The downsides associated with our current age of information and technology is nothing new. We are already aware of the fact that the media has a impact on the way we see the world. The information that is put out for us to see is often skewed in some way or another and doesn’t fully represent reality. This is nothing new, however, what may be worth considering is how we take in this information. I am essentially referring to a process of discernment. Education is more than the mere acquisition of information, but is a movement of looking carefully at the information the world provides. To understand for ourselves with clarity and wisdom. Sometimes this requires us to look at the physical tangible world, but also requires a more subtle awareness of that which is unseen, of that which is felt. Information is constantly coming in from a variety of sources. Which information do you most readily pay attention to?
Information comes to us in many forms. We receive information in the form of sensations, for example, we get information through our skin about the weather by stepping outside and feeling that it is hot. We can also get that information by checking the weather app on our phone. Have you ever looked at your phone to see if it raining, before you even look out the window or listen for the sound of raindrops on the roof? We may not even need the weather app to know if it will rain later in the day if we take time to feel our bodies and the way the atmospheric changes effect us. We have lost this sensitivity to the subtle and have chosen to outsource it to the information we receive from media and technology. I don’t mean to disregard the benefits of media and technology, I personally am very grateful for facebook which allows me to stay connected with friends from around the world, and whatsapp for allowing me to to video chat with my parents on the other side of the world. Technology is undoubtedly useful and helpful in a multitude of ways. I am simply suggesting that we take a closer look at the way these sources of information impact the way we learn and understand ourselves and our world. What information do we rely on and what information are we unknowingly desensitized to?
When I have taken some time away from my phone and its constant influx of information regarding covid-19, I have found that there are other sources of information that I can access. The information I typically take for granted is that which is present from my ability to be present and aware to what I actually see and experience around me. I am not disregarding information from other sources, but expanding my vision, looking, listening, and feeling into the world around me. For example, during my rare trips out of my home to get groceries, I see more clearly the faces of those individuals who are working to stock the shelves, pack my bags, and ring me out. I see the grab drivers who are still delivering food, waste management workers, gardeners, and traffic police. I see those people who we are now referring to as “essential workers.” I have found it extraordinary to witness and experience how much I depend on these individuals. Without them, I wouldn’t have food on my table.
What I have come to experience and learn first hand through being present to the situation around me, is that we are all connected, all in need of each other. We are interconnected and interdependent. This is easy to forget when we are cooped up at home, practicing social distancing. We can easily forget that we are all connected to one another and we each have an essential role to play in the movement of life. It is particularly difficult when you feel yourself stepping back from someone standing too close to you in fear that they may infect you. Although I might have to physically distance my body, it doesn’t mean i need to distance my heart from others. This is what I have been in the process of recognizing and learning more deeply during these past few weeks. In being present and aware to this information, I have grown to see how rooted we all are to this earth and to each other.
This then leads me to reflect on how this relates to education. To begin, I feel that serves as a reminder to us as teachers, a reminder to be present and aware of the current situation we are living in. What is our response to our current conditions, what are we aware of, what information are we utilizing, and how is this process helping us learn? We need to continue to be observant, awake, and aware of all the information that is available to us and how we then take information in, process it, and live meaningfully with it. If we as teachers have an ability to engage in the world with this awareness, it will help us to see more clearly. As we can see more clearly, we can teach and guide our students more clearly too, even during challenging circumstances.
As times call for the necessity of social distancing and online learning, we teachers are forced to look at how to best guide our students. In many ways, it is no different than what we would do in the classroom. In the classroom, we would help our students to observe, feel, and notice. We want to help our students sort through the influx of information that is flooding their every moment, to understand it with depth and meaning. The process of working with information for us as teachers and for our students is essentially the same. We educate ourselves with the information we are given and to do so well, we need patience, wisdom, and compassion. Therefore, may we take this very moment and this very situation to be contemplative, thoughtful, and aware. This is another opportunity to learn about ourselves and the world. The more that we can use all our senses, both at the gross and subtle level, to understand and learn in every moment, the greater our potential will be to learn and grow with our students.