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  • Writer's pictureMike Vachow

Mining the Pandemic

I've always been good at turning a simple project into something much grander. A recent example: sort out all the Knuckleball blog posts that were preoccupied with the pandemic and pop them into a subpage, still accessible (for the maudlin) but stashed away like a crazy relative in a Victorian novel. The chronological boundaries were easy to identify. I published the first piece, "Love (and Retention) in the Time of Covid," on March 18, 2020, and for almost the next 2 years, until Jan. 18, 2022 ("Handle With Care"), something like 75% of my posts during that time, 35 in total, focused on how schools were or could be responding to the pandemic.

Pretty quickly, though, I wondered if there was any gold to be found in this anachronistic pile. Thus began an extended read-through that contained lessons in humility--in two posts, I hammered away at my contention that families with elementary age kids should form learning pods and recruit deferring college students to teach them, a win-win, I insisted, that never materialized. Others themes remain relevant today: how do we balance the efficiency inherent in the digital tools that we mastered and continue to use, with the messy intimacy that creates community and is inextricably woven into the way people learn; how can we maintain the caliber of communication we achieved during the pandemic; do schools have an opportunity to sunset programs, paused during the pandemic, that no one really missed?

Combined with lessons in governance, in humane pacing of school life, in exposing the disturbing aspects of surveillance built into so many edtech products, a retrospective look at the pandemic, through my writing or others, is a worthwhile project, or at least that's my rationalization to leave these pieces right where they are.

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