Welcome to May, which in my world doesn’t look like it will be much different than April. So, let’s call this season “Maypril.” Whether we get to have a distinct June, July, and August will depend on how well this reopening experiment goes. I’m in one of the experimental groups here in Alabama, but we’re getting a lower dose of the IV than our neighbors in Georgia…
Since the beginning of our isolation responses to this pandemic, people have been waxing philosophic about what might change as a result of our current “normal.” People have been predicting all sorts of societal improvements like a reversing of global climate change, the end of racism, more people getting exercise, a rejection of constant technology dependence, and more man buns. Consider that pollution seems to be clearing up in many places, gas prices are ridiculously low, and my husband’s hair is getting pretty long. Unfortunately, racism still seems alive and well, and my 8-year-old son lives for his 2 hours of entertainment screen time each day. Some things look like they are changing while others remain the same – which is pretty much the same as things have always been, come to think of it.
I think about how other momentous events in my lifetime have changed me and the world around me. I remember watching the Challenger launch live at school in 1986. Afterwards, we rarely watched live events in school. I remember being a new high school teacher the year of the Columbine tragedy. Afterwards, I would make plans in my head for how I could protect my students from an active shooter. I watched the 9-11 attacks unfold in real time. Afterwards, traveling by plane hasn’t been the same. COVID19 has thrown us all for a loop, and, on some levels, we will be forever changed because of it. For a long while, we might be wary of close contact with strangers. We might look askance at people coughing in public. We might be frustrated with people not wearing masks in public.
What will change about teaching and learning? Will more teachers be incorporating good practices in distance/online learning? Will teachers discuss what content or assignments to prioritize in case more closings happen? Will our grading practices and deadlines be better at considering student life circumstances? Will we balance work and life better?
We teach psychology, so we know that, in all likelihood, people will drift back to habits and preferences from before the pandemic faster than the predictions hope. We have spent – and probably will spend – a long time under these cautious conditions, and new habits surely will form. We might eat in more. We might spend more time talking to each other. We might do better at distance learning in the future. We might keep the daily walk ritual going. We will also get manicures and haircuts. We will eat out and shop in stores again. Our children will play with other children again.
I encourage you during this extraordinary season to reflect on what you want to return to and what you want to be different. What for you has been precious about this time? What has been unmanageable? What will you hope to regain? What will you never return to? Connect with me on our STP Facebook page and on Twitter (just tag me - @afineburg in your @teachpsych tweet) to share your visions of our future as people and as teachers of psychology.
Here’s hoping our post-COVID world learns lessons from pre- and thru-COVID that leave us better than before.
Amy C. Fineburg, PhD2020 STP President