Weird Days

Something strange is happening and it’s making everyone anxious. There is no set of guidelines to follow and that’s unsettling. Governments who are trying to do their best – I don’t buy conspiracy theories although I do buy incompetence – are facing demands for answers to questions that are, as yet, unanswerable.

We worry about our loved ones and ourselves. I don’t want to think about the distance between my family and me now that the flights have stopped. And I do not want to have to go to the supermarket and find that I cannot buy chicken or milk or toilet rolls even though there is enough for everyone.

So we have seen what panicked people may do, but we need to keep that in proportion. A supermarket serves a few thousand people and, by my reckoning, about 50 people bulk-buying toilet rolls – before the limits kicked-in – would have cleared one out. It is not the majority of us who are losing our minds. And plenty are stepping up. There are the scientists looking for drugs to treat this accursed virus and a vaccine to prevent it. At the start of the outbreak, we were told a vaccine would take 12-18 months. I think we may have it sooner. There are the health-workers and delivery drivers. And there is the community spirit. People are doing their best to look after each other.

But it is uncertain. It is strange. Is that joke forming in your head a spirit-raising dram of gallows humour or a jarringly bitter swill? It’s hard to be sure.

Our work, education, is on the brink of something. Schools have closed across the world although not yet in Australia. That means that we will all need to come to terms with some form of remote learning. I have been practising with Microsoft Teams. Will this be the great disruption that heralds a new dawn for digital learning? We shall see. I suspect that we will all be eager to get back into our classrooms once the virus is vanquished, more aware than ever of the limitations of the technology, more appreciative of eye contact and the ability to read a room. Although I also predict some of the tech – the best bits – may stick.

Exams have been cancelled in England. Standardised literacy and numeracy tests have been cancelled in Australia. Some cannot contain their glee while others are disturbed. What is the British government going to do to determine grades for university entry? They don’t know. Nobody does. Yet.

Consultants find themselves without work. Conferences are cancelled. But perhaps there is the germ of an opportunity, a way to rethink what we do. Let’s see.

Whatever happens, I have faith in teachers. I know how hard they work and what they value. I know how much society values them, even if it doesn’t seem like that at times.

We’ll be back. We won’t really ever go away.

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