During the last three months of this past school year, as the COVID-19 Pandemic was raging, many of our Jewish Day School teachers needed reinvent themselves through creative and out-of-the-box remote teaching. This amazing pedagogic transformation was necessitated out of a profound sense of responsibility and passion to engage students via remote platforms, in the absence of in-person teaching. It was also an imperative driven by a sense of urgency. We had no choice.
As Principal, I will never forget the uncertainty, confusion and fear when our teachers were informed after the school’s Pesach break, they would be teaching our students via zoom, google classroom and other instructional platforms. It was a daunting task for many of our teachers with very little to no distance/remote learning or teaching experience nor time to learn or time to prepare for their lessons.
But, as we all know, many of our teachers, throughout our communities, truly innovated like never before imaginable. To be sure, they went “from zero to one-hundred” virtually overnight, with on-the-spot professional development and technical guidance which they all welcomed voluntarily It was truly a proud defining moment for our school, our faculty, and for this Principal.
Teachers were credited with innovating, creating and sharing digital lesson plans, study units, and activity sheets, project-based modules and student created materials. It was astonishing to see the level of creative and innovative teaching productivity in our school, and throughout our Jewish Day school community.
One of the many project-based initiatives teachers developed involved having students create virtual time-capsules comprised of stories, poems, artifacts and journal logs. What emerged were an array of beautiful thought-provoking age-appropriate ideas and information. Students included news stories about the pandemic, family experiences in isolation while sitting at a half-empty Pesach Seder tables, their feelings about distance learning, the yearning for sports, pictures of face masks, photos of friends family and pets, songs, poetry,…..and, the list goes on.
This once in a lifetime experience (one of many in my school), motivated me to think long and hard about the question — If we as adults were tasked with creating our own 2020 Pandemic Time-Capsule, what would it look like? What kinds of journal logs would we develop? What kinds of feelings and emotions would we share? and what would we want people in 20-30 years to know about the impact of this Pandemic? And finally, what were some of the concrete “take-a-ways” or lessons learned for future generations from the 2020 Pandemic experience.
The following are several thoughts and reflections many of us have experienced during this Pandemic They are based upon non-hypothetical events and experiences; and, are inspired by the feelings and thoughts of people (self included) who are now facing the realities of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The following are “reality snapshots” based on real-time events, experiences, observations and feelings which are recorded for posterity in what is now referred to as our 2020 Pandemic Time-Capsule. Several are presented as “hardships” and several as “opportunities”. In the final analysis, it will be entirely up to the future readers to determine their implications, relevance or significance as we move into the future.
DATELINE: AUGUST 9, 2020
“HARDSHIPS” RESULTING FROM THE PANDEMIC (the glass is half-empty)
- Social isolation and the need to maintain safe social distancing from family members has created an unswerving yearning for closeness and a renewed sense of appreciation for family members, family values and family engagement;
- We awake every morning hoping and praying that the Pandemic was nothing more than a horrible dream….But then the reality sinks in that it is no dream but a daunting reality of epic magnitude;
- We witness the resistance of many people to wear a face masks in public. This sad reality flies in the face of civility – especially since the wearing of these masks reduces the infectious spread by up to 50%, depending upon the viral load;
- We talk about harsh and difficult challenges and obstacles with reluctant acceptance by referring to them as the “new normal”. But, in reality, deep down inside all of us we know that there is nothing really normal about them;
- We witness the increased number of families who lost jobs and who are struggling to make ends meet, pay the rent or put food on their tables – as food prices increase resulting from significant disruption in our food-chain;
- We yearn to attend a synagogue minyan so that we can recite Kaddish for a loved one only to be confronted with the depressing reality of a non-minyan or a minyan not conducive for a person over the age of 65 with underlying heath concerns;
- We hope and pray every day for a national (federal) plan or response to our public health crisis, only to be disappointed by a national paralysis or a political unwillingness to move one forward.
- We experience a COVID-19 testing process which to date has failed our community with long waiting times for results ….and, at times inaccurate test readings;
- We plan tirelessly to help ensure that our students and faculty will be returning to safe and healthy schools when we reopen; And we try desperately to ensure parents that we are doing everything possible to ensure their children’s heath and safety;
- We limit our physical exposure to the outside world for fear of contracting the virus. In fact, there are individuals and couples who have not left their homes since mid-March, 2020. The lack of exercise and fresh air can have a negative long term impact of these individuals;
- We are beginning to hear news about friends and close colleagues who are now ill due to the virus – some of whom are in critical condition — we prayer for their speedy recovery
- We are reluctance to schedule visits to doctors offices, clinics or hospitals for physical exams, blood work or tests…. all of which can have a dramatic affect on current and future health;
- The education of our children is being adversely affected through non-conventional approaches to teaching. and an over-reliance and dependence upon distance/remote learning;
- The increased number of cases of loneliness and depression are having a dramatic affect on the health and welfare of our children, young adults and adults.
“OPPORTUNITIES” RESULTING FROM THE PANDEMIC: (the glass is half full)
- We see a dramatic increase in volunteerism and community activism in order to help communities in their efforts to provide support for the disadvantaged, elderly and poor;
- We see an impressive proliferation of distance/remote learning and teaching opportunities by world renowned scholars, clergy, leaders and academicians;
- We feel an increased yearning for spirituality, prayer, religiosity and self-reflection;
- We see an increased successful use and application of telemedicine and diagnostic testing in the medical community;
- We are constantly hearing about the increased number of institutions that are currently working frantically to develop COVID-19 vaccines and a wide array of newly created therapeutics to help patients recover from the disease;
- The increased number of companies that are now producing PPE (Protective Personal Equipment at an amazingly accelerated rate;
- We feel and experience renewed appreciation for the sanctity of family, family values and family connections;
- Businesses, markets and restaurants are providing more consumers with “curbside” products in order to accommodate the needs of people who are either hesitant or reluctant to venture out into the public domain;
- There is a new-found respect and admiration for medical first responders and for those medical emergency personnel who in the forefront of combating the COVID-19 disease in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and other health related facilities;
- There is a new-found respect and understanding regarding the importance of physical hygiene, health standards, protocols and practices; and,
- We are finally experiencing a long overdue level of respect and gratitude for our teachers who have sacrificed so much to reach, teach, and inspire our children during this very challenging time.
The above “time-capsule” journal entries – whether they be “hardships” or opportunities” – whether they be glasses half empty or half full – will hopefully provide readers ( in the future) with a fuller and clearer perspective regarding the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 on our lives.
In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my faculty and to their students for helping inspire this post. It was through their creative and innovative “Time-Capsule” projects of this past Spring that I was inspired and encouraged to commit these thoughts to writing.
Let us hope and pray that the uplifting “opportunities” in these Journal entries outweigh the daunting hardships contained herein; and that the lessons learned from this Pandemic will spawn an era of “new normalcy” anchored in kindness, goodness, empathy, respect, love and above all, a greater appreciation for human life and for being created in the image of GD.
As many of us may know, only GD controls the world. We may not always like what we see, how we feel or what we experience. At times, events in history disappoint us; and at times it may make us feel hopeless. But, at the end of the day, it is up to us to search and find that glimmer of hope and promise which embraces and celebrate resiliency positive thinking, optimism for the future.
Let us hope a pray that the Pandemic of 2020 will end soon; and, may we all be blessed with good health, happiness