To launch our new unit, we wanted students to think about what they had been experiencing over the past four weeks. For most of us, we were excited about heading off to Chinese New Year break, anxious to go on holiday to visit family, sleep in, or travel to new places. I remember the smiles and energy on the last Wednesday of break. It was virtually impossible to get the students to engage in conversation as they were amped up on sweets and excitement. I suppose I was too as I was getting ready to meet my ILCC cohort buddies in Muscat, Oman. I had visions of camel riding, date-eating, and good times ahead.

As news of COVID-19 (simply called Wuhan Coronavirus at the time) began to spread, there was anxiousness and anticipation that perhaps holiday could be extended and we would not return to school. Initially, this seemed like a great idea and in thinking about how we could begin this project, wanted to capitalize on the fun and excitement our students had prior to discussing what the hear-and-now looked like. Hence the idea of a good, ole fashion collage. Who doesn’t like collages? They’re colorful, engaging, fun, AND allow each person to tell his/her/their own story.

At first, the students responded with a lot of questions: “Can my collage be this?”, “Can I do my collage by hand”, “Do I have to include today or can it just be my break?” on and on the questions were asked and I responded: “Whatever you think best tells your story.”

Along with the idea of collages, we also brought in 6-word memoirs. The idea was for students to whittle their days down to six meager words that would end up being crazy powerful in the end. Most students talked of their struggles with the situation and almost all voiced their frustration. The 6-word memoirs were also unique and as different as can be. Some students shared the many places they had moved over the past 4 weeks, while others shared that they hadn’t left the walls of their apartment. The collages and memoirs ended up being an added bonus: I was able to very quickly and obviously tell how my students were coping with this time. I reached out to many students I was concerned about and had the counselor reach out to others. I gained a new appreciation for what my students had been experiencing throughout this time.

6-word memoirs:

  • “E-learning and food, the main stuff”
  • “Masks everywhere. Extra safety precautions. Stuck.”
  • “I want normal life. DIE VIRUS”
  • “Caged in silence. Street’s asleep… When?”
  • “Same Day, Same Week, Same Month.”
  • “Disaster is just around the corner.”
  • “First trapped, now safe but chilly.”
  • “everyday the same, every day repetitive”
  • “In and out of the pool”
  • “Elearning has taken over my life.”