Written by: Amanda Cottrell, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
We have been living in a very different world than we are used to for the last year, different countries have different levels of lockdowns, and people have different opinions of what should and should not be happening. One thing is for sure. We are living in a very different time than we were a year ago. Regardless of your opinion of the do’s and don’t of this time period, as an educator, my question during this time is, “what are we learning and teaching others through this?”
I struggle the most because it seems that people’s mental health is being ignored through the decisions being made by different levels of government. These decisions are being filtered down to affecting the youngest members of our society, and I question how this will affect the future generation. In classrooms, we see an increase in anxiety amongst the children, and I even see it in my daughter.
People are now more afraid of going close to others than actually helping others which are really concerning to me. We teach others to embrace distance, and we take care of each other by staring at our screens and connecting digitally with little concern to the amount of screen time everyone is getting. I seriously question how growing up will affect our future generations' compassion and empathy.
In my home, enjoying nature and taking care of our mental health has been the sole focus of the pandemic. However, even with this focus at home, my daughter has been very anxious about strangers. For example, we were skiing on a huge powder day, and I stopped partway down the hill as I saw another child around 12 years old who was struggling. I asked if he was ok. He said no, he could not get up his skis were stuck underneath him, and he was starting to get visibly upset as his parents were nowhere near.
I yelled to my daughter to wait and went to help the child who was struggling in the deep snow. He was super grateful and needed me to pull him up out of the snow so he could find his ski and get back on the run. When I skied down to my daughter, she started yelling at me that I had gone up to a stranger and was going to get COVID. She was so upset that I had helped another person who was in trouble because she was so worried about what she had heard about COVID from others outside our home.
This experience made me stop and question how what is happening in the world affects our children. Also, what is it that we are teaching them? I see an increase in people who are afraid of others more than they are willing to help others, and as an educator, that concerns me.
I want the next generation to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic people who can collaborate and think critically about what they are learning and what they hear on the news, internet, and social media. I question if any of these values are considered when new rules and restrictions are being put on society throughout the pandemic.
Also, while the switch to online, everything has some benefits. I question how online learning will affect students in the long run. I know some students excel at online learning but not all do. We are expecting teachers to be experts in online learning, and many have minimal technology experience. I know teachers are all doing the best they can with what they have. Even with a Master's Degree in Education Technology, I struggled with some aspects of teaching online. I cannot imagine how stressed other educators with less technological experience managed and are managing. I can also look through online learning from the lens of a student as the second half of my Master's Degree was online. Even as a mature student, I found that I got so much more out of my personal experience than I ever did out of the online courses. Also, I am an introvert, so I cannot imagine how hard it is for extroverts to learn and work solely online.
As I watch how this year has progressed, I contemplate what students and society, in general, are learning through the pandemic. I hope they learn compassion, empathy, and kindness and how we can come together as a community even in troubled times. I wrote a children’s book called “What do We Learn at School” a few years ago after having two perfect kids in my class argue and be so completely frustrated with each other for almost a week. I went home that night and contemplated what I wanted them to learn from each other and the situation. My goal of the book was to recognize that in 20 years, they will remember very little about what I taught them in elementary school, but what they would remember was how I made them feel and how their classmates made them feel.
I think we should all take a step back and question what we will remember about the pandemic in 20 years. I hope in 20 years we all remember the people who stepped up to support us during this and not the ones that continue to tear each other down. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have right now. No matter what end of the opinion poll you sit on for the pandemic issues, I ask you to question what we can learn about humanity from this and how we can come together as a more compassionate, collaborative,e and empathetic global society.
Amanda Cottrell, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Believe! Create! Inspire! Amanda Marie Cottrell is a woman who wears many hats with a BA in Political Science, B.Ed in elementary education, M.Ed specializing in creativity and technology, Reiki master, yoga for young children instructor, artist, mom, author, illustrator, and teacher. She also runs an arts-based business teaching art and mindfulness workshops. As an educator of young children for over 14 years, Amanda’s passion is education and creativity. She believes that everyone has creative capacities. Her mission is to empower people by tapping into their unique creative gifts through connection and mindfulness. Namaste!