The current situation of the world, in which we face the CoVid-19 virus, has had a shocking effect on humanity and the way we live in the world. In just a matter of a few months, the disease has forced us to retreat into the isolation of our homes. In efforts to curve the spread of infection, countries in all corners of the world have called for people to take up the practice of social distancing. We can’t go to our place of work, our schools, restaurants, or venues where people gather. We have become obsessed with hand sanitizer and washing our hands. We panic buy toilet paper until there is none left on the store shelves. There is fear lurking in every encounter we have with people from outside our own homes. We watch the news and witness the growing rates of infected people, as well as the death toll. Our minds pulled to thoughts that we have never had before and the uncertainty of what lays ahead taunts us daily. Humanity has never had to face such an experience, and as social beings, it has already challenged us greatly. The way we live, is in the world. Our lives are lived with others, in our places of work or school. How then can we be beings of the world, when we are forced to live in isolation and wait with such uncertainty as to what the future holds?
As dismal and frightful as this all seems, it is the reality of our world today. We have to face the situation and adapt ourselves accordingly. This then becomes the question that I am curious to consider in more depth. Given our current situation, which is quite novel and somewhat extreme, what is it that we are doing to adjust ourselves to meet the current state of the world. It feels so easy to sit at home and watch Netflix for hours on end, get lost playing online games, or scrolling robotically through our Facebook feeds. To be in the world well, we must consider and take time to contemplate how we want to be in the world. Being present in the world doesn’t end because we are spending most of our time isolated at home. Our impact in the world continues to matter, even though that presence and impact might shift slightly.
Before the virus caused all these changes to take effect, I was teaching Kindergarten at a school here in Bangkok where I live. I had the great joy of meeting 25 bright eyed children everyday, talking to them, watching them play, and interact with their peers. We could go on walks through our school together, discover where the fruit trees grew on campus, sing songs, and learn together. Now, although the school year has yet to conclude, my students, as well as all teachers, are not allowed to come to school. I am still a kindergarten teacher here in Bangkok, but my students and I no longer have the chance to be together, to observe each other, and explore the world side by side. I am at my home and my students are at their homes. We are physically separated to protect each other and keep all of us safe. This situation and precautionary measures are the reality. It is not necessary to see them as good or bad, just as the reality that we are all living in. So again, it brings me to wonder, how do we adjust ourselves given these circumstances.
I have spent a lot of time formulating my idea of what it means to be teacher and to create a holistic and compassionate learning experience for my students. Much of my concept revolved around being with my students. To sit besides them as they face a new challenge, help them inquire about the world and explore themselves and who they are. Teaching for me was about developing myself holistically as a human being to serve as a living role model for my students. So much of that is now impossible. I can’t be with my students so how can I be a role model, how can we observe each other, how can I help them inquire into who they are and the world around them?
This is the question that I have been facing everyday as I attempt to engage with distance learning. I still feel a deep desire to be connected to my students, and to help them learn and grow during this time. I still feel that I am their teacher, but what being their teacher means seems to be something quite different than it was before. I find that these questions are particularly challenging in the case of younger children. It doesn’t seem appropriate (or holistic) to ask them to engage in online learning which would required them to stare a screen for several hours a day. The stage of learning that they are in requires them to be actively engaged in their world through various forms of exploration. How do we educate the being of children from a distance, is there a shift in our being as teachers, our role, and our work? I find it necessary to adapt, but I hope to do so from a place that has deeply considered what education (even from a distance) is for. If we can keep in mind the aim of a holistic, compassionate, and child-centered education, we might be able to understand the steps to creating such an education, even in the novel situation of the world today.
|Looking forward to being together again|
|To find joy in learning side by side|