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What is school going to look like?Honestly, there's still a lot to be discussed in this topic. In Puerto Rico (also U.S. territory), physically going back to school has been debated for months. Though the island's mortality rates are considerably low, there's understandably, a lot of fear and uncertainty. Like me, students are waiting for the next executive order that will shed some light on how the educational system will decide to move forward. However, I know that there'll definitely be various safety precautions that we will have to get accustomed to. Hopefully these won't take away from the school year. Experiences vary from place to place. Puerto Rico is an island, and it's small; thus, its circumstances and priorities differentiate from larger countries. For example, the U.S. has different types of restrictions based on the district and state you're located in. The hybrid models in California may vary in other places, such as Boston. However, regardless of each location's specific measures, some safety protocols are fixed for all of us. These similarities include: wearing masks, continually washing our hands, being cautious of our surroundings, and understanding others' space and comfort levels.
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How will we experience school?Now that we understand a little bit of the procedures and precautions schools will take, a particular question arises; how will we experience school? Along with other doubts like: Will we be able to participate in certain events? Will we be able to talk and share time with our peers naturally? Will it be more stressful than years before? Considering the uncertainty COVID has brought, these are tough questions to answer. Nonetheless, many students are sharing their insights on this topic. From what I've read, the experience for most students has wildly varied. For students that are used to student-center learning, it has been hard to deal without peer-to-peer interaction and a constant exchange of ideas. Also, many say that they experience a lack of motivation and discipline to finish their work and have even submitted homework weeks after they were due. Even so, we can't deny that there have been advantages to online learning. For instance, numerous students say that they can wake up later in the day, feel better rested, have more time to engage with their family and explore their passions. Personally, some of these opinions resonate with me. I've certainly liked being able to wake up later in the day. At the same time, though, peer-to-peer interaction one aspect I miss about school. Like everyone, I've had ups and downs in regard to the pandemic. It's made me realize that I'm not a fan of unexpected change—which I'd like to improve. I've even been able to grow tomatoes and vegetables. I hadn't been able to do this before. Though the beaches are heavily restricted areas in Puerto Rico, I've been fortunate enough to paddleboard and spend time in the water. All of this to say that the experience hasn't been fun and severe, but I think we can find those areas in our lives that haven't completely changed or maybe have improved and hold unto them when things seem uncontrollable. Considering this point of view, I also want to highlight that many livelihoods have been incredibly affected by the pandemic. Therefore, I wanted to learn and write about one of these aspects, specifically education.
What does education look like in other parts of the world?Countries and groups that were already most vulnerable when the pandemic hit have experienced much worse conditions than most of us understand. One heavily affected area is education. Before the pandemic, according to the United Nations, there were already 250 million children worldwide that weren't going to school and 800 million illiterate adults. This data may not seem significant when compared to the billions of people that live on the planet. However, the U.N. also wrote that "The ability to respond to school closures changes dramatically with level of development: for instance, during the second quarter 2020, 86 percent of children in primary education have been effectively out of school in countries with low human development – compared with just 20 percent in countries with very high human development.” This is to say that those students with more possibilities and better living conditions (a higher human development) were able to stay in school instead of those with lower human development. Based on this type of data, many people are worried that students in marginalized groups, lower socioeconomic levels, and different cultural circumstances might not return to school at all. This may occur because of a lack of accessibility to materials outside of their institutions and the need to work and earn an income to ease their living situation. I know that these issues are daunting, and we cannot change them right now. However, by being knowledgeable about them, we open our minds to thousands of possible solutions. They can be as small or as big as you want them to be. Sometimes, just understanding that these social adversities exist is a huge step into making an impact.
What you can do to help yourself and others?
- Make up a routine Move your body before your first class. Take a cold shower. Tend to your plants, dog/animal, etc. Talk to someone or write your feelings down. Read.
- Organize Prioritize your work. What do you want to accomplish in a day/week/month? What will make you feel good? Which class do you want to improve?
- Breathe Take time to practice your breathing. Relax and understand your breathing patterns. Improving these skills can help you cope with many different situations.
- Learn Research the worldwide COVID impacts. Start close and help your peers/people in any way you can. Understand and appreciate your well-being. Implement your motivation into active projects that fulfill you and engage your community.