5 Positives to come out of COVID-19
As 2020 winds down, we should all reflect on the people we lost, the loved ones we cannot visit, and the events we had to cancel. It is okay to feel sad about these things, but as we look to the future, it’s important to remember the positives that came out of the pandemic. When I look back at this year, I think about the vacation to Barcelona I missed, the fact that I was evacuated to Canada for four months, and that I had to switch from entirely in-person teaching to online teaching, without much warning. Having said that, I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have my health, my family and I got to stay together, when many were separated, and Barcelona will still be there when it is safe to travel again.
When thinking about the pandemic, a lot of innovation came out of this time. Teachers, and other professionals quickly learned about useful apps to allow them to keep working despite the lockdowns. Through trial and error, teachers found creative new ways to keep students engaged, and to create connections, regardless of physical proximity. Some teachers and students have found they actually prefer online teaching and learning. We need to be able to harness the teaching methods and connection made now, and incorporate them into our teaching in the future. When we finally have a vaccine and we can return to teaching full time in person, will that happen? Will we go back to “normal?” Let’s not forget the lessons we learned from staying inside and being forced to slow down.
Appreciation for Front-Line and Essential Workers
During 2020, we learned how important and valuable front-line and essential workers are to our lives. People have been tuning in to see the advice of infectious disease experts and Provincial and Public Health Officers. Prior to the pandemic, I don’t think anyone could name their Provincial Health Officer. Some of these experts are even becoming household names, like Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Isaac Bogoch to name a few. It seems to me that the Coronavirus has given us some perspective into who is actually worthy of our admiration. At 7:00 P.M., I was eager to participate in banging pots on my balcony to support hospital workers. This is surely something health care professionals had not experienced before. Teachers have also been elevated in the eyes of many parents, especially those parents who have had to act as teachers. I personally know one family who has rearranged their working hours so both parents can be home to help their two kids, because it was overwhelming for one parent to do it alone. I hope the good will continues, and teachers continue to be highly valued by the students, parents and the community at large.
So many students I have spoken to, including my own son, absolutely love hybrid learning. He finds that the days he is at school, the teachers can focus on instruction, and then he has a lot of independent time to work on his assignments at home. He is provided with guidance and Zoom calls to check in, on the days he is working remotely. This method, however, is not for everyone, as the student needs to have a strong work ethic to do their assignments independently. My husband also prefers working from home two days a week. The lockdown has necessitated that some people work from home, or at least limit their time in the work place. Some employers are wanting their employees to continue to work from home as many have reported increased productivity, and it can offer certain cost savings. It will be interesting to see if schools continue to offer this option to students and teachers. Could hybrid teaching and learning become the new normal?
Adaptability Between Home and School
It’s important to listen to our students to ensure the type of apps we choose are working to meet their needs. The feedback from my students is that Google Classroom meets all of their needs. They can access their assignments and messages in one place. They can use the platform to ask questions and to upload their work. When my child was in primary school, he liked using Seesaw to share his work and it was a great communication tool for parents as well. Toddle is something new my child’s school is using this year, designed for the IB School Primary Years Program, and they are planning to launch the Middle Years Program next year. My students have suggested we continue using the app even when we are back to in person teaching, if that happens. The beauty of continuing with Google Classroom for posting and receiving assignments, is that it allows us to pivot to online teaching without much effort. I now plan all my lessons as if learning is being done remotely, so I don’t have to make major changes down the line.
Before COVID-19, many children were rushed around from soccer practice, to violin, back home for dinner and homework before bed. Other children were spending every free moment at the dance studio or the rink. I know a lot of them are suffering right now because they miss their favourite sport, but having this time to slow down, to bring out the board games, to read a book for pleasure, has been a blessing. I think a lot of us have noticed that slowing down can have a positive effect on our mood. While getting fresh air and exercise is important, now we can do it for pleasure and not only on our way to somewhere else.
Access to culture without Having to Travel
Want to “visit” the Sistine Chapel? Are you interested in the Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre? Now you can visit these amazing places and more, virtually. Zoos, aquariums, art galleries and historical sites are offering virtual experiences for free, during the pandemic. Some people can only dream about visiting these amazing places. Now, in the comfort of your own home, you can immerse yourself in a place a world away. My family and I got to know Fiona, a hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo. It is amazing how soothing it can be to focus on learning about and watching a hippo, instead of focusing on your anxiety.
Here is a link to an article by Trip.com Magazine for more great animal and cultural experiences for you to enjoy:
2020 has changed the way most of us live our lives. We are approaching 2021 without a vaccine, so not much is likely to change anytime soon. The news is very depressing, but the positives of this situation cannot be overlooked. We have a new appreciation for those who are working to help the rest of us. People have started thanking truckers, grocery store employees, teachers, nurses, doctors and Public Health Officials. New heroes are emerging from the pandemic. We have found novel ways of operating, such as remote working and learning. We have perhaps tried new tools and apps to make our lives easier and keep us connected. Some of us have taken advantage of the free tools and experiences offered to us by companies and organizations in this time of great turmoil. The most valuable experience for me personally, has been slowing down. As Socrates wrote, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” That feels particularity true to me right now. The pandemic has totally changed my life. I used to commute to work, I had Embassy functions in the evenings, and since I am living in Europe, we were traveling every chance we had. Now, I truly understand the joy of curling up with a good book, without feeling guilty, and I have enjoyed playing board games and watching movies at home with my family. COVID-19 has made me appreciate my friends more, and we have been regularly connecting on Zoom. Since over 10 000 Canadians have died of Coronavirus so far, I feel gratitude for my health, and appreciative of all those people who keep working and innovating to make our lives tolerable, during this dreadful time.
Amazing Free Virtual Zoo Tour & Free Museums Online on Your Couch (July, 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.trip.com/blog/home-travel-coronavirus-live-stream-museums-and-arts/
Buddha elephant image.Quotesgram.com. https://images.app.goo.gl/HCAqPH28vkcT8XXr5
Thank you Teacher image. Unicef.org. September, 2020.https://unicef.org/coronavirus/thank-you-teachers
Dr. Theresa Tam image. Adrian Wyld. The Canadian Press via AP. April, 2020. https://images.app.goo.gl/Syy6VtHPWA6vjp1v8
Sarah Silverman banging pot image. JustJared.com. April, 2020. https://www.justjared.com/photo-gallery/4453793/sarah-silverman-cheering-on-healthcare-workers-05/fullsize/