Viral Isolation

I’m pretty sure that ‘Viral Isolation’ can be considered an oxymoron given that viral is defined as something that is popular and well known everywhere and isolation means, well, to be isolated. So, given that we cannot be everywhere like we have been prior to lockdown we have become disconnected and, in many cases, isolated. The issues are wide ranging, and they do not discriminate between age or sex.

If we have got anything right throughout this pandemic it would be the speed and efficiency in which we have adapted to working at home or remotely from sites that are fragmented from their families.

This has been a doubled edged sword as far as I can tell. My wife recently started a new job in payroll and had not even completed her probationary period before she was given her marching orders to work from home. This became a very challenging time given that her training was now being completed over skype and the internet. What was amazing though, was she went from a person who was not completely confident in the realms of Excel to something of a guru and all in six months. I now stand in awe of the person who I have known for 33 years sitting behind the desk opposite me talking jargon about pivot tables and drop downs and is now part of a small team responsible for the payroll of 600 staff. The downside has been many days of working remotely where she has not spoken to any of her colleagues. The other strange thing about all of this is that she would easily walk past any number of her colleagues in the street and not recognise them even though she speaks to them in some way or another multiple times in a week. These relationships have been formed over the internet and remote meetings through skype and text. My wife, like so many, have had to adapt to the circumstances or sink. She has done an amazing and inspiring job and as we speak she is giving instruction to a colleague on the other end of the phone.

When the pandemic kicked off at the beginning of the year my daughters, however, did not fair so well. My oldest daughter was in her last semester of University to qualify as a new teacher. Everything was going well, and she had her final placement right here in Stevenage. Within a week the world had changed and she, along with her fellow NQTs to be, suddenly had to finish the last semester in the profession that is still all about personal contact through the medium of the internet and ZOOM. This class of soon to be teachers missed a vital last part of the process that would bring all of the loose ends together and yet somehow managed to complete the work needed to graduate. No graduation took place though, no leaving drinks or dinners that should have rounded up this mile post in a life committed to learning and teaching and no ceremony that would have seen families and friends sitting proudly in the audience waiting to hear the name of the newly minted teacher.

My year 8 student, again like many, started off with plans to make the most of the following few weeks until this was over. Up early every morning, work completed and with enthusiasm she took on the rest of the day. This lasted about three weeks.

She soon fell into the late nights and late mornings and too much time spent on social media developing friendships remotely. Like many she completed all of her work but retreated into her room and lost some of the bounce and confidence that she had had prior to the pandemic. The thing is, with children and teens especially, much of their development is about socialising and developing relationships in real time, not over technology, and those long summer days that never end never really got started this year. She is already a digital native as part of Gen Z so that part was almost too easy, but we should be careful and patient with our children and older people too, this has not been an easy time and technology and social media has sometimes only made it more challenging. Yes, it has been a lifeline to many with new skills being learned and taught at all ages, but let’s not kid ourselves, LOL in a text does not replace laughing out loud with those we love

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