I’ve been meaning to blog for quite some time throughout the past 5 weeks, but then when I sit down to do so, I have nothing to say. We are now 5 weeks into the COVID-19 epidemic in Beijing and 4 solid weeks of e-learning. At first, my team attempted to carry on with business as usual in the thinking that we would be back to school shortly; however, that has not proven to be the case.

We began hitting our Ancient Civilization unit hard. With each new lesson recorded via Zoom, I felt as if I was becoming less and less attached to the curriculum, to school, to my students. It felt like Ancient Sumer (while normally quite exciting for me) was irrelevant. I became a bit apathetic and spent less and less time thinking about the actual lessons and more about the virus and how it has impacted, not only students, but my children as well. I watched my daughters struggle through full days of e-learning and dealt with the inevitable temper fits that resulted after too much screen time. In a moment of extreme frustration, I emailed my team…I’d had enough and knew that if my baby girls were struggling this badly, so were my students. Something had to change.

After a very long, emotional email, I did feel better. I shared with my team that I felt we needed to look at this time as an opportunity to lean heavily on what reading and writing does best-help us through times of uncertainty and help us gain new perspective. Initially, there was some hesitation and rightly so. This would be an entire new unit developed for only this one year and as teachers we were already stretched emotionally and time-wise. However, I work with amazing people and they of course saw the value in using this time to help students beyond just academically. Soon, we were pop-corning off of each other. It was as if we had a sudden jolt of energy. And so, a new unit was born: COVID-19 2020.

We’re still finding our way and are uncertain as to what the end result will be or when it will be, but so far here’s what we have:

  • students will create a primary source of living through a historical event
  • The primary source will become narrative nonfiction, integrating nonfiction and journal writing
  • we will divide the workload so each teacher can focus on an area of passion/strength
  • daily lessons will be recorded and shared with the team in the idea of working smarter, not harder
  • we will bring the counselors into the discussion to glean from them how we also support the social-emotional piece during this unit.

It’s a rough sketch and one that I know will have many changes prior to its completion. I’m excited that the students will be provided the opportunity to engage in an authentic experience that relates to what they are going through right now. I also know that this has the potential to be cathartic to the adults involved as we will be engaging in the unit alongside students.