Coping with Covid-19 has been a challenge for everyone over the past eight months. The need to stay safe has seriously altered our routines and made it more difficult to keep connected with others. Like everyone else, educators have faced a unique set of challenges; regardless of how schools choose to deal with bringing students back to in-person learning, things are anything but normal. Sometimes, however, even an unwelcome disruption in the ordinary patterns of our lives can lead to something new and positive. In the process of finding new ways to stay connected, many of us--including myself--have found actually renewed relationships with old friends who live far away through Zoom meetings. We could have done something like that before Covid, but never thought of, or never got around to, making those sort of plans.
I have had some of these unexpected boons in my role as a teacher too. We have had to experiment with new technologies and approaches, some of which will still be useful when things are “normal” again. Sometimes new ways of communicating have actually helped to build my relationships with students. About a year ago--before Covid hit--I started an informal one-on-one reading group with one of my senior students. As an aspiring writer, she decided that she wanted to read as many important and great books as she could before she left high school (what an exciting thing for a teacher to hear!), and I offered to meet with her to talk about the books. This is the sort of thing that I have always especially enjoyed about teaching at Huntington-Surrey. Because we have such a low student to teacher ratio, we get to know our students as individuals very well, and we can adapt to their needs and accommodate their interests in a unique way. Neither of us was required to have this reading group, nor was there any practical reward; it was just something that we wanted to do. We read everything from Dante to Dostoevsky to Delillo, and we both learned a lot along the way (even though I had read most of the books before, I always find I learn new things from sharing the reading experience with a student).
When we shifted to online learning in the Spring, I asked this student if she wanted to keep meeting. She did; in fact, she wanted to meet more often. Previously, managing our meetings was more complicated; after school, sometimes there were places to go, other obligations, traffic to worry about, and so forth. But with many of those burdens lifted, it became easier. In fact, even once school ended, we decided to keep meeting over the summer and even once Huntington-Surrey started up again (her college having delayed their move-in date for incoming students). Partly it was about the love of reading, but it was also an opportunity for us to bond as people. We talked about the books but also about just about life in general. It became a source of treasured familiarity in a time of change and uncertainty, and I think we both missed it when it was time to move on. But it is an example of what I love most about being a teacher: sharing my love of learning and bonding with students as people in ways that change both of our lives. That is something that Covid hasn’t changed.