Pandemic Journal: My Latest reading

A grade 8 student gives her pitch for our new community development hub.

It was so nice to listen to the grade 8 students’ presentations on Friday. The proposals were focused on a name, logo, slogan and color design for our new community development container. We recently installed a 40-foot container near the soccer field to house industrial projects to aid community development. Already, students are recycling plastic and glass and producing honey. The time spent with the students also reminds me that you cannot replace face-to-face teaching and learning. The post-presentation discussions we had between the judges, classmates, grade 12 student observers was so valuable to the grade 8 students. You just can’t replicate that on Zoom.

Sherry Turkle, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has studied computer and digital technology’s impact on humans. In an interview with Dave Davies on NPR’s “Fresh Air” she reminded me that the value that schools really do give to students are strong and caring relationships with teachers that mentor students to be better human beings. Curriculum, ideas, knowledge, skills, attitudes, etc. are important to teach, but most importantly, it is what students learn in the relationships with each other and teachers.

Well, we’ve missed each other. We’ve missed that full embrace of the human because we’ve spent so much time on Zoom. When you’re on Zoom, you give the other person the impression of eye contact by staring at a green light when you’re really not seeing anything at all. So to give somebody the impression of empathy, you end up looking at nothing, and that’s pretend empathy and that’s not where real empathy is born. So I think we’ve missed – we’ve had an experience where we’ve really missed each other in a very profound way. And I think we can’t wait to get back to each other.

National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” March 11, 2021

The Association for the Advancement of International Education each week suggests COVID/Pandemic readings and they always stimulate my thinking. From the MIT Technology Review, Mia Sato reports on the challenges schools are facing in the USA “Why Reopening Schools in the US is so Complicated“. I read with interest about a school in Sharon, Massachusetts used pooled antigen testing. They combine between 5 and 25 students/teachers nose swabs into one sample. If the test comes back negative, all of them are cleared to enter school. The article also mentioned the B.1.1.7 variant that caused schools to close all over Europe, including many fellow member schools of our Central and Eastern European Schools Association. I am concerned about the variant reaching Tashkent and forcing us to close.

Carolyn Barber’s March 10, 2021 article “So What Can People Actually Do After Being Vaccinated?” is a comprehensive review of all of the questions researchers are looking at. My takeaway is the vaccines are amazing and they prevent vaccinated people from hospitalization and death. They also will dramatically reduce transmission. I think we will still be required to wear masks and be careful with large indoor gatherings, but we will be almost back to normal next school year, and probably earlier than later. I hope I am right.

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