Schools, school leaders, faculty and staff emphasize topics related to character education because they know strength of character is of vital importance and that it is is too often in short supply. I really hope all that talk has worked. It really needs to have worked. Now more than ever, we need the adults that great teachers dreamed their students would become. After years in the classroom, I am confident they are out there. In education, we should always have in mind who our students should become. That vision of who students should become as family members, citizens, colleagues, should drive education far more than test scores and college lists. A moment of crisis, like the one we now face, should solidify this understanding for us.
Recently, I have been thinking about: who are we going to be at the end of this? Knowing that in only a few days the world has changed so dramatically as a result of Covid-19 and that it will change again and again and again in the days, weeks, and months to come, who will we be by the time we get our coronavirus vaccinations? There are myriad signals about the future of the pandemic that taken together create a confusing stew and taken apart either create naive optimism or equally naive cynicism. I have a sinking feeling that if we think that trying to predict the future of the virus and its effects accurately is virtually impossible, understanding what happened when it is over will be no less difficult. If clarity was ever achievable, we may have just seen it pass away with the first fatalities.
So…rather than pull out a crystal ball of specific predictions and hyper-generalize a to-do list for everyone, it makes more sense to me to simply create a list for myself regarding who I want to be during the pandemic. First, some general assumptions:
- what we have considered inconveniences in the recent past will be dwarfed by current realities.
- few, if any of us, will escape finding ourselves close to tragic loss.
- our neighbors (think of the world and the people in it) will both inspire us and disappoint us.
- misinformation will slow our exit from struggles related to the pandemic.
- some things we assumed were stable will not be.
While facing the pandemic, I will strive to:
- Be a good husband, father, son, and brother.
- Never let my disappointment in some people and institutions blind me to the inspiration I should find in others.
- Choose the hard right over the easy wrong.
- Hold myself accountable when I fall short, while at the same time forgiving myself.
- Do all I can to make other people safe.
- Recognize that I am fortunate beyond measure, and I should not complain about being without things others have been without all along.
- Take a deep breath (or two) before sharing my opinion.
- Be a discerning consumer of information.
- Stay busy and prioritize diet and exercise.
- Seek out the good in both people and in the world around us.
- Seek reasons to laugh with others.
- Look forward to better days ahead at least as often as I look back to better days in the past.
I think I wanted to write this today as a means of holding myself accountable, as a means of focusing on what is important as all of us steer into a time when we will likely be tempted and prodded to become more and more reactive.
I am certain that we will be transformed by what is to come. This is not an overly dramatic statement, for we are always transformed by the events of our lives. We are not simply passive victors or victims in our lives. We bring much more to the table than that. Thus, who we become will not only be a result of what happens to us during this pandemic, this cultural crucible, but it will also be a result of who we choose to be and how we choose to react as individuals. In short, we need to be the adults we want our children to become.
By the way, in the comments section I’d love to hear how you would complete the sentence, “While facing the pandemic, I will strive to…”