Dear Spencer Community,
With the rest of the nation and the world, we have been reeling with the fast-paced turn of events as we all manage the national health pandemic created by the exponential spread of COVID-19. Like most other places, our staff at Spencer is working remotely, and we are finding new ways to be in community, to be together, and to uphold one another and our work.
And our hearts are breaking as we witness the fall-out from the effects of the pandemic on our communities. We are holding so much in our hearts and minds.
We are holding the worry of those who are sick and the sorrow of those who have already lost a loved one to this virus both here and abroad.
We are holding undergraduate students who have had to move abruptly from their living spaces, and who may be housing or food insecure.
We are holding graduate students whose dissertation studies may be irreparably altered, and who are anxious about what this means for their job-seeking process and their futures.
We are holding faculty members and staff at universities across the country who are learning to teach and serve students online, while caring for young children and/or elderly parents and needing to attend to their own health and well-being.
We are holding parents and caregivers at home with their kids, managing the tension between supporting their children’s learning and just wanting to make sure they feel safe and loved in an unprecedented time.
We are holding all of the teachers and school administrators and education leaders who are trying to figure out how to support children and families, and how to do so equitably.
We are holding the junior faculty whose work and careers have been disrupted, in ways that may have reverberating effects for years to come.
We are holding the scholars and students with disabilities who have been told for years that virtual participation was too cumbersome or not possible, and who are watching the world participate in work and school virtually over a very short span of time.
We are holding the gravity of the reality that in this moment of collective trauma and crisis, the negative effects are experienced much more drastically by those who are already vulnerable in our society—those in poverty, immigrants, the undocumented, people of color, Indigenous peoples, those with disabilities, those in foster care or without safe and loving family structures. This crisis is exposing the extreme fissures in our society and the deep and abiding obligation we have to put things right.
And we are trying to hold that there are also remarkable responses unfolding, as we push ourselves not be paralyzed by a state of despair.
More drastic change to education systems has occurred in the last week than it has in arguably the last 50 years. What possibilities does this open up for the future of learning, for the reorganization of our institutions, for the centrality of families and family life?
We are seeing mass recognition of the importance of educators and the prioritizing of children and family - not labor – at the center of life. We are seeing a shift in everyday life that is needed for carbon reduction and climate change. We are seeing a rapid-scale institutional response that just a month ago was discursively impossible.
As our daily lives are rapidly reconfiguring, how can we be self-determining in the reconfiguration? We need to hold the devastating impacts of this moment, and can we also reach for what might be possible that wasn’t visible before? It may be that social distancing isn’t quite the right frame for what we need right now. We certainly need physical distancing. But we also need to imagine and act from places of social closeness and care. What if we recognized this moment as also a possibility to reconfigure life towards the world we want? What kinds of new questions would we ask, what kinds of reimagining might we do together? We want to find ways to think with you all about this, and to create spaces in which we can reimagine together.
We are thinking about these big questions, even as we also think about how we can support the education research community in this moment, and about our role in meeting some of the very acute needs of schools and families that are pressing and urgent in our local context and nationally.
We hope that you and your loved ones are well, and we are more committed than ever to do our work in a way that supports learning and thriving of educators, families, young people, and communities.
Na’ilah Suad Nasir| President
Megan Bang| Senior Vice President