As China has taken significant measures to manage the health situation through the early part of 2020, our schools have shifted to online instruction and engagement with our students until it is deemed appropriate for our school communities to reconvene back to campus classrooms. One of our biology teachers at BASIS International School Hangzhou, who has stayed in China throughout this time, shared these thoughts on how to use this time positively, as well as how it will help students to become the well-rounded, global citizens they strive to be.
As this outbreak has been declared a global emergency, what are your thoughts as a global citizen?
Being a global citizen is a birthright, but we have a choice to make. We can either be contributing global citizens who revel in diversity and seek solutions to the challenges facing our planet together, or be passive.
Being a global citizen also means not looking the other way when a nation is faced with a crisis. Viral outbreaks are not new. The Zika virus killed 6,000 people worldwide between 2015-2016, the Ebola virus has killed over 12,500 people in West Africa (and counting) and the current cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, Haiti, and Yemen has so far killed over 70,000 people (as of last month).
Why has the COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 19) outbreak received more media attention? Why are the other outbreaks only statistics? These are some very hard, cold questions one should ask and discuss. While being a global citizen is a birthright, the passport of a global citizen expires when he/she can no longer live safely on the planet.
How can students learn to think independently and critically?
The short story “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether,” by Edgar Allen Poe, is a tale set in a hospital for the mentally ill. In one passage the head of the institution says: “You are young yet, my friend, but the time will arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” The last sentence is the most famous. Students should think critically by practicing disbelief, asking for scientific evidence, and by looking at issues as if they’re standing on the outside looking in.
Do you have any book recommendations?
I’d like to recommend a poem instead. The poem that comes to mind is one by Martin Niemoller (1892-1984). It’s called “First they came…” and it is about speaking out and raising awareness of what’s happening (in other parts of the world) even though you might not be directly involved. There are many variations of the poem since Martin Niemoller first wrote it, however, the one I like the best is very much reflective of how certain events today get more attention than other, equally important, events.
Any tips or reminders for our students to keep positive and productive?
To keep positive: try to look at what’s happening around the world with an open and intellectually curious mind. This is a great time to be learning about the world around you. For example, did you know that a virus is neither dead nor alive? A virus is a non-living parasite inside a living system. So what, exactly, is a virus? What are zoonotic diseases caused by COVID-19 and how are they transmitted? Take AP Biology to find out!
To remain productive: when faced with a hopeless situation, such as being stranded on an island, or, much like us, spending most of our time indoors, it’s imperative to structure your time and establish a routine. Waking up and going to sleep whenever you want or eating at random times will only fuel your anxiety. Instead, structure your day as if you were going to school. Wake up and go to bed at a certain time, eat on a schedule, and set daily goals for yourself. A routine will make you feel much more relaxed.
Another great way to remain both positive and productive is to rescue a pet from a shelter. Instead of going home for the Chinese New Year holiday, I decided to do just that. Here are some pictures of Teddy. He’s an 8-week-old Samoyed that I have nicknamed The Furniture Terminator.
Mike Hosseini teaches Biology at BASIS International School Hangzhou.