The COVID-19 quarantine began here in Lima, Peru six months ago, on March 15, 2020. While the restrictions are in a constant ebb and flow, one thing remains clear: The danger is real. Recent data for Peru tell us that almost 750,000 people have tested positive and more than 30,000 have died because of COVID-19. Of course the burden falls heaviest on the impoverished.
Teaching for me is still online. I still don’t like it much when I compare it to teaching in person, but I consider myself extremely lucky that I can work from home and my students can learn from home. In the process, I am learning much about online education and video creation. (I love the creative part of all of this! One of my videos has over 1,400 views!)
What will the future bring? In reality, no one knows. There will be more deaths and more people infected. Eventually a vaccine will prove safe and effective. Eventually more activities will return to nearer-to-normal with increased capacity in restaurants; international flights are scheduled to resume in mid-October.
Is normal, though, what we want? How can we take what we have learned about family time, a slower pace, and cleaner air into the future with us? I hope that we can hang onto the positive changes that this tragedy has brought.
Viktor Frankl reminds us that meaning can be found through love, work and suffering. If we cannot avoid the suffering, perhaps we can find meaning in it, if we are open to doing so. This pandemic has caused much suffering. I truly hope that we can find meaning in the suffering and make improvements in our lives and in the world. May the new normal be better than the old normal. It is up to us.
It could always be worse.
With the arrival of the coronavirus, Peru is in lockdown. All schools are closed until Monday, March 30. All people in Peru are in quarantine until the same date. No one leaves home without official permission, or a very good reason. Police and the military are stopping people, asking questions, and detaining them if necessary.
If all goes well, schools will resume on that Monday with a flattened coronavirus curve. Because some people are not following the directive, an overnight curfew will be implemented beginning tonight. From 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM no one leaves home. No one. Starting tomorrow morning, no personal cars can be on the roads. None.
During this crisis, I am teaching middle school from home. Thankfully, my students have been wonderfully flexible as we figure out online learning. Kudos to them, their parents, and the team of adults from school that make this possible!
I remember three years ago when heavy rains caused landslides that filled the rivers and closed the water processing plant for Lima (los huaicos). At that time, the schools also closed. If I had to choose (and I don’t want to), I think I prefer being locked down with water to living in Lima with no water. Maybe a couple of weeks like this will change my mind. I will let you know.
For now, Zoom lets us keep classes going and allows for other gatherings, such as a St. Patrick’s Day Zoom with family in Minnesota. And I am at home, unlike my fellow Minnesotans who are stranded here, waiting for flights home. With patience and good humor, all will be well.
All will be well.
As I teach my 6th graders, I will sometimes create in the style that I am teaching. When teaching limericks, write limericks!
Lorenzo he searched for a book.
“I wonder which one of you took
The book that I had
And made me feel sad.”
Saw Ian and called him a crook.
Said Emma to Luke here’s a dare:
“When Erick sits down take his chair.”
But Erick was wise
To the not-nice surprise.
Said Luke, “It’s not fair you’re aware.”
Miranda thought, “Class is a bore.
“I can’t stand to sit on floor.”
She talked and she sighed
And she shouted with pride.
So Finlay he showed her the door.
A few of my students struggle with self-control. Their impulsive behavior leads them into difficulties that they blame on other students (and teachers). “The other kids don’t understand,” or “The teachers take it too seriously,” are common comments that admit no personal responsibility. Indeed, there may be responsibility beyond the personal- other students may be baiting, trying to get a good reaction; perhaps there are structural issues that would better support the students who are struggling. Right now, though, I am going to try a quick ABC with them.
Notice yourself. What are you doing? feeling? thinking? Don’t judge those actions, feelings and thoughts just notice them. Can you name them?
Notice others. What are they doing? feeling? thinking? Can you name what is happening around you. This is a great place to use those inferring skills.
When you came to awareness, were you aware of your breathing? Do that now. Breathe in. How long did you inhale? Hold your breath for that same amount of time. Exhale for that same amount of time. If the first time you inhaled for a count of three, try for a count of four. As you do this, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Be purposeful in your breathing. Try this 5 times: inhale- hold- exhale.
Choose your actions. Will you stay quiet or will you speak up? Will you stay still or will you move. We do not choose our feelings but we can usually choose how we express those feelings. If you are happy at a stadium, you may stand up and cheer for your team. If you are happy at a quiet church service you probably won’t stand up and cheer. At this moment, is one way of acting better than another way? Make your best choice for this moment.
Maybe this will help some of my students. Maybe teaching them will make me better at doing the same. I’ll keep you posted.
Are you one of the mindful people? I am. Well, I try to be. I love the ideas of presence and breathing and noticing and all those mindful things. I know the best relaxation techniques; I use them personally and with my students. I take time to notice those around me and the sensations within me. Breathe. Be present.
But what about the rest of the day? If we can take 10 minutes to be mindful on purpose that is good. How, though, can we keep mindfulness going as a way of life?
To begin with let’s stop being busy. Some folks wear busyness as a badge of honor. They don’t have time and can’t make time. They fill their schedules and their children’s schedules with so much to do that there is no time to be bored. I loved being bored as a kid- that’s when I was at my most creative, much to the chagrin of my parents. We dug holes and drilled holes and played Evel Kenievel. “Go outside and play” was never a punishment but a liberation: discover, wonder, create, and sometimes get in trouble. How often do you go out and play, whatever that means for you now, with no plan nor agenda?
Then, let’s be aware of our screens. How many screens do you have that keep you busy? Computer? Tablet? Phone? Kindle? Which Joneses do you feel a need to keep up with? The news? A TV show? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? How much time does that leave for friends and family face-to-face? In my case, not enough. So, I am mindful of my screen time and am trying to reduce it. It is hard, though, when the emails come at all hours and a friend is posting photos on Instagram of his new house in a new country. With email at work I try not to send email from home or on weekends. I cannot be present nor help others be present when I interrupt them with things that can wait. Perhaps we can agree to fewer emails after hours and more face-to-face during hours.
Finally, let’s focus. We know that multi-tasking is a myth yet we still try to do too much (if you are always busy you might be trying to do too much). A Jack of all trades is a master of none. Businesses speak of core competencies: what are the main products and services of your business? If you try to do too many things you may do none well. The core competency of schools is education. Is your school doing too many other activities? How many of them can be done by parents and members of the community so that teachers can focus on the education of the students? Bringing in the wider community brings people together and actually builds community because it does take a village.
Let’s be mindful of how we live life: We only get one chance at today. Name your priorities and live them knowing it is okay to say no. Build community and make time. Me? I’m gonna go out and play and breathe and notice.
Is it unfair to learn?
As I teach my classes, four sections of the same grade level content, I become a better teacher- I notice the mistakes that the previous class made; I understand their misunderstandings; I see the gaps in my teaching. I learn. That being said, class #4 receives all of my learning from the previous three classes and produces higher quality work. They may even receive, on average, higher grades (I will check to see if this last item is true).
Is this unfair for class #1? Is it unfair that the teaching they receive, because they receive it first, will always be a little less complete and polished? Is this like asking if it is unfair for the first child in a family to have to train the parents?
Now, I return to weave the threads of learning for that first class, perhaps with colors not as bright but beautiful nonetheless.
Follow up the video by reading the book: The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
También puedes leer el libro en español: El héroe de las mil caras.
After breakfast a
tall, clear glass
of snow-white milk
The hot summer sun
sizzles my skin and
cooks the milk.
Thirsty, I …
Blech! Yuck! Plephtshw!