By Oscar Barnes
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, it is easy for people to turn to survival mode, focusing solely on themselves. At times like these, though, it is more important than ever to turn to what makes us human: our ability to work together towards a common goal through deep social connections. Some of our most important social connections are here at Pinewood, and understanding the experiences of Pinewood’s teachers and faculty will allow us to work towards creating a better Pinewood and world in the wake of COVID-19.
Once coronavirus started popping up outside of the Asian continent, plans of many staff members were already being adjusted. Many Pinewood faculty had planned trips over the summer to countries such as England and Scotland to visit family or for vacation purposes—all plans that had to be quickly cancelled. Inter-state travel, as well as travel in general, soon ground to a halt as well, having a surplus of unintended consequences.
COVID-19 has broken up a lot of travel for Pinewood staff, leading to many feeling an increasing sense of isolation and helplessness. This is only heightened by the fact that teachers log in to Zoom and/or Google Classroom everyday knowing that they won’t be able to teach or help their students as well as they could when everyone was on campus.
“…for my Art Theory class… I miss having a classroom full of light, workspace and materials. So much of studio art instruction is dependent on the hive vibe of working in [a] community. [As a result,] I am now looking for ways to recreate that sense of community online,” UC art teacher Cole Godvin said.
Everything that has changed over these past couple of months have also led to an increasing level of uncertainty among faculty.
“Long, long term it is so hard to say what the impact of COVID-19 will be on the world and our daily lives. It could be that an effective vaccine or cure will show up within the coming months and we will all go back to business as usual. Or, it could be [that coronavirus will be] very difficult to fix and we live in a new reality with monitored borders and a perpetually sick population of vulnerable people,” Godvin said.
For people like Godvin and JH Spanish teacher Olivia Bradley, their children are a large part of their lives. As a result, an increased anxiety is created around which world these children will grow up and live in: a divided and fear driven one, or a united and peaceful one?
As a result of the coronavirus, Pinewood’s faculty are facing more challenges in maintaining their physical and mental health. Physically, the lack of access to gyms or other public facilities are forcing many to find bodyweight alternatives to the exercises they normally do. For others who have always gone on walks and runs, social distancing destroys the sense of community that can be a major motivator for hikers and runners alike. Mentally, the uncertainty around peoples’ daily lives is a major factor, but not the only one.
“I am exhausted and brain-fried from being on the computer all day,” HS Spanish teacher Robin Bedford said.
“What [scares] me is the global economic fallout from the virus…,” Godvin said.
There are signs that things could improve as a result of the pandemic, though.
“There is a third possibility in which this situation takes a while to resolve… and in the process encourages us as a global society to fix the social inequity and exploitation of natural resources that have marred the contemporary world for far too long,” Godvin said.
“Sometimes it takes something like this to remind us how truly blessed we are in how we get to spend our days,” Bedford said.
At the end of the day, though, the large loss of life will always outweigh the immediate benefits.
Finally, it is important to look at how faculty see this pandemic affecting their profession and the students involved.
“[I see] far more formal assessments as opposed to casual/low key assessments,” HS Science teacher Yong-chan Kim said.
“I think teachers are going to become more proficient with lots of online technology resources that are out there,” Bedford said.
“I will probably use technology less,” Bradley said.
“Since the early 2000’s there has been a lot of discussion about the fact that online schools could draw students and businesses away from brick and mortar schools… Now… I think parties across the globe really… see the incredible value we’ve had all along in the dynamic social interactions to be found in the real world school environment,” Godvin said.
Overall, it is hard to say what will happen in the next couple of years—or even the next couple of months—but the mindset provided by Bradley is one that we can all emulate.
“I am grateful for everything—friends, family, home and my heart goes out to those who are struggling. Find a way to reach out and help anyway you can—locally, globally or even in your own home. Small things matter,” Bradley said.