AwareNow: Issue 7: The Return Edition

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The final school bell has rung; students are rushing; class is in session. Whether the classroom is full or empty, it is not the same. We are feeling a great deal of pressure in order to make sure that our students are able to return safely; and we only have one shot. Education continues to morph, specifically higher learning. This is something I have observed first-hand as I enter my final year at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As of recent, the changes we have witnessed have left educators and students with a sudden and traumatic transition. Being a student in this day and age is hard. Students have had to adapt to the threats of school shootings through the experience of active shooter drills, transform their engagement with technology and experience the loss of funding to art programs and athletics teams. The pandemic presented a whole host of troubles that educators had to manage through their own form of adaptation. Students ranging in age from kindergarten all the way through graduate school are grappling with the way schools are changing. This leaves many without a concrete plan to address what is to come; everyone is searching for direction. Educators lament the absence of a deep connection with their students. Sean Duffie, a teacher at Forest Hills Northern High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, expressed it this way: “Without personal connection, teaching can just become facts and figures.” This is why so many people pursue a degree in education and why so many find their lifelong calling and passion in teaching. Duffie states, “Losing the in-person stability of teaching and learning has reinforced what I have always known about education: students are people first, then learners.” It is our job as students and lifelong learners to take care of ourselves and the people with whom we are building our futures. Students will need to prepare and behave differently. Matthew McLogan is the Vice President for University Relations at Grand Valley State University, and the effects of the pandemic have not been compared to any challenge he has seen in his nearly 30 years working at the University. School is not easy; change does not always come easy; moving forward in order to make sure that we can continue to educate and empower our youth is something that cannot change. Things are undeniably less comfortable and less customary; we need to remind ourselves that experiencing uncomfortable growth can foster an environment to create opportunities that we could not imagine for ourselves, and that this is a process that we are all learning and growing through. PROVIDENCE BOWMAN Awareness Ties Project Manager & Columnist Providence is a Gemini as well. She is a college student at Grand Valley State University, studying International Relations. She is passionate about using her words for good and is currently piecing stories together in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She loves to spend her free time traveling, with her head in a book, and by the water. She lives everyday by her mantra that we are here to pursue opportunities and “go be awesome”.