COVID 19 – Bringing People Together

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The last three weeks have for many of us, been the most challenging of our lives. Between the closing of schools and restrictions on our personal activities, all of us have been close to the breaking point in one way or another. Yet, with all of these challenges, and possibly more to come, perhaps, there are some positive lessons from which we can all learn.

While most teachers and students around the world have been thrust into the world of online learning in the matter of days, my company has actually been creating and teaching online courses for almost a decade. So, as experienced online educators, our staff rolled up our virtual sleeves and we quickly became a resource for teachers all over the world. With the help of social media, my company offered six free webinars on various online teaching topics. Clearly, we provided a needed service, as there were more than 2,000 participants in total. Being able to help our fellow educators during these tough times is still an amazing feeling. Even more remarkable however, were the true lessons of growth and hope that emerged from these webinars.

As we were waiting to begin the first webinar, participants began to sign into the Zoom meeting. Patty, from Austin was the first person to sign in. She was followed by Tom from Atlanta, Eliezer from Boston, Pravesh from Mumbai, and Saveeta from Saudi Arabia. After a few more minutes, there were participants from even more locations including Jerusalem, Dubai, Ramallah, South Africa, and China. Before I was able to begin teaching, I had to stop and look at my virtual classroom of participants from all over the world. How often do we have teachers from Saudi Arabia learning together with teachers from Israel? It suddenly hit me that we are all now dealing with the same challenges, regardless of our locations, religions, or beliefs. Towards the end of the session, an Orthodox Jewish teacher from New York, asked a question about classroom management with large groups of students. I gave him some ideas, and then I asked the group if anyone else had anything to add. A Muslim teacher from Dubai raised her hand and unmuted her mic. In an instant, these two educators, opposite in so many ways, were brainstorming together, facing the same problems. They even exchanged email addresses so that they could continue talking after the session was over.

Even social media has provided a platform to the global audience. I am a member of several groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other platforms. These groups focus on everything from general education help to temporary school closures. While I have certainly done my share of posting, it has been extremely enlightening to read ideas and messages from others. As was the case with my webinar, it is clear that everyone is going through the same experiences. Being part of a virtual, global community has been a true help for everyone involved. I work in education, but I have no doubt that the same types of support are in place for other professions and groups as well.

As we enter the holiday season, we all have two choices. We can dwell on the negatives and think about all those guests who will not be at this year’s seder. We can complain about the restrictions that have been put in place, which prevent us from visiting family and friends. Yes, these are all difficult situations with which he are now forced to face head on. There is however another choice. We can also examine our current state of affairs and look to see how we can make the best of our situations, even if the solutions may not be ideal. I know that I have learned so many more ideas for making our seder more interactive and enjoyable just from reading the posts of my virtual colleagues on social media. As more educators have become comfortable using platforms such as Zoom to deliver classes, webinars, and other learning opportunities, this can be a time for us to expand our knowledge without leaving our homes. Most importantly however, we can remember that we are all in this together. Whether we live in Dubai, India, the US, or Israel, we are all going through the same difficult times. Yes, these are tough times for us all. Yet, if we can use this as an opportunity to bring two teachers from opposite sides of the world, with opposite beliefs together, then maybe we can see a glimmer of hope as we get ready to begin the holidays.

About the Author
Aryeh Eisenberg is the CEO and General Manager of Bonim B'Yachad, an online education technology provider for schools and individuals. Based in Israel, Bonim B'Yachad works with students all over the world.
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