December 3rd, 2020

COVID-19 and the ‘new normal’

By Submitted Article on November 4, 2020.

Not entirely new, “new normal” has become a popular catchphrase to describe the conditions that have become part of our lives as an outcome of COVID-19.

Many are becoming stretched and weary within the “new normal” context and we speculate as to when things will be “normal” again. Some families have experienced tragic loss with COVID-19 and I know we all keep them in our thoughts each day. Some families of elementary-age children are stretched with unexpected lost days of work when children need to be home because they are symptomatic or in isolation because of being linked as a close contact. School staff have been stretched with the task of maintaining protocols and having to turn around how they are teaching and providing services with very little notice or time for preparation and learning. There are a myriad of variables that come with at-home learning delivery, and staff efforts to maintain continuity of learning when they themselves, their entire class or some students in their class, are identified as needing to isolate can be described as valiant. I realize that the challenges are not isolated to education and feel privileged to be part of a community and society where people do their best to look beyond themselves and proceed with the “new normal” in a positive and productive way.

There is no question that when COVID-19 is over, we will continue with some things that became part of what we do in the current context. Some of these things are positive. In education, use of technology by staff, students and families has grown exponentially and we are becoming increasingly flexible and engaging with its use. We have connected with services agencies in new ways and partnerships to support people have been strengthened. Schools have developed some effective and positive routines that emphasize order, calm, care, high regard for health and wellness, and new ways of connecting with families and one another Our current experience place a renewed emphasis on the concept that it takes a community to raise a child.

There are some things that we have cherished and honoured in the past and continue to do so because they speak to what it means to be human. In October Thanksgiving may not have been celebrated with any of the typical large gatherings, but it was still a time spent thinking about how much we have to be grateful for and reflecting on what we can do as individuals, families and a community to support those who are most challenged and vulnerable at this time. Remembrance Day is just around the corner. A day for Canadians to commemorate members of the armed forces, it is important to convey the narrative and significance of the day to our children. The narrative is about the depth of sacrifice of others so that we can live in a country that is free, democratic, and upholds human rights.

The significance is being mindful that we can never forget what this means to our lives. I truly believe that there are certain attributes that come to the surface during times of adversity within a country that has the freedom to act and express with agency – resilience, care, compassion, gratitude, collective support, reflection and growth. This is what it means to be human. When combined with learning from our past mistakes and challenges of our current situation, those attributes will allow us to flourish in the future.

Cheryl Gilmore is the Superintendent of the Lethbridge School Division

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