Notice and Wonder: Life in a Pandemic

Image by Joseph Redfield Nino from Pixabay

Sometimes when given a problem, students struggle to even know how to begin approaching ways to think about the situation, let alone, solving it. A common practice used in math lessons, called Notice and Wonder, provides a moment of pause for students to begin the process of understanding a mathematical problem before developing a strategy to find a solution. The teacher typically presents a math scenario then provides students with the opportunity to share what they notice in what was presented. Without the pressure of finding a solution right away, learners often feel comfortable to pick up on even the smallest details of the math problem. After bringing attention to all the various details they’ve noticed, students are then encouraged to wonder. They’re free to wonder about the how’s, why’s, and the what-ifs about the problem. These wonderings then lead students to find strategies and possibilities in a solution. As I struggle to make sense of life in a pandemic, could this instructional strategy give me the space I need to come to grips with the impact of COVID-19?

THE PROBLEM/SCENARIO: To prevent the spread of the coronavirus and the potential for devastating consequences of infection, [at the time of this writing] about a third of the world’s population continues to live in some form of lockdown, or quarantine. Despite the stay-at-home order, some still choose/must breach the restrictions because inconsistent messaging creates varying levels of concern or essential businesses still require workers to report to duty. Social gatherings, however, has radically come to a standstill. Even families have limited their get-togethers to protect vulnerable family members. If human beings are social beings, what will be the long term effects of social, and physical, distancing?

Through my noticing and wondering, I realize there is something I fear besides the virus, COVID-19. I fear the impact of the extended isolation and how it will carry over in the aftermath of this crisis. There’s no way to know for sure but I believe we will need to be more intentional than ever before to establish and maintain meaningful connections with others.  This exercise has helped me to anticipate how I can respond on the other side of this.

  1. Recognize privilege and suffering is relative. I fully understand that my experience in all of this may look very different from so many others. For this reason, I pray for the awareness to be empathetic to the disposition of the people I come in contact with in the coming months. While some may be jumping for joy to get a haircut, others may be relieved to return to earning an income. While some may be thrilled to get back into the gym, others may be happy to be breathing freely and without pain. Each of these situations out of context makes sense. However, when placed in close proximity to each other, it becomes problematic because we tend to compare and judge. This is will not be the time to compare. We all expereienced our own traumas.
  2. Know that people grieve differently. According to David Kessler, co-author with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, when we experience loss of normalcy or loss of connection, our feelings of uneasiness and discomfort can be described as grief. Certainly we all, in differing degrees, must adjust to a new normal and reacquaint ourselves to socializing and sharing space with each other. How does that look and feel when the masses are going through a grieving process? I pray to extend patience and compassion to others and myself as we may not be fully ok, yet. And I will remember that it’s ok to not be ok.
  3. Exchange meaningful pleasantries. The standard “How are you?” will now be an opportunity for a check-in with family, your neighbor, local service workers, colleagues…a stranger. When lockdowns are lifted, we will return to being able to perceive body language, facial expression, or a look in someone’s eyes. I pray for the discernment to realize when someone needs to be seen and heard. Even if it’s just an exchange of a much needed smile.
  4. Take notice of inequities. In the past several weeks, the systematic inequities in our schools, local communities, and nation have been blaring louder than normal. Though we often think of inequities in terms of a host of deliberate and unfortunate –isms that seem too large to overcome, there are some disparities that we can reduce in our immediate environments with heightened attention. The voiceless still need people to speak up for their needs. The weakened will continue to need the strengthened to lift them up.

In actuality, I, like many of you, live most of these practices regularly. However, what feels different is the urgency of doing these things. Perhaps I took it for granted that we just do these things because it’s a way to be kind or show courtesy and decency.  However, our current reality is showing me that it is an absolute necessity. We are not meant to live in isolation. We need each other. Humans need other humans to live, thrive, and survive. I pray that we all become more intentional in mind and spirit.

4 thoughts on “Notice and Wonder: Life in a Pandemic

  1. Nice to see that you are writing again! I am excited for my new reality. I wonder if we look at our new environment with positive/opportunities will it be contagious ?

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  2. Great write up Tina. I love the math solving approach you introduced. In addition to the navigating the ongoing pandemic, I see myself applying the Notice and wonder in a lot of areas in life such as working on my Ph.D. dissertation.
    Thank you for a timely message

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Appreciate that, Sam. More and more instructional strategies are improving to narrow in on the way our brains take in and process information. This allows teachers to support critical thinking and foster creativity, problem solving, and innovation. All things we need to get through life not just school. I’m glad you NOTICED 😁 the value in this strategy.

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