Empathy in times of crisis

Photo by Muzammil Soorma on Unsplash

Be brave is uncomfortable

Brené Brown

“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful place called ‘Wondercity’, all their citizens were happy doing what they know, day after day, week after week, year after year. Only when the “mastermind” changes different areas of their routines every 5 years, they change. Otherwise, they will continue on the same routine, as they get results on evaluations. No need to change, no need to evolve. They were living in their perfect comfort zone.

One day, a dark plague arises on faraway kingdoms. They felt sorry for them but they kept on doing their lives. The plague expanded more and more but nobody wants to open up and raise their voice, or concerns about it. They felt comfortable and happy with their lives. All of a sudden, people of Wondercity were called and told that their ways to do their routines have to change 180 degrees because of the plague. All new ways of communication have been established, and without previous notice, they have to face their clients the following day. 

People were shocked, disappointed, insecure, uncomfortable. They wanted to replicate what they knew within the new ways of communication but they failed. Feeling insecure, vulnerable in front of their clients” 

The end.

Sound familiar? 

We are all facing different challenges with the Coronavirus. We are all feeling different emotions as every day things change, and the feeling of uncertainty arises. The educational world is looking into China, and its practices during their lockdown to guide their path. I have seen schools getting ready for it. I’m lucky to have friends in different Southeast Asian countries and we were sharing ideas, emotions and trying to feel supported. In some places, they were having lots of training sessions with their staff, trials with students at home. 

Others, not so ready. Just making the change happened because they didn’t have any other option. Schools were closed by the governments in precaution of turning into viral focus.

I feel I’m lucky. Last year, I started to develop my PLN on Twitter (@lbandini), I have been following up several educators in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, many COETAIL-ers and learning from their practices. Even though I was still working at my school every day, I was so emotionally involved in their journey, learning from their practices, and sharing my views. 

I’m a current listener of the podcast “Coach better”, perhaps those episodes conducted by Kim Cofino with educators that were locked down sharing what worked or didn’t work, are the most powerful example of a community helping and learning from each other.

 I realized the importance of training the staff, prevention plans, and developing proper professional learning experiences, but also encouraging your staff to be in charge of their own professional development. Do not rely only on your employer. Your learning, it’s on your hands

So, I should be honest. I was very concerned and worried about my school. I was overwhelmed by the information so I created a new collection on Wakelet ‘Covid-19 suggestions’ in which I started to add information about policies, practices, infographics than can be relevant. But, I think I was the only one.

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

In their shoes 

On course 4, I was introduced to Brene Brown. I appreciate another perspective of the educator’s role with their students. How educators can support students to develop the courage to face any situation. And, the responsibility of caring about the mental well-being of students. Therefore, their actions cannot make a student feel shame, guilt, humiliation or embarrassment. Shame cannot happen in the classroom.

Educators wear many hats, and a counselor’s hat can be another role to their list. As Brene says”…we should learn, grow and challenge what we think we know

This is the moment to turn around and look into teachers/educators and ask them:

 How do they feel? How are they facing the challenge of teaching online? How can we wear your shoes? How can we show empathy? What can we do to help?

It’s the moment to show empathy and support educators/teachers. It’s the moment to think less about me and think about us. It’s the moment to be in their shoes.

Talking to different people about their early experiences with online learning, I could feel their fear to face something new, to show their vulnerability in front of their students. People don’t like discomfort or judgment, especially if you were pushed to do it.

On Instagram,  I found the newest podcast “Unlocking us” by Brene Brown. She makes me reflect about myself, people and life. Her first podcast made me realize that we grow when we face challenges, so we live. We feel alive!

2 steps to face a new challenge

Naming it: name your hard things
 Normalize it: Put it into perspective (check your expectations)

At the end of the day, we all know what ‘uncertainty’ feels like and looks like. However, we know what not to do!  

A new beginning

As a school librarian, I’m very curious and I am always trying to be updated. Last month, I found John Spencer’s post “7 big ideas as you shift towards online learning” useful and meaningful for all of us facing online learning for the first time. It goes straight to some big problems that creates anxiety in teachers:

  • Convert their Face-to-Face classes into online classes (not possible because curriculums cannot be the same)
  • Pedagogy: traditional ways of teaching don’t work online. Students have to be active learners creating and producing as a result of their learning.
  • Collaboration: promote online collaboration between students to create and explore ways to show understandings.
  • Technology is the vehicle to enhance learning.
  • A different mindset: teachers becoming mentors

After reading it, I shared it with the staff of my school. I thought they needed to understand the challenges of online learning but also their opportunities to grow as educators. And, I think they found it interesting as I heard people talking about it.

The job of an online teacher is the job of an offline teacher is the job of a teacher. Connect to people and help them to feel connected to you and to the dimension of the world you are leading them to experience.

Reshan Richards and Stephen J. Valentine

‘A letter to educators teaching online for the first time’ written by Reshan Richards and Stephen J. Valentine is an expression of empathy and encouragement for all of us. I would like to highlight the following ideas:

  • Connect with students
  • Adapt your curriculum
  • Explore new pedagogies
  • Empower students’ voice

I am usually more involved with the Primary Division of my school, and our main concern while planning the timetable for online learning was how to connect with students. So it was decided to keep some time, at the beginning of the day, for HR teachers to talk to the kids before their first class. Also, counselors are involved and have weekly sessions with them. In fact, the school is giving us counselor sessions and yoga classes online. There’s an open line of communication with HR, a WhatsApp group for emergencies, and personal calls to check up how we are coping with this emergency. We are not alone.

I think nobody was ready for a crisis like this. It’s a challenge that we are facing and we are giving the best of us to support children’s learning. I was really nervous during the first weeks of teaching online my library sessions. I was even sweating! But feeling connected with the kids, seeing their enthusiasm and happiness to show something they have done, share a story or request me to read something for them. Just make my day!

How are you feeling with your online teaching experience?