Coronavirus. Quarantine. Social isolation. This time has been difficult, to say the least, but I’m proud that I’ve been more or less using this time to catch up on education, spend time with family, and get a much needed mental health break. Don’t get me wrong. I have picked up a few small craft projects and watched my fair share of family movies, but this semi-foreign, social isolation scenario undoubtedly takes a toll on the mind. Especially that of a developing child or teenager.
So one bored Wednesday, I pop in to check The Circle School Discord server and see a recent link from staff member JD to an international Zoom call. Now, even as a self-proclaimed introvert, I should say it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the brain needs social interaction — not to mention I wasn’t doing anything and JD always sends good resources. So I jumped in and was greeted with chaos. Kids with all different accents and homes and interests were buzzing about, trying to organize small group discussions and chat rooms. Not knowing quite what to do or say to this new group of people from all over, I followed JD’s lead, muting my microphone and simply watching how this worldwide democratic schools community functioned. What happened next was pretty awesome.
These seemingly chaotic groups organized themselves and dispersed to talk. I believe conversations included Harry Potter and Rubik’s cube solving. Then it was us. A group of nine or so students and staff from around the world. Passionate educators in South Africa, enthusiastic students from Britain, and curiously shy me. I decided to jump in. The question “What is the temperature outside where you are?” was a fun icebreaker idea for this crowd. It started off with an excited young British boy telling us how warm it was outside — a whole seventeen degrees! After a quick laugh about the Celsius-Fahrenheit confusion, I felt comfortable with this group. I shared a bit of my chemotherapy isolation story and found a friend in a South African educator.
Aside from a session of much needed face-to-face interaction, a simple video discussion with others from all over the world gave me a sense of community. All of us were very different, but we were united by two things: our democratic schooling and our quarantine. I left with a more complex understanding of education and the pandemic around the world. Above all, I was reminded that in this difficult and isolating time, we can still lean on community, near and far away.
– Lily Jordan, Circle School Class of ’21