The Blessings of COVID? Considering the Few Good Aspects of This Horrible Pandemic
Finding the Good in Terrible Times
Okay, I get it. I’m going out on a very fragile limb right now. We are all acutely aware of the devastation this virus brought to our lives, economy, and our lives as we once knew it. There is no doubt this virus has taken a terrible toll on almost all aspects of our existence. Sadly, many lives have been lost from this insidious virus. I am, by no means, minimizing the costly toll of this virus. However, let’s try - really try - to see some light in all of this wreckage. Some good has risen to the top.
Families Were Brought Together and Learned More About Each Other:
Working together, playing together, and being together. The reality for most is that we are with our families much more than ever were before. Aside from perhaps getting on each other’s nerves from time to time, we are learning more about each other. I have had parents inform me that they are now privy to their child’s learning style, learning habits, and needs in education. Parents were more on board with suggestions to help their children than ever before. For example, I had a student at the start of the year, that had some difficulty engaging in class and participating in writing. To put it bluntly, this student hated writing. He would often try very hard to avoid writing. Small group instruction and support helped, but he was clearly not a fan no matter how personal or fun we tried to make the process for him. He was full of creative ideas, but ask him to practice writing and he refused much of the time. He did have some focus and attention challenges. As a team of educators, we tried to explain his lack of focus and aversion for writing to the parents at a meeting. They vehemently argued against this concern and explained they never saw any of the claims we were making.
Spring came arrived and so did remote learning. When the parents sat with their child to get him to write, I received many emails and phone calls about how difficult it was to keep him focused and motivated during writing. I wanted so much to justify my original concerns but held back and simply supported them. I gave them ideas and tools for him to use - including typing on the computer- which he liked! The bottom line, the parents were enlightened and became more receptive to new ideas to help him as team players now that the reality of his behavior sank in. Other parents appreciated more time to hone in on their child’s learning needs, their children thrived with at-home learning. The parents and students seemed to benefit from this unique opportunity to be present during the learning process.
A More Flexible Day:
Some parents reported that their child had better sleep, eating, and learning habits than when forced to adhere to a school schedule. Their kids could sleep in if tired. No more rushing and scrambling to get the family out the door on time. Kids ate when Hungary and not at delegated times. Recess happened whenever they wanted, and students had many movement breaks throughout their days. Some kids did better with online learning first thing in the morning, while others did better in the afternoon after playing outdoors for a time. Some would settle into the evening and finish some schoolwork. Families found their own unique system that worked for each member.
Learning More About Each Other Through Remote Education:
My 2nd-grade students quickly realized that their teacher does not actually live at school! This is an easy assumption for little ones to make when I am there first thing in the morning and remain at school well past sports in the evening! I am often asked if I live at school by little inquiring minds. Through remote learning, they had a glimpse into my life. They saw my kitchen, they waved to my family members and even my cat entered the meetings to grace us wither her presence! After hearing stories about my chickens, my students also insisted on meeting them and finally placing names to their feather faces.
I, in turn, got a glimpse into their lives as well. It made for a more real and personal experience seeing how we all live and function. However, in-person is still my best way to teach. But this was a nice change as well. Chuckling, I remember teaching kiddos in their PJ’s and learning all about their pets! What a great way to share with other students and teachers than to actually bring their furry friends to the screen! I had some kids excitedly run around their houses for online meetings and crawl into their bunk beds for the lesson. How cozy! They had a space to focus and learning and they knew which spot in the house was most conducive to learning.
More Involvement for Extended Family Members:
A parent once told me, that she really needed help with daycare while she went to work as an essential employee. During one of our weekly phone conversations, she disclosed that she and her parents were at odds and hadn’t really mended their relationship for years. This situation forced her to talk with her parents and elicit their help and support in caring for her son. She mentioned that this might not have been if she continued work in our “normal” way of life. She and her son have a stronger working relationship with the grandparents now that she humbled herself, made her plea, and her parents happily obliged to help take care of her son. She was more confidently able to work at the hospital knowing her son was in good hands. I’d like to think perhaps other bridges were rebuilt in an effort to care for and support one another during this trying time.
