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Moe Moe

Teacher

Dear COVID-19 Who are you, really?  I know you’ve become a household name internationally within a few months; winning the most accolades of sorts on a global scale – from the deadliest lethal contagion to the kindest acts of humanity; juxtaposition don’t you think? But I’m quite intrigued to reveal the real “you”. What’s your intention? Why have you suddenly appeared at a time when I had just started the new year afresh, excited about the new term, seeing my colleagues again, going back to work after a month-long school break? Right, so whether I approve or not, you’re destined to be a part of my life till a vaccine is found, am I correct? Well, I’ve been compelled like many others, I hope, to adhere to the strict guidelines set by the authorities for the sake of protecting mankind. I’m serious. What kind of a joke is this? Never have I thought I’d be living a science fiction “Contagion” movie. And by the way, coincidentally, I had just watched that movie before the circuit breaker. It must have been a premonition. Anyway, so here I am in my 7th week of the circuit breaker, feeling totally debilitated and “Zoomed” out. When I learned that all my classes were going online, very soon, not tomorrow or next week but “yesterday” metaphorically, I felt like you had infected me... yes you, the infamous coronavirus. The sleepless nights just kept rising like the number of cases reported daily. Having had only minimal online Zoom training before my actual teaching, it seemed a “do” or “die” moment for me, overwhelmed by the technicalities of using Zoom as an online tool for teaching. I remember vividly my very first lesson, as I was one of the pioneer teachers to go “live” using a colleague’s office laptop. I thought I had suffered a ruptured aneurysm when suddenly my mind went blank after practising all the functionalities of Zoom endlessly that day. However, with the immense support and encouragement from my colleagues and peers, all playing their roles as managers, senior teachers, teachers or just friends, I was able to pull through my first Zoom lesson successfully without any major hiccup whilst still meeting the lesson’s objectives. Wasn’t that amazing for a baby boomer? Soon after the lesson had finished, a gush of adrenaline rushed through my entire body as I bounced back to my desk, feeling I had reached the summit of Mt. Everest. I guess it’s the “can do” mindset that gave me the courage to continue challenging myself against all odds every day with Zoom to deliver, plan, teach, contribute and function digitally since the beginning of April 2020. It has been no easy feat, COVID-19, however, I do thank you for that steep learning curve given to me like a hammer and tongs. Apart from coping with Zoom, now that it’s entered my home without any invitation whatsoever, I’ve been tasked to care for my elderly father who’s a healthy, high- maintenance 83-year-old, needing everything and anything under the sun. Jokingly but seriously, I even told my father he must be COVID-20. So kudos to all the nursing home health care workers looking after the elderly at this time, it’s extremely challenging. So it’s been almost 2 months now sharing space with my father, my husband, and my son, cooking, cleaning and preparing meals. Of course there were times when I wanted to call it quits whilst teaching and caring for my father, but it was the innate duty of being a daughter, and my love for cooking that kept me sane. Likewise, the profound benefits of Vipassana meditation, which I’ve been practising for several years, have been my pillar of strength to help me overcome the current situation you’ve created, COVID-19. Without this practice of self-realisation and acceptance, I wouldn’t have been able to survive mentally. It’s probably karma testing my resilience, tolerance, and patience to the max. There have been some blissful moments too, just watching my delicious food simmering from the pots and pans. I must admit that I’ve taken a picture of every single dish that I’ve cooked from day 1 of the circuit breaker, feeling proud of my creations. After a long day of work, I would stroll across the block to the nearest supermarket to buy groceries, snacks, and junk food; feeling liberated walking alone on an empty road. This has been my outlet, joyously carrying home a tub of chocolate chip ice cream. Despite your vicious attacks committed towards millions of innocent people across the world, you’ve proven or endorsed the importance of “connection” for humanity to fully survive and thrive at their best. This was evidenced in all my online classes from preschool, primary to secondary students. I could sense that they were eager and excited to see me even if on-screen, regardless of the intermittent connection. Hence, it was more critical for me as a teacher to listen more intently, to check in on how each student was coping, and to allow those moments of sharing their pet dog or cat, etc. As I reflect on these subtle but pivotal aspects of teaching, it became glaring how educational psychology will play an essential role for teaching in the new normal. Equally, COVID-19, though every professional talks about compassion and empathy, you’ve made these words come to life in a completely involuntary manner for students to achieve authentic learning, especially while you’re still lingering out there. Might this be one of your intentions? COVID-19, you’re cataclysmic, you’re novel, you’re deadly, you’re contagious, yet humanity and Mother Earth have shown unprecedented signs of inspiration and re-growth as the world unites in the race to find a cure. And it’s my hope that it’s sooner than later for everyone’s sake. Having witnessed immense unity amongst different people, generosity of immaculate intensity, unbelievable acts of kindness as well as patches of irresponsible behaviours, I’ve become more and more curious about you.  You’ve brought this upon us with a force like no other. So what’s your true intention, and who are you, really?