The Profound Effects of the COVID Experience & Guides in the Next Steps Forward
Written by: Colette Huxford-Kinnett
I am not sure if we can yet verbalize all of the ways that COVID has changed us – our yearning for togetherness, yet hesitancy to get too close; our deep hunger for meaningful interactions, yet longing for the time at home that we grew accustomed too; our desire for a return to normalcy, yet do we really want life to go back to exactly what it was?
“Education is more than words and numbers.”
COVID forced us to stop, to dig deep, and to really decide what is important, both in life and in education. Our students did not learn as well without the daily interaction with us, their teachers. We enjoyed the moments of quiet, yet missed all of the minds we are privileged to help shape. Their mental well-being suffered, as did ours. COVID whittled us down to the basics; if you cannot read, write, or perform basic math, you are crippled in so many ways; however, education is more than words and numbers. Can you wait in line, take your turn, keep your hands to yourself, show kindness and compassion to those around you? All small things, but important things. All things we do not realize when and where we learn them, but learn them we do.
The experience of COVID has been hard on us in more ways that we may even yet realize. I lost my mom. She was my best friend. We were especially close after having lived through ten years of my father’s battle with brain cancer, which took him just days after I turned eighteen. With the loss of my mom, the care of my 101-year-old Grandma fell to me, a responsibility I gladly accepted, but one that makes the loss of my mom even more profound, powerful, and poignant, and even more so as I know that she is also nearing the end of her journey*.
However, I am not alone in this loss. Many, if not most, of us have lost someone we love, someone who is important to us to this dreadful scourge that seems to find where we are weak and attacks with a vengeance; however, I am a firm believer out of loss and out of tragedy can arise hope and strength and wisdom. I hope the COVID experience has helped us to truly value those we love and the time that we have together. I think perhaps that is one of the greatest things we have all come to appreciate after months of quarantine, masks, and lack of social interaction. Even those of us who are introverts are social creatures as well, and the isolation has been difficult. We need relationships. We need each other. We need our students. Our students need us. We need hours together in both structured and unstructured settings such as school and work or just chilling with friends.
“We need relationships. We need each other. We need our students. Our students need us.”
For our students, and for us, Amanda Gorman and Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin capture this experience so beautifully and so eloquently in their publications Call Us What We Carry and Ain’t Burned All That Bright, both of which were born of the COVID experience. There is a reason that Miss Gorman has received so much attention and so many accolades. She has earned them. She is masterful at using phrases and words to paint pictures that speak to both your heart and your mind. Jason and Jason come from two very different worlds, and they have two very different talents, yet together with using only 3 sentences and a book full of sketches, they too tell a powerful story of where we have been and where we can yet hope to go. If you, like I, are heartened to be finding some sense of normalcy in our return to school and to life, but are still struggling to adjust to profound loss, I highly recommend investing some of your precious time with both of these books and allow the healing to begin.
*Editor’s Note: The author’s grandmother passed away shortly before this blog was published.