If there’s one thing computers have taught us, it’s that when the device goes haywire, you turn it off, wait a bit, and then turn it back on. Nine times out of ten, your computer glitch has disappeared. My hope is that the same technique will have worked for us flawed humans.
This past year our lives have been virtually switched off. We had to stay in isolation, we had to social distance, and we hid our faces behind masks. Shows in theaters and concerts were cancelled. Restaurants were shuttered, and we have had to grab take-out food or learn to cook. Gatherings were all cancelled. We saw each other only on Zoom for church, committees, or social interaction. At this point I feel as if I am a garter snake emerging from the hole in the ground where I waited with reduced heart rate for spring. I emerge from the earth and feel the sun on my back for the first time in a long time. Everything is brand new.
This time of hibernation and arrested social activity is ending with the miracle of vaccines developed at record speed. It’s spring and here in WNC cherry trees, apple trees, and dogwoods are in bloom and other trees and shrubs are about to burst into bloom. We step outside and can see the time right before us when we will be free of draconian restrictions. My hope is that we take the year of being shut down to analyze how we do things, reevaluate our behavior, and emerge refreshed and better than before.
One of the big problems of 2020 was that students were faced with attending school on Zoom. I’m not sure who suffered more: teachers, students, or parents having to supervise kids as young as kindergarten as they were supposed to attend school via computer. A teacher friend told me recently that he has had to teach art to students in the classroom and those at home simultaneously. A young mother told me that her full time job is trying to keep her five year old on task in front of a screen. And many excellent students were so turned off that they opted out of on-line classes all together.
This is the time for schools to take a hard look at best practices and adjust their teaching to meeting students where they are and guiding individuals towards the best possible outcomes. Pedagogy is slow to change, but perhaps this year will give schools the jolt they need to change and not behave as if status quo is good enough.
Thanks to the Black Lives Matter Movement, we have learned to be more conscious of racial equity and to take a hard look at ourselves and our attitudes towards other races.
Many young people are declaring themselves Non-binary. They recognize the elements of themselves that are male AND female, and they refuse to be either/or. Back in the day, people were forced from earliest infancy to be pink or blue, and children who saw themselves as inhabiting the wrong gender body were shamed. While this pronoun confusion is hell on us old people (not he or she, but they. not him or her, but them), we are learning to be more open to the spectrum of gender identity.
Perhaps I am being a Pollyanna, but I am hopeful that we are evolving in positive ways. We have shed the skin of last year and can begin anew.