Do you remember that suspense novel by Mary Higgins Clark, Where are the Children? I read it a really long time ago and don’t remember any details, but the title has been bouncing around my librarian brain for the past week or so. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re spending days and nights alone in our current state of social distancing and isolation.
I’ve been following the directive to stay at home other than the odd errand to the pharmacy, grocery store or medical appointment. When I do venture out, I’m often surprised by how many cars remain on the road. (Yes, I understand I am one of them. Just observing here.) Where is everyone going?
When the weather cooperates, Jeter and I are taking really long walks encountering pedestrians, many wearing masks and gloves. We cross streets and avenues to avoid one another with sad smiles hidden underneath the fabric covering the lower part of our faces. These are my obvious and immediate impressions, only later would I realize that I haven’t noticed a single child in my travels.
Where are the children?
Physically, I imagine they’re home, probably ingesting some type of media or material from a screen. It might even be educational or academic some of the time. But what about where kids are at right now emotionally, mentally and spiritually? That’s the question that I’m afraid we won’t know the answer to for perhaps years to come.
Across the globe educators are learning on the fly how to deliver instruction to students who possess a wide range of available in home resources. We’re certainly fortunate to have an array of technological means to reach our students with academic assignments and class work, assuming they all have devices and WiFi access. We all know, however, that isn’t the case.
But, even if we did have 100% participation it’s not the same. Learning is about making connections and the connection between material and student is teacher. I don’t think there’s a digital platform available that will ever surpass the effectiveness of “in person” instruction. It just isn’t possible to replicate that kind of cooperative learning. Because it isn’t just about delivering curriculum when you’re dealing with child learners. There’s so much more.
As an educator and parent, I know that I have to be aware of where children are in a much more holistic fashion. And I’m worried.
During this time of crisis how can we support children who have needs that they may not be able to articulate? What can we do to provide young people with resources that address their fears, frustrations and sense of isolation?
For me, as a librarian, it comes down to books that give students a sense that our world has been challenged before. There have been other fiscal, political and health crises which we have survived. For my students, I’m preparing themed lists of books and sharing in real time what I’m currently reading at home. I’m reading a book to them using Screencastify and Google Classroom and requesting their feedback as I look forward and work on next year’s author visit to my library. Creating informative newsletters and updating and maintaining my website, also occupies my attention and time as I work from my dining room, complete with card catalog.
Reaching out to kids (and faculty) to communicate my interest in helping them to get through this incredibly difficult time is my primary goal right now. Wherever the children are, I want them to know I’m there too.