Saturday, April 3, 2021



I came across this yesterday as I was scrolling through Twitter. Drew Goins is an assistant editor of the Opinions section of the Washington Post. So far he has received two thousand, four hundred sixty-two responses to this tweet. That’s a whole lot of opinions.

I was thinking: if you were to make up your list of pandemic MVPs, would any of them be things you studied in school?

Of course, some people named members of their family, so, unless we count learning how to relate to others as something we learned in school, that’s out.

I know a lot of my friends went deep into bread baking. Some poured themselves into knitting or crochet projects. A few others I know dedicated themselves to long walks and photography. Some made music and/or dance videos.

I’ve been making art. Bad art, amateur art. Art whose only purpose is that it feels good to me. I’d hazard a guess that if it were analyzed by an expert they’d peg it at early middle-school level. If that.

When I was in the fourth grade we were tasked by our art teacher in drawing self-portraits. I confessed to the teacher that I was having difficulty mastering some particular aspect, drawing hands, perhaps. When I asked for pointers, the teacher said brusquely, “Don’t bother.”

I don’t know how that comment was intended but I was devastated. I knew I wasn’t as good as other students in art but at that point I still liked it and wanted to get better at it. That pretty much ended right then and there. 

I’ve heard similar stories from people who were crushed by comments from music teachers. As a musician this breaks my heart. Everyone should feel enabled to make music in some way. Music is for everyone. We are often told that certain things like music or art or only for people with talent; all others need not apply.

But that completely misses the point.

When I was teaching kindergarten I used to tell every parent that the most important things I worked to foster were willingness for risk-taking, divergent thinking, and a capacity for enjoyment. I still believe that’s true but even kindergarten these days has been over-run with a philosophy driven by skills and content. 

But just suppose you have to live through a pandemic. What are the things that will keep you going, keep you from going under? You may need to have the courage to master online formats in order to support your need for human contact. You will need to think of new ways to do everyday things that are no longer possible. You may find that music, art, baking, crafting, photography, nature experiences, community service projects become your lifeline to positive self-esteem and emotional equilibrium. 

  • willingness for risk-taking 
  • divergent thinking
  • capacity for enjoyment
As we analyze what works and what doesn’t in the wake of pandemic schooling, there’s plenty to look at that existed pre-pandemic that needs to be dealt with, too. The Maryland State legislature has over-ridden the Governor’s veto of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. As we return to what some folks call “normal”, we need to be committed to addressing issues that never should have been normal - - the opportunity gap, for instance. 

We also need to keep in mind how crucial it is to lay the groundwork for our students whole lives as they learn. There are so many things - - which will never appear on high-stakes standardized tests - - that have made the difference for people over the last terribly difficult year. 

How about you? Who/what have been your pandemic MVPs?

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