The first thing I read this morning was an excerpt from an essay by Indian writer Arundhati Roy that a Facebook friend had posted. In “The Pandemic is a Portal” Roy contends that the changes wrought by this now two-year-long pandemic must lead to changes in how we operate, and her hope is that these changes propel us forward.
Back when this whole mess started, I was at an exercise class at the Senior Center. Nancy, the instructor announced that the center would be closed until this virus was under control. We all looked at each other and said, “That’s too bad. See you back here in a few weeks.” We couldn’t wrap our minds around the major changes that would occur in the following months and years.
One thing we have all learned during this time is that meeting others on Zoom, while it facilitated work to go on and committee meetings to be held, was a nightmare. Who doesn’t hate Zoom meetings? The worst for me has been the Sunday morning Zoom meetings of my Quaker Meeting, a worship based on silence. I tried several times but found I couldn’t sit still in front of a computer screen being silent with the others on Zoom.
And students everywhere found ways to avoid their Zoom classes. Teacher friends tell me that students they see have taken giant steps backward academically and certainly socially since the Pandemic began. One problem that seems obvious to me is that teachers have been trained to teach they way they always have, and the skills it takes to keep students focused on Zoom are hard to find. I found that when I was in undergraduate education classes (of course we are talking eons ago!) instructors harped on a particular form of lesson plans and even bulletin board ideas, but pedagogy was never discussed. We never thought about what we could do in the classroom to inspire students to be independent learners.
At last, at Bank Street College where I got my Masters, we studied the whole child and how the teaching of Piaget should influence our work. One thing Piaget emphasized was that learning takes place in spurts and not in a steady march forward. It takes a period of loss of equilibrium, a period of chaos, to scramble the brain so that it can take a leap forward.
Given Piaget’s theory, all of us are primed for a leap. Nothing is the same as it was before the Pandemic, yet I do not hear people talking about “going back to the way it was.” We know that won’t happen. Something different will certainly come out of this period. But since the pandemic began we are more divided than ever, and we can’t even agree that wearing a piece of cloth or paper over your mouth is important. People seem to be more interested in standing up for their individual “liberty” is more important than protecting one another. My hope is that recognizing our humanity and caring for each other will somehow come out of this chaos.