Getting Back to a Simpler Way of Life:
During the nationwide lockdown in an effort to quell this virus and “flatten the curve,” many families reevaluated their priorities of what was needed vs. what was wanted at the store. Sending a delegated member to the store to gather essential items and supplies seemed to be a new way of prioritizing. No more meandering through aisles and reading labels or choosing just the right thing. No more shopping for fashion items or home decor at our leisure. If opting for storefront pickup, you often had items replaced. Surprised, I remember seeing the substitute for orange soda as grape soda, or whipped cream for cream cheese. The same thing right?
At one point, pasta was a hot commodity in my local stores so much that one would be hard-pressed to find a box of pasta. So...I learned how to make my own pasta! My kids enjoyed the process as well. We loved the taste of fresh, home-made pasta so much that now, the boxed kind is the second rate. I expanded my culinary abilities much more during the lockdown - partly out of necessity and partly out of boredom. But homemade bread, pasta, and other foods were well-received by my family. The aroma of freshly made dinners filled the rooms each night. No more fast food dinners or dining out. Overall, we ate much better. It was healthy and simpler to make some of our own foods.
Spending Time Playing Together:
During the lockdown, board games were dusted off and used. We even participated in those dreaded hours-long Monopoly or Risk games that ran well into the evening hours. As the clock ticked we obliterated fictional soldiers and bank account on the boards. We also took numerous family hikes. We gardened, went fishing, biking, and kayaking. We were immersed in nature. We enjoyed activities that didn’t cost money. We had more time to do those activities together. My youngest son learned how to play tennis! We engaged in outdoor, socially distanced activities that really fed our minds, bodies, and spirits in a way we might not have done so much before.
More “Dreaded” Traditional Roles:
I’m really teetering on the edge of that limb, now. But, I’ll state it. I found it refreshing to accept and even embrace a more traditional balance of roles in my home. Though my husband and I were both working online, we both helped each other with the home and family. I found myself staying on top of meals and housework much more easily than before. If something needed fixing or heavy lifting, my husband was right there. I was okay with it. Our family had a natural rhythm and balance that we didn’t seem to have as much of before the pandemic. I became more of a “nester” and my husband, worried about the well-being of his family - became more the protector. It seemed both necessary and easy to settle into roles that almost seemed long forgotten. It was...dare I say...nice.
Touching Base and Checking in With Friends and Colleagues:
There seemed to be more concern for neighbors than ever before. During ZOOM meetings, we would professionally hash out agenda items to address. However, after the meetings were over, some of us just... lingered. We honestly asked how each other was doing and how we were holding up. We were concerned about each other’s health and mental state. We connected on a deeper level. Some colleagues became very close friends. What sought to divide and destroy us through this pandemic, actually brought us closer. We couldn’t see each other, couldn’t hug, or exchange pleasantries next to the water cooler at work anymore, but we could talk. We talked about our families, our trials and tribulations, our frustrations, we laughed, and even exchanged recipes. We got real... real quick.
Families connected and checked in with each other over social platforms and video calls. I remember my older son trying to teach his grandparents how to Skype! Older adults often had to learn and quickly adapt to using social media and technology to see and stay in touch with one another. My mother even started a Facebook account to share pictures! Win!
Mostly Bad But Some Good:
Ideally, we would never experience the plight of COVID 19. Life, as we once knew it, seemed to be bumping along just fine. However, something has changed. My family and friends seem more in tune, more connected, and more understanding. We are making our way through the muck and mire of this new way of life, and we’re doing it all together. Reflecting on the past 6 months, the one resounding quality that this horrible pandemic has bestowed on us all is perhaps; a stronger sense of togetherness. A gift that I readily embrace in times like these. Enjoy your time together, safely. A virtual hug to all of you.
~Amanda Allison, M.Ed.