or indirectly. It is easy to see the administrators, counselors, nurses, teachers, and paraeducators working directly with students. But the secretaries and custodians and kitchen staff and every single adult interacts with students. They also indirectly support the students by supporting the school as a whole. It is an amazing sight to watch a cohesive staff working together for the common goal of educating students.

Which puts me at odds with people who think that educators have the easy life.

I do not begrudge people their opinion about educators having the easy life. Those who think that this time is an extra vacation for teachers are certainly entitled to their opinions. There are probably opportunists out there somewhere who will indeed use the time for something other than trying to educate their students. Yes, there are always opportunists in every crisis. (Have you checked your email lately?) But I believe most educators are in education to teach kids. They are there because they want the best for kids.

Which is why it is difficult for us to be in the current situation. Educators want to be there to nurture their students. They want the best for the kids. Which in terms of educating them means being in the classroom. But of course, that is impossible in the current situation.

So what are educators to do in times like these? Adapt. And do their best at staying connected with their students.

The funny thing is that students are a strange lot. Strange, unpredictable, and yet also quite predictable. Even in this unprecedented time. One of the things that I find interesting is that reaching students remotely looks very similar to reaching students in person. What I mean is that students are going to be themselves toward their educators whether they are near or far. Educators can reach some students when they in close proximity, but not when they are away. We can reach some students better when they are away than when they are near. And still other students do not want to be reached at all. However, the thing about educators is that they will continue to try and reach those unreachable kids. Try, try, then try again. In as many different ways as possible. Unfortunately, despite all their efforts, there are still students that fall through the cracks.

I have been reading emails from colleagues about what they are doing to stay connected to their students, to reach their students who seem unreachable. I have read and have wondered if I am doing enough. The thing is, I am sure that is what my colleagues are doing too. They are wondering if they are doing enough. They are wondering how they might somehow keep any students from falling through the cracks. Even in a time when it is difficult at best to keep in contact.

Life has surely been disrupted by this worldwide pandemic. It is taking its toll on everybody as we come to grips with a strange new normal. Or at least a new normal for now. We wonder what the future might bring. We wonder if our children will be able to come through this relatively unscathed. I worry about all those things too, but I have hope. I have hope because I know that despite being a strange new paradigm, educators are doing the best they can to keep their own students learning and growing. And they are hoping and praying that all their efforts to make their students life-long learners are paying dividends right now. They are hoping that they can stay connected or make some new connections with all their students.

The world is in disarray. But if we can learn even during a pandemic, maybe we can offer more hope when the next disaster comes around. Yes, COVID-19 has disrupted us all, but in the end there is the hope that this too shall pass.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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