This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.
Like many parents in Quebec, I’ve been homeschooling my child through this pandemic. The sudden surge in provincial cases, however, left us with no material, administrative support, or curriculum guidance to really operationalize homeschooling. Figuring out a pedagogy that worked for both my child and myself ended up being the easy part. The hard part continues to be deciding what aspects of my education I want to pass on to another generation.
Born and raised in Pakistan, our guest blogger this week, Musarat Yasmin, earned her MA in Applied Linguistics from University of Reading, UK and PhD from Pakistan in collaboration with San Jose University. Since 2014, she has been an Assistant Professor at the University of Gujrat, Pakistan. Her research interests include ESP, TESOL, Education and Technology, Gender and Discourse Analysis. She spent last 12 years on designing curricula for M. Phil Linguistics, ESP courses, and establishing a language centre that offered courses in French, German and English to potential candidates of immigration to Europe and Canada. She also serves as a co-editor for university journal and as a reviewer for several international journals. Besides academic activities, Musarat enjoys traveling and experiencing cultures whenever she finds an opportunity and time. Painting and crafting, her second nature, relax her after any hectic routine.
Covid-19 as a pandemic is not limited to physical illness, mortality, and quarantine. It has effects on the social, psychological, cultural, and economic arenas of daily life. It is not only humans who are contracting viruses, but their whole sphere of life is threatened- the environment they live in, the medium they breathe in—their struggles towards the development of humanity and their progress in the fields of knowledge. The media shows men as a major victim of the pandemic around the globe. But the pandemic in its impact is not limited to just the physical; it is deeply infectious to the psyche as well. Women, especially in religio-patriarchal communities like Pakistan, have become more vulnerable to psychological pressures and strains.
Note: Although the events described in this post are real, the author’s name and the name of the school are pseudonyms.
Dairn Alexandre, our guest blogger this week, works as a teacher in Alberta. He has a Diplôme d’Études Collégiales in Illustration & Design at Dawson College, a Bachelor of Education degree from McGill University, and is currently finishing up a Master of Education degree at Bishop’s University while also continuing to work as an illustrator. Dairn has two paintings on exhibition at the Avmor permanent collection in Montreal; has been a presenter and guest-lecturer at McGill University and at the University of Calgary; and has hosted sessions for Alberta’s Fine Arts Council. He lives with his wife, two kids, and dog.
The drizzle of rain gently marks the cracked concrete leading to the front doors of Deer Creek School. In the twenty years since it first opened, the structure’s once vibrant stucco façade has become worn and faded by the intense Alberta sun, reflecting the battered morale of the school’s staff working tirelessly within it.
Inside, old vandalism peeks through the freshly painted walls of the boys’ restroom; blue and white protective masks can be found soiled and discarded, tucked into the various nooks and crannies around the building; and loose paper leaks from the half-closed binders that rest precariously on the tops of the school’s maltreated desks, spilling onto the empty seats below them. Students can be found crowded together in the playground outside, seemingly unconcerned by the ongoing pandemic raging beyond the boundaries of their school or their teachers’ persistent admonitions to follow the governments’ guidelines for physical distancing. And despite it only being early December, the staff are already becoming exhausted and some are beginning to burn out.
In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is formed by two characters — 危机 (wéijīin) in simplified Chinese used in mainland China and 危機 in traditional Chinese used mostly in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The word 危 literally means “danger” or “risks”, whereas 机 or 機 means “opportunity”. “Danger-opportunity”: Can we get more paradoxical than that?
Many language teachers have been struggling to transfer communicative and interactive language classes to rigid online realities, with varying degrees of success, myself included. Teaching to 30 black squares on Zoom with the occasional thumbs-up emoji or a few students who do have cameras on does not really seem like the ideal environment for learning a language, let alone anything else. Back in March, I wrote a post about why in-person learning is so important, and while I have come to see that teaching online certainly has some benefits for both students and teachers, I am still staunchly “for” a return to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. Now more than ever, I understand the importance of the classroom as a social space where students and teachers connect and create a sense of belonging. I teach college level students on a semester basis, so the relationships I build with my students are of a short duration, but they are important to me nonetheless – and, I believe, to my students. These days, as I peer curiously into the little black Zoom squares, I have a growing concern about the emotional and mental states of the kids behind the cameras.