Monday, March 2, 2020

Schoolchildren and the new coronavirus (COVID-19)

Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian-American journalist and commentator for the BBC, MSNBC, The New York Times and other outlets, tweeted out the above image today with the note: "While fighting #Coronavirus in Iran many schools are closed and children are stuck at home. This is competition that asks children to write creative stories on how to overcome the virus while they have time at home."

An Iranian woman named Faezeh also tweeted out the image with a note that Google says translates to: "Get to the kids, the bored kids, the kids who are bombarded with information, the kids who are scared, the kids who want to talk but no one listens to them ... This is one way to relieve stress and anxiety! We have to be careful."

It should go without saying, but kids are the same everywhere on Earth. They have dreams and fears. Questions and inquisitiveness. A great capacity for courage but also a underdeveloped ability to describe how they're really feeling inside. They are extremely perceptive and know when things are off-kilter or out of whack in the World of Adults. So we must understand that part of adult leadership1 in moments of crisis or anxiety involves making sure we're letting kids know what's going on, and not just setting them aside.

Along those lines, here's another excellent initiative. NPR's Malaka Gharib, the author of I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir, put together a short comic to help teach schoolchildren about this developing news story. She writes: "Kids, this comic is for you. It's based on a radio story that NPR education reporter Cory Turner did. He asked some experts what kids might want to know about the new coronavirus discovered in China." Share it around, especially to teachers you might know. They can never have enough good resources. I think Stephen on Twitter spoke for many when he commended the comic and wrote: "Thank you for this. We’ve been walking the line of trying to make our daughters aware without making them panic."

Here are a few more resources on the same topic, from The Guardian, NBC News, and my employer, LNP|LancasterOnline.

1. Speaking of crisis leadership, Smithsonian Magazine published an insightful article in November 2017 headlined: "How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America." Author and activist Amy Siskind recently noted this specific passage: "The most important lesson from 1918 is to tell the truth. Though that idea is incorporated into every preparedness plan I know of, its actual implementation will depend on the character and leadership of the people in charge when a crisis erupts." That seems relevant at this moment in history.

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