Opportunity in the Time of Crisis
A restorative approach views conflict as an opportunity for learning and growth. In the same way, viewing this time of crisis through a restorative lens can help us find opportunities for learning and growth. As educators, this time brings us opportunities to reflect differently on our known reality, and also to connect differently with one another.
My neighbour, Joeanna, is an Art teacher. Quite soon into lockdown, she was explaining to me how her relationship with time and space had changed. Time had slowed to the very present, and space had shrunk to the very local. She then talked about how these changes had caused her to notice more. She had come to realise that noticing is what her job as an Art teacher is all about, helping her students to notice the world within and around them. As a result of these reflections, Joeanna has been rethinking what matters. She is feeling emboldened to step off the content-driven curriculum treadmill and to put into practice more of what it is that she – as a thoughtful, skilled, experienced teacher – believes matters.
Just as Joeanna is doing, many educators are reflecting on some of the bigger questions about what we do and why we do it. To put it in grandiose terms, we are reflecting on our philosophy of education. We are (consciously and unconsciously) considering some fundamental questions, such as:
- What is the purpose of education? What are we seeking to achieve?
- What capabilities should I be helping my students to develop?
- How do I know that I am being successful as an educator?
The present opportunity to engage in philosophical reflection can nourish ourselves as educators, as well as refresh our practices. As Joeanna is doing, how does what we believe really matters translate into our daily and weekly practice? What might be some things we want to stop, start and continue doing? In this time of uncertainty, maybe it’s not about having ready-made answers to these questions, but rather, it’s the process of reflecting and, crucially, asking questions that matters.
More than ever, being in a questioning state is a helpful place to be, to be humble, to not have the answers but to have shared questions. How can I/we keep safe and keep connected at the same time? How do I/we do that in the everyday? None of us individually has the answers to these questions. It is through sharing our hopes and concerns, listening heartfully, trying out new ways, and checking in along the way to find out how that’s working for people. This is an essentially restorative process.
In these Zoom times, we have been connecting with one another in new ways. We see inside one another’s homes. We view our colleagues in their natural habitats. We talk with one another about our daily domestic realities. We share our concerns, frustrations, joys. I can’t help but wonder how this new way of seeing is changing how we perceive and relate. Are we connecting with the human as well the professional in one another? How might we build on this enhanced human connection to nurture our ongoing relationships
In an article for the Guardian, Adrienne Matei speaks of our lives between lockdown and the new normal’ being “a time of re-evaluation – essentially, a time in which we decide which behavioural changes we made during a crisis we will abandon, and which we will sustain”. Let us make the most of this unique opportunity for reflecting and connecting differently to help us choose who and how we want to be as educators.