I went into self-isolation about a week before many others. Because I had come into contact with family traveling abroad, I worked from home while the university and college I work for continued to prepare for what felt like an inevitability after the WHO’s declaration. Being by myself that first week exacerbated the sense of shock that schools would be closing and learning moved online. I thought of the release of my upcoming book and my new video series talking to K-12 teachers about ways to expand their pedagogies and practice related to history. Would these conversations even matter any more? Would history be understood as an indulgent and frivolous subject of study when there was an urgent need for health care, economic stimulus, a reorganization of work and home? How would we teach history after this, I asked on my video series. I didn’t know. I didn’t even know where to start. But, as with most things, when you explore topics within a community you lessen your sense of isolation and broaden your capacity to understand perspective and approaches far beyond yourself. So came the “Pandemic Pedagogy” video series where I’ve been talking with historians, history teachers, and people in the heritage community about how we can think about history and teaching history during and after this moment.
When I posted my initial video questioning how we might teach history after this, I ended by saying that I wasn’t sure if I was going to post videos during this time. I had been posting once a week on topics such as meaningful learning, historical empathy, teaching about women, and teaching about labour issues in elementary school. I even did a video – and corresponding webpage – on resources to teach about the Spanish Flu the night of the WHO’s declaration. While I had already planned a schedule of videos through spring and summer, these explorations of theory and suggestions of practice seemed trite when schools were closed and parents, teachers, and administrators were worried about getting students enough information to meet curriculum expectations to end the school year.
But when I posted this first (admittedly maudlin, but honest) video, it sparked a conversation among some friends who said that they too had these questions and they too were without answers. Knowing I wasn’t alone, I reached out to colleagues to see if they wanted to have these conversations more publicly. These conversations have turned into the “Pandemic Pedagogy” series. (Now available as a podcast).