Today is Saturday, February 29, 2020 and we are back in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China and have been since the 6th. This area has not been very hard hit by the COVID-19 virus, although many precautionary measures are still in place. No new cases in a week or so, and of the 87 total cases, the one serious case was downgraded to a common case and 59 were discharged according to bendibao news.
Spring blossoms at Jinji Lake, Suzhou
It was an unusual experience to have a visit with family in the states voluntarily prolonged by my school and airline. Also was strange when the US canceled all flights to China, so luckily the airline got creative and let us re-route through Canada. Lastly Snoqualmie Pass closed due to accidents in a snowstorm when we should have headed over it to be on time for our flight, but we just braved it anyway and it did reopen a few hours later. When it snows heavily on the pass, it is a good reminder to slow down.
It is pretty much forbidden to have any kind of get-together, most restaurants are closed and it is discouraged to go out. When we do go out, we wear masks and have to take a permission card from our guards, which we give back when we return and they take our temperature. But life goes on. I am counting my blessings in that we are safe, we can still get groceries (even imported things we like, like cheese) and we are able to work. The calmness suits me very well.
I still teach violin using the internet, and I still teach students studying to take the IGCSE exams through a Cambridge International Assessment Centre at Nanjing Normal University Suzhou Experimental School. But the latter also has to be done online for some weeks until school in China is allowed to formally reopen.
This makes for an unusual set-up as for managing teaching and learning in a high school. We hold a daily meeting as a staff in the afternoon, also by video conference. I can’t say I mind not commuting across town and it also isn’t too bad having a lake view in my pseudo-office. This is also more carbon-friendly.
On the other hand, it certainly is not the same as seeing students face-to-face in the classroom. We do see each other through the screen, but this has its drawbacks as well, since cameras get moved and some students feel like it’s fine to play games on a phone while pretending to pay attention. The problems are compounded by the fact that most parents have already gone back to work so the kids are left home to take their classes online, but unsupervised, or high school students are left in charge of a younger sibling also while being expected to take classes.
That being said, a lot of students actually respond very well to learning using the internet, and even enjoy it more. (I have a great link to a story which shows evidence of this also in music education with a special distance learning program – get the next Museletter if you still need to sign up! It comes out in March.)
A lady who is taking violin from me via video conference continues to make progress, and I pretty much always find it a joy to teach her, as she patiently and consistently puts forth effort and persistence. Her most recent accomplishment is having learned sautillé bowing, which honestly I did not know if I would be able to manage teaching online. Somehow it worked! And for me, that was the win of the week despite the virus, despite a hiatus of lessons with her due to time zones, international travel, and even postponing her latest lesson. It just goes to show that persistence is something which accomplishes a lot more than wit, money or background. Persistence is something freely available to all of us at all times. Let us all persist in the matters that are meaningful to us. What’s that for you?