Timing is everything, so I begin this thinking, “Too soon?” Then, no, I decide, this, too, shall pass. We shall return to our lives, altered though they may be in a host of ways, and to our classrooms, and when we do, with a sigh of relief, an inconvenient truth will remain. The question: What will we learn?
The “C” word, climate, coupled with the word most of us embrace most of the time as a positive, “change.” My first presentation, both as an Oregonian and a retiree, to colleagues and members of the Oregon Council of Teachers of English came on the heels of a galvanizing session at the National Convention in Houston. The urgency impelled me to share some of the work my colleague and I had done in New Jersey. We had enlisted our colleagues across disciplines, science, math, art, and music to engage with this weighty topic as well.
I do remember the moment in one of my classes when a student felt what we were learning and blurted, “What are we going to do?” He had crossed that line from gaining knowledge into the realm of fear—hopelessness threatening—that line that had caused us to hesitate from the outset. It’s a balancing act and daunting with students. Fortunately action saved him and us. The students created magazines that addressed problems and explored nascent, but promising, steps being taken. For science fair topics they probed some of these more deeply themselves. In short, they, and we, were galvanized and educated.
The article I read this morning from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies is thought-provoking and heartening to a degree. One inexorable fact it states: “The virus has shown that if you wait until you can see the impact, it is too late to stop it.” On the other hand, it shares a silver lining or two about this international health crisis and prompts the question: What will we learn? I have added it to the top of an ongoing list that I share here with resources for primarily ELA teachers who care to grapple with this topic in their classrooms.
Earth Day will arrive on April 22. It’s a Wednesday. Fingers crossed, many of us will be back in class; perhaps we will still be online. Regardless, this will still be our home—the truth.