This blog was written by Shaheen Mistri, CEO of Teach for India and was published on the Teach for All blog website on 15 June 2020.
I want children to pick up alphabet books that say A is for apple, B is for ball and C, well C is not for Covid. The world has made Covid the word we most closely associate with the alphabet C, and we need to change that. We need to start talking about the C’s that will help us thrive in the post-Covid world. We need to start imagining how these C’s can be built in — and beyond — school.
Our children are living in a world rife with fear. They are surrounded by way too many things to be scared of — the air they breathe, the discrimination they suffer, the fierce competition they face and now the hugs they want to give and the parties they want to dance at. It will take courage to face those fears. To live freely and fully in this new world.
Isolated at home, we’ve felt waves of emotion. Perhaps worry for a loved one who is sick; perhaps gratitude (or guilt) for having enough food. We have struggled with our ability to hold our emotions without judgement, with our ability to stay on the right side of hope, with our awareness of our own needs. In the new world, it is consciousness that will enable our children to dis- cover who they are and who they choose to be. It is consciousness that will be their anchor in a world where one challenge will inevitably follow another.
In a world where we can read anything about any- thing and say anything to anyone, how we choose what we read and what we share will shape our collective understanding of the world. In this post-Covid world, armed with courage and consciousness, our children will have the right (and privilege) of communication. How wisely they raise their voices, what they stand up for, how authentic they are in a world where it is imminently possible to create whatever person you wish to be, all this will deeply matter.
In times flooded with information (and misinformation), our children will need to learn to choose the questions they ask and to search for the answers (or questions) they need. For this, inculcating a curiosity in them about why and why not, will be valuable. A curiosity in themselves and how uniquely precious they are. A curiosity in each other and the strength of together. A curiosity in the world and how to make it kinder, more peaceful, better place.
As we are faced with more nuanced decision-making than ever before, in a world where every moment looks different from the one before, our children must be able to make wise choices, informed by logic and reason, that balance their needs with the needs of others. Critical thinking will help them sift through all the information cluttered around them to consider what is most relevant. It will help them rise above challenges to learn the art of problem-solving. Our world needs more problem-solvers than problems and our children are the change-makers we need working in partnership with us, today.
If ever there has been the time for creative thought, it is now. From endeavoring to replicate holistic classroom practices and culture vitually to finding new ways to live our lives, our children will need to learn that the new opposite of challenge is creativity. It is creativity that helps us look beyond the immediate challenges of a crisis to our ability to dream of a better world.
Covid has made a deep truth more evident; that our interconnectedness is all that we really need. If we emerge from this time with our kids striv- ing for oneness then everything will change. If our education teaches us that we are first human, and then everything else then we will see a power that sitting here today you and I cannot imagine. If we show our children that we’ve seen it in small and significant ways already — people making high-cost educational resources free, museums and musicals streaming online for all to watch, doctors of all specializations chan- neling their practice to control the Covid-19 virus. Imagine if our kids practiced collaboration — what working together on climate change could shift, or ending educational inequity, or solving world hunger.
I hope we remember and hold deeply in our hearts all the lessons that we’ve learned through this time. But if we have to remember just one — and hold it tightly through our lives — let it be compassion. For however far away someone is, or however dif- ferent, Covid has helped us feel another’s pain and respond with compassion. Let us remind our children that the countless acts of kindness around us matter — from clapping for those on the frontline, to feeding families, to calling a friend to cheer them up. Let’s remember how it felt to be loved during this time. And let’s remember how it felt to love. If education can do this one thing — teach us to love and to be loved — we will live happier, fuller lives.
Imagine. Imagine the 8C school.
Where students discovered themselves and the world with consciousness and curiosity.
Where students asked questions and stood up for what they believe in with courage.
Where students imagined and created a new reality.
Where students learned we are all deeply connected in a fragile circle of life.
Where students accepted, and respected, and loved, themselves and others.
Imagine if the C of Covid that today fills our every waking moment gives way to the 8 C’s of the future.