During this new year, I have been reflecting on the moment of our times. The exponential spread of the covid-19 virus has drastically changed work and school lives for millions of people. Every day, covid-19 is on our screens. Daily counts of the new infection and rate and death toll continue to break our hearts and occupy our minds. We are witnessing the everyday impacts of this virus on our communities and ones we love. I move from feeling like we are in indefinite pause to feeling hopeful about what we might create together. This virus has both exposed long-standing inequities in our social and environmental systems and made obvious the potential for human commitment and support for one other.
While not minimizing the serious impacts and stress that we are all going through right now, I invite us to think on what we can do at this time to build a post-covid world together. Covid-19 has reorganized institutions, family and community life, travel patterns, learning and human activity in general. What openings do these hold? What are the teachings for us at this time? What is now possible that we were told that wasn’t before? What are the stories we will tell of this moment? What will we do to live those stories in the present?
Right now for me, I see three openings that I hold hope in.
I have long been interested in repairing and restor(y)ing relationships across the landscapes of home and school. I believe the concert and navigation of multiple knowledges adds to the immense richness of human learning and development that is fundamental to our futures.
The onset of schooling (and colonialism) while has propelled the separation of rich family knowledges and practices from the teachings at school. Children’s and families’ interests and ways of participating at home and within their larger family structures are often erased and replaced by assembly-line schooling. This ongoing fragmentation of school, family, and community life has been of long concern to me. Children constantly move between these two (or more worlds) and seldom can bring their full selves to either space. At school, if feels like what you know and learn within your family contexts are not seen in schools or at worst, erased, contested or even invalidated. At home, it might seem that what you learn in school doesn’t prepare you to know your language, your songs, or your stories. While no doubt, schooling has propelled increased wealth, and new ways to connect with each other across the globe, home knowledges are equally powerful and important to our collective well-being. This might be an opening for children to participate in important family practices such as growing and cooking food, making medicines, learning family stories, weaving or engage in art making, learning to tailor covid-19 masks etc. Children have always been part of these rich activities, now we have time to learn the practices that have been important to our ancestors and the previous generations and carry those forward.
In the U.S., schools are closed; in Singapore is beginning home-based learning – around the world parents are juggling work from home and have their children be a part of that life. If there is online learning, for the first time, teachers are seeing most of their students in their home settings. This is beautiful. Teachers, learn about your students’ home lives. I am not a mother myself but I do think this is an opportunity to create and tell stories of a more “deschooled” society (Illich, 1970) – where children and families are part of everyday life and collective activity and how teachers get a glimmer into that. It is a time to focus on what in important and meaningful to thrive as families. We are at a possibility for reimagining education and school where families are central and not tertiary to learning.
Resources for parents and families:
- Learning in Places – Family Walks
- Guided activities to take walks around your block and wonder with the natural world
- Parenting during coronavirus: Opportunities to reconnect and decolonize
- Activities to know place
- Activities to know self
- Learn stories from Southeast Asia
- Storytelling Education by Roger Fernandes:
- Also learn your family stories – look up old photographs and learn about your family histories
2. The connectedness of our world and the expansion of human connection and creativity
This virus has made visible how we are both intimately connected around the world, beyond our nuclear family, and also how we have a deep need for human connection.
I have found myself making more phone calls than I ever have in this short period. I feel like I’ve always been a connected person but this crisis is helping me think about the ways that I actually connect with people and how intentional I am about it. It is perhaps a shift in values that we are experiencing now. To frontline workers to mutual aid networks to singing from the balconies to communities coming together to pray, I see people reaching out and connecting in creative and really beautiful ways. Will these be the stories we tell of this time? Will be continue to give thanks to the farm workers who make our meals possible everyday? Will begin to see the migrant workers in Singapore as part of our families?
This being said, the virus is exposing long injustices for people who are the most vulnerable in our societies – the elderly, those who are sick, those who don’t have stable work or living places, migrant workers who at the mercy of their employers, those who are undocumented, those incarcerated, those in foster care, those who are experiencing homelessness, those without clean water, those who do not have a place to self-isolate, those who have little access to food – what are we doing to protect them? Where are their stories in our own lives?
Here is a community resource put together by a group of people where people can ask and/or offer things.
3. Being in place and growing in relationship with the natural world
For the first time, humans are taking serious action to reduce their carbon emissions and footprint. We can shift the ways we operate in the world. We don’t have to travel to five conferences a year, we don’t have to drive everywhere. In fact, the waters in Italy are cleaner because of it, the air pollution in LA is better because of it, we aren’t extracting so much oil anymore, we can plant seeds that contribute to the biodiversity and health of the world. For me, the coronavirus has made me more grateful for the lands and waters that help to clean the air and remind me of my place in the larger ecosystem of life. The smallest of beings remind us that we humans are fallible and never in complete control. Moreover, I have become even more attuned to the trees that support our every breath and replenish the oxygen. I give thanks to the waters that allow us to wash our hands. We are totally dependent on them. Many people here have also gone out for runs, bike rides, and walks because it is so necessary to be outside. These are fundamental to our mental and physical health. Can we continue this forward? We need stories of healthy lands and waters as they connect to our own health and well-being. It is not one or the other. Will we come together to protect the natural world?
Our work in Tutoría continues to be focused on supporting reimagining learning with the most vulnerable communities in Southeast Asia. Towards these ends, we are doing TWO things to support our teachers, schools, and communities through this.
(1) List of Other Online Resources to Reimagine Learning
This is NOT to recreate school at home. But this is a compilation of some resources that you all could do together as a family. Please note, our resources in Thai will be coming soon too. If you have additional resources, please send us the link and we will put it on our facebook page and website.
Teaching for Social and Environmental Change
- Teaching on social and environmental issues compiled by Community Classroom SG
- Activities and lessons for social and environmental change, more US-based, e.g. Radical math, and the Zinn Education Project
- Bioneers – A collective with material and beautiful podcasts andon how to stay connected and reimagine our social systems
- Beautiful Earth from NASA
Broadening what we know: Exploring galaxies, Indigenous education, and lessons from Asia/ Southeast Asia
- Asian Education Foundation: Has a couple of interesting resources on arts, science, and culture of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, China and others
- Short films to spark discussion:
- Exploring Indigenous designs and architecture
- Indigenous cinema
- Learn an Indigenous language with 7000 languages
- Story Time from Space
- Virtual Museums
- Teaching and Learning with the New York Times
- Writing prompts from the New York Times
Resources by age levels
- Educational resources (videos/ for all subjects)
- Viral Math – Secondary school
- Elementary resources with arts, maths, and other cool virtual tours
- Early childhood resources
(2) FiftyFold Youtube channel and suite of Temas focused on that documents climate change, home and family life curated by students and their families.
We are currently putting out calls for videos of Temas that we can create for our channel. If there is a family practice that is important to you that you’d like to share, please email us. Examples include: The Mississippi River, Life under a tree, and Role-playing.
We invite you to join us in this journey of creativity and solidarity. Maybe through understanding our meaning for this moment in human history and the stories we want to tell of us, we can birth a better world.
 When I say family, I mean large extended kins of cousins, uncles, grandparents, relatives and other made-kin.
 In their open letter to the community, Nasir & Bang write: We are seeing mass recognition of the importance of educators and the prioritizing of children and family – not labor – at the center of life. We are seeing a shift in everyday life that is needed for carbon reduction and climate change. We are seeing a rapid-scale institutional response that just a month ago was discursively impossible.
 From David Brooks’ piece https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/opinion/coronavirus-meaning.html