Some years ago, I read this amazing book by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, Connected-The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape our Lives. The book as the title suggests is about social networks and their role in our lives. According to the writers, "a social network ,like a group, is a collection of people, it includes something more: a specific set of connections between people in the group. These ties, and the particular pattern of these ties, are often more important than the individual people themselves. They allow groups to do things that a disconnected collection of individuals cannot. The ties explain why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". During this pandemic I have seen this taking shape in various forms. I have found immense support, encouragement and inspiration in all the groups of colleagues I am part of. Stretching from local to national , and even European level the sharing in social networks is unconditional and the help invaluable.
First, at a local level we are sharing ideas, data (such as percentages of attendance, numbers of students facing problems with distant learning etc.) experiences and expertise with the colleagues at the schools I work in Kalochori. We have a group in Viber. We are trying to support each other with difficulties faced during the lessons, we are giving and taking advice when needed, we are constantly expanding our knowledge with all this plethora of educational tools. Last but not least we socialize. We chat, share photos, memes, news, wishes.
Second, a little broader is the group of colleagues of the Region of Central Macedonia under the directions of our coordinator, Mrs Delimpanidou. Our coordinator being very supportive and extremely helpful before the pandemic, has excelled herself through these challenging times. She has organised a number of training webinars to introduce colleagues to new and useful web tools, to provide them with teaching ideas for younger learners. A number of people volunteered to contribute to these webinars, proving that the bond among teachers of English is strong and one thing they surely have in common is creativity. There is also a platform where one can find all the webinars that were offered together with a lot of other useful material that colleagues are sharing.
Third, at a national level I am part of a Facebook group called "Cooperation among teachers of English in Primary Education". The group members number over 2.200 at this point. I have been part of many groups in Facebook, but never of one of such a spirit. It is almost magic! There are numerous posts a day, ranging from simple activities, games, lesson plans and even whole units scenarios for every grade. There are also tutorials and very often advice for technical questions or problems. The group has uplifted my spirit, has inspired me to create and contribute to this enormous effort. It has made me feel that I am part of something bigger, something that provides me with much more than ideas. It provides me with care and love and hope.
Last, my network at a European level consists of my partners in an Etwinning project. I have started an Etwinning project with my 5th graders this year, although the conditions were not ideal at the beginning of the school year. We all knew that a lockdown was around the corner. However, who dares wins! I was lucky enough to find 7 partners from Italy, Turkey and Poland. Not only are they dedicated to the project and hard working but also very willing to share experiences and ideas. We have had an online meeting to get to know each other and we are planning to have online meetings for our students as well in the future. Although we live in different countries we have a lot in common except the project at the moment! The fact that we are all going through the same phase with the Covid crisis has made us more understanding, more helpful and much more empathetic. We all have to survive this difficult period and make education work, no matter what. We have to adapt to the new conditions and fight. I should mention this is the more productive Etwinning project I have ever been part of! Another proof that tough times often bring out the best in us.
But for my social networks I don't know how I would cope with this manifold crisis. Psychological pressure, fatigue, lack of time often make it hard to pull through day after day. Knowing that you can count on people that are there to help you is a tremendous psychological relief, a feeling of care, it's almost like a pat on the shoulder,reassuring you that everything is going to be OK. Staying connected while social distancing may sound contradictory but it's certainly much more than that!
*The book by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, Connected-The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape our Lives was published in 2009. The first Greek edition was published in February 2010 by Katoptro Editions.