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Journaling History During This Time
Kathryn Lerch, Upper School Social Studies Teacher and Legacy Initiative Coordinator

 

It occurred to me as I thought about some of the content I included in my World Civ I course - e.g. Boccaccio’s Decameron - how did people cope during other plagues? Here guests “hunkered” down too, but at an estate outside of Florence. They were entertained by stories. Is today really any different? With social distancing, we are finding creative outlets to relieve stress, etc. How do we “entertain” ourselves, and cope with the evolving situation? How have you adjusted? What about your immediate family and extended family? What does your daily regimen look like? To lighten the mood here, go to this link to see how a family in Britain is coping with ‘one more day’: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/01/825232156/u-k-familys-lockdown-themed-rendition-of-les-mis-is-a-delight

One way to document this unique time in history is through journaling. For example, in September 2001, a former Legacy student had spent the summer with friends in New York City, and when 9/11 happened she shared all the emails she received from these students describing their eyewitness accounts. You are now also “eye witnesses” to something that hasn’t happened since 1918. Please consider writing journals or essays; students, faculty, and parents may do this through google docs and share with me at klerch@parktudor.org. I will compile, and a student-faculty committee will edit for publication.

Middle School history teacher T.J. Gee has tasked his eighth graders with journaling their experiences since Park Tudor closed in March, in order to create primary documents about this time. Students have been writing essays, recording videos, and even painting and making other artworks to document their thoughts and feelings. I’m looking forward to reviewing their submissions.

In late June or early July I plan to collect all of the “journals,” anecdotal accounts, essays, etc. Let’s use these to create our own unique and special account about these challenging and scary times. We will need students and teachers who will be writers, illustrators, photographers, editors, etc. to make this potential publication possible; the best parts will be published in our Phoenix alumni magazine in the fall or winter. If this is really exceptional, we can publish a 100-page journal-size paperback which will be available to your family and others. Everyone has a story to tell.

To help you get started, here are some sample prompts. Of course, you may have better ones and everyone’s story will be unique. In addition to jotting down your own thoughts, you should also interview members of your family, your grandparents, and friends to elicit their unique responses. If you have any questions, I am here for you of course. You do not have to follow the format below as you may have your own style that works for you, but please write (or record) your unique story.

Possible Prompts

  • Back in early January, what is your recollection of the events happening in China? Did you pay much attention to this? Why, or why not? Do you have friends or family in China?
  • In February (seems so long ago now), were you following news of the spread of Covid-19? Why or why not?
  • In March, you are thinking about Spring Break plans and for some of you college acceptances and college visits. Did you have plans with your family for a trip? What got cancelled? What was your reaction to this?
  • In mid-March, mid-week when school was closed, what was your initial reaction? (Be honest) How did this change things for you and for your family? [Faculty: adapt prompt to changing teaching methodology if you wish.]
  • If you are active with [or a teacher directing] spring sports, stage productions, musical performances, art gallery exhibits, graduation plans . . .  How did the closing of school affect you? What are your disappointments? What are your hopes?
  • At the beginning of April when you heard that school was closed through the end of the year (except for distance learning of course), what was your first thought? With a bit more time to reflect on the impact of this, what are your thoughts?
  • For our graduating seniors [or parents of seniors], how does the shutdown affect your college choices, plans, etc.?
  • On the “bright side” what has this pandemic crisis allowed you to do, that you might not have done otherwise?
  • When not doing on-line learning, how do you spend your time? What are your frustrations, hopes, fears, etc.?

Family & Friends

  • How are you staying in touch with friends or family members?
  • What do you typically talk about? Dinner table conversations?
  • Describe your concerns for the present and for the future.
  • If you have family living abroad, in another state, or even across town, what are your concerns and how are you able to mitigate these worries?
  • What have other family members shared with you? How do you try to “lighten the mood”?
  • Does your family have stories about grandparents / great-grandparents and their experiences with the 1918 pandemic? What about other more recent pandemics in Africa or Asia? (If so, do an interview and take notes.)
  • Do you have family members who are first-responders or in health care? If so, what are their worries, how do you feel about their situation? How has life at home had to adjust to this?
  • What do you miss the most and why?
  • What gives you the most comfort (pets, friends, family, sunshine, etc.?)
  • What can you do to help others less fortunate than you? Have you helped in some way, if so, please describe.

Future, and yes, there is one!

  • Has the current crisis had an impact on your plans for the spring, summer and future? Be specific.
  • How have you dealt with this crisis? What have you learned from this experience?—about yourself as a person, your family, friends?
  • Hopefully you have not lost any family or friends due to this pandemic, but if so, what thoughts do you wish to share?
  • What suggestions do you have to share with others?
  • If you had the opportunity, what suggestions do you have for our world leaders?
  • When everything returns to a “new normal” will you do anything differently in light of what has occurred?

Finally, what are your thoughts about writing down your/your family’s experiences with the pandemic? Was it a helpful outlet? Is it something you would want to save for your own children, etc.? Will we have learned something from this experience and difficult time?

Be sure to include your name, student or teacher grade level. Thank you so much and I look forward to gathering these stories together.

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Why We Should All Be Keeping Coronavirus Journals
https://time.com/5824341/wwii-diaries-coronavirus/?linkId=87039109

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