Like many others, my life has been upended in the past month by COVID-19.
Since 2010, I’ve taught high school completion social studies as an adjunct professor at Green River College. Several weeks ago, the college closed face-to-face contact in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We finished winter quarter with online classes. My classes serve mainly international students. Fewer enrolled for spring quarter, and as a result, I lost my job. So now I stay at home, sheltering in place.
Before I was laid off, I’d been trying to decide whether it was time for me to retire from regular instruction. I’ve conferred with my wife about it on several occasions. My department chair offered me a teaching job for summer quarter. I told her I needed to think about it.
A proverb came to my mind that I learned in my youth: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” So, I decided to ask my four adult children for their opinions about what I should do.
My son Andy told me I was busy with a lot of things: Writing this weekly column, writing a monthly local history article, applying for grants for the local historical society, and composing a book. I’m also active as president of the Library Advisory Board and as a teacher in the adult forum at my church. I present Prime Time classes to seniors through GRC.
In addition, I have eleven grandchildren to influence and maintain a relationship with, as well as their parents. Andy’s advice was that it was probably a good time to end regular teaching. I’d have no trouble staying busy.
When I talked to my daughter Betsy, her first question was: “What are you planning to do with the time?” She knows about all the above activities, but she wanted me to think about how I would re-allot them. I couldn’t give her a clear answer.
When I talked with my stepdaughter Eve, her advice was: “Don’t make major decisions during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Anna, her older sister, told me she didn’t have any advice for me, but she was interested in what the others had said, so I told her the spectrum of opinions.
All of these suggestions broadened my thinking about my decision. I weighed the advantages and disadvantages. I’ve taught 43 years face-to-face. Now, I’ll have to develop online instruction involving a whole new skill set.
I decided to continue teaching at GRC summer quarter, even if the instruction is not face-to-face— IF any classes fill.
As I observe the behaviors of different leaders who have power at this time—the president, Congress, our governor, and local city government, I’m both unimpressed and impressed with their decisions about what to do with the crisis. I wonder how much they asked for advice as I did, and how much they listened to that advice.
I see President Trump flipflopping over what to do. Early on, he said, “It’s a hoax”, and recently he told the American people it could kill up to 240,000. I read that many of his adherents in Texas thought this virus was Democratic political hype until they realized it wasn’t.
I am glad we live on the fringes of King Country, instead of in the more populated areas. The distance has allowed me to make the necessary adjustments in my thinking about the dangers of COVID-19 before it hit our area. As with our president, it’s not always easy to cope with changing perspectives. We all tend to get caught in habitual ways of thinking. I’m glad our city and state leaders have adjusted more quickly than I have. In so doing, they’ve probably saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.
The proverb, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true with the coronavirus. I’ve had to learn new skills such as staying connected using Zoom. Even though my life has been upended, I’m a lot smarter and more aware, and I’m having to think through new paradigms.
Charles Dickens in his novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” summed up our dilemma today: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…, it was the spring of hope and the winter of despair…. ”