As our personal and work inboxes are filling up with emails from companies stating their stance and procedures during this tumultuous time, it seems appropriate to address how ECE is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The global understanding and current message is that we’re living in “unprecedented times,” - but what does that mean? That means that there will be a “Pre COVID-19” and a “Post COVID-19” world. Some of the changes that are being rolled out are temporary, and everybody is scrambling to adjust to them...together but separately.
Some of the changes, however, will be permanent. Certain shifts and adaptations may become the rule moving forward. The problem is, we don’t as of yet know how to determine which characteristics will return to normal, and which safety measures will remain.
Currently, a personal change I’m dealing with is the mass closure of secondary schools with an indefinite return date. I’m having to homeschool my children, and one of the talents I want to cultivate and increase in them is what some call a “growth mindset.” This means that, rather than focusing on the negatives of a situation or outcome, you look at the positives by paying attention to the experience - and not just the end result. But how do I teach my children a skill I don’t possess? How do I teach them to look at challenges as opportunities for growth rather than hindrances or obstacles to learning?
Likewise, when it comes to the realm of credential evaluation and international education, how can we do the same? How can we turn this unexplored world and uncharted situation into one of advantages and development? How do we keep our attention on the solutions rather than the problems?
The Challenges (aka Opportunities for Growth):
With more and more companies being forced to go remote, the Internet and service providers may struggle with overwhelming traffic. How do we ensure that business operations won’t be interrupted? Will the systems in place survive the influx?
Thankfully, ECE went paperless a few years ago. Many departments were already operating under the remote worker concept, causing minimal disruption in everyday production. However, some of the other agencies and institutions we work with may be in the midst of figuring out how to continue providing services right now. This will require patience and understanding on a new level. (Read more about ECE's business procedure's during Covid-19)
If places of higher education (or secondary as the case may be) are closing, how will students obtain their records? How do we verify documents if no one is around to respond to our inquiries? And will it matter? Will student mobility cease to be a trend moving forward?
Thankfully, we’ve already encountered and addressed some of these concerns in the past. We’ve asked these questions before due to natural disasters, political conflicts, and more. The measures that have been in place, such as being flexible yet consistent and seeing the story behind the student, should continue to withstand the pressures of COVID-19. (See our blog on Dealing with Documentation Issues in Times of Crisis)
At this point, you might be looking at me as insanely as my children did when I told them we could use the school closing to our advantage. They couldn’t understand what good could come from not seeing their friends for weeks, or being locked inside the house with nothing to do, or having *gasp* mom for a teacher. For my kids, it’s highlighting the fact they can implement a new curriculum that focuses on their areas of interest. My daughter selected Spanish (no longer offered at the elementary level at her school) and my son chose cursive (again, removed from the curriculum district-wide). In addition, big brother is getting to experience the joy of teaching, by creating PowerPoint presentations for little sister to learn from.
Working hard at art!
So, what does this “growth mindset” look like when applied to our field? What can we learn from the Covid-19 experience and the interruptions it is creating? What do we hope to have permanently gained after the temporary crisis has ceased?
The Solutions (aka Paying Attention to the Positive)
Reach out to colleagues to hear what they are doing.
How are other companies handling these times? What solutions are universities utilizing across the globe? Is there a particular agency doing something truly innovative that you could mimic?
While social distancing and quarantine are limiting face-to-face interactions, there are other ways for us to stay engaged within the field. Perhaps your office has wanted to try a new platform for information exchange. Now might be the time to implement something you’ve been too nervous to explore in the past, such as updating your internal resources or creating a new social media page dedicated exclusively for staff.
Dive into a research project you’ve been wanting to undertake.
Is there a research topic you’ve been waiting to study but haven’t had the time? With student mobility on hold at the moment, this could be a good opportunity to reach out to colleagues and see if there is a project you could collaborate on. Others in the field may also be looking for something to do!
Cultivate an "attitude of gratitude."
Don’t forget to say “thank you!” It can be tough to believe that there are still things to be grateful for. But they are there if you look for them.
Like me, are you getting to spend more time with your family? Are you able to get digitally organized and clean out an overflowing email inbox? Are you witnessing an outpouring of support and encouragement from colleagues? Look for the small victories, and celebrate the triumphs!
One lesson my kids are learning during this pandemic is that certain things are simply beyond our control. Worrying doesn’t help us get anywhere, but careful preparation and thoughtful planning can create a sense of calm later on. A growth mindset says “You can do this! I believe in you.”
We are in the field of education, and education is all about learning...how to adapt, how to improve, how to succeed. We should have the confidence to say we have done those things in the past, and trust that we will continue to do them in the future.
While I’m thankful I’m growing as a homeschool teacher, I doubt that I will continue in that endeavor once schools reopen. There is no mistake about my future as a credential evaluator, however. As each day brings new information and additional changes, I am learning to acknowledge and observe things in the present moment. For right now, I am appreciating that I work in such a dynamic and adaptable field like international education. And I’m grateful I get to share that passion with those who belong to this incredible community.
|Melissa Ganiere is a Research & Knowledge Management Evaluator and has been with ECE since 2006. She specializes in education from Sub-saharan Africa and South East Asia, along with refugee documentation and online verification.|