The lock down period has been transformative in many ways. Let’s make sure we focus on keeping what is good about it.
A disclaimer on privilege
I am aware that I am writing this from a position of privilege: my job wasn’t furloughed, my role could easily be done remotely, and I have a safe and enjoyable home which gives my significant other, the cat, and me enough space to work (not in case of the cat) comfortably. This piece is written in acknowledgement that others will have struggled more – but I am trying to focus on what I’ve learnt recently I want to retain.
Taking back control
Working from home has been an empowering experience for me, and I hope for my team, too. Commuting to work in London is never a great spend of time, and I have gained back 2.5h per day just by not doing it. That’s half a day per week with less exhaustion, and in the summer, just overheating. My commute wasn’t bad, but it still constrained what I could do with this time. My team has demonstrated how effective you can be running the type of client service we offer, and so have so many of us – it’s time that our employers embrace working from home as a true alternative that can help lead to less crowded cities and a more thoughtful spend of resources. The current negative headlines pushed in the (mostly) conservative media make no sense here.
Resist the urge to improve performance
Did I write that book, perfect my sourdough, or create an amazing product that will make the world a better place? No, and I wasn’t going to do that under any circumstance – the lockdown added a burden on our collective mental health which will probably take years to unpack, so there is no need to expect us to become super-performers while so many of the certainties around us were falling apart. Recognising this is key – we’re still just people coping with uncertainty, and that is hard. I would wish for us to remember that for that nebulous ‘new normal’. Here, I see a specific role for educators; for too long (and in the UK probably for longer if one can believe the sounds coming from the department for education) education has been reduced to a zero sum game of supply-demand economics, overlooking the option that investing (often into things that don’t immediately create a return) will create new knowledge and opportunities for growth.
This is what I would like to make sure we communicate to our (young) learners – that they are not the problem. They’ve been fed this li(n)e for far too long, and if we want to repair the damage caused by the crisis, we need to start listening to them. I have often written in defense of ‘young people’ as a collective noun, and in my many years in education I have become ever more amazed by their resourcefulness in dealing with the issues our and our parents’ generation created. In some cases, the damage was done much earlier and may need to be dealt with by knocking metaphorical (or physical) statues of their plinths.
I spoke at a panel for LinkedIn Learning on helping students and graduates in the early stages of the lock down, and what struck me most was that while focusing on solving the problems we face, the one thing we need to make sure we don’t forget to transmit is – hope. Hope that they can shape the world in their image. Hope that they can counter the intertwined toxic onslaught of populism, division, and intersectional discrimination they so clearly abhor. They’re out marching now – let’s make sure they remember their educators as not defending an indefensible status quo, but giving them hope. Let’s not just work from home – let’s #WorkFromHope.