What really matters now is compassion. What really matters now is that our students are well enough and supported enough to resume their academic learning when the storm has passed. They are learning now. They are saturated with learning.

They are in an environment in which they have never been. They are separated from their loved ones, they are isolated in big houses, they are crowded on top of each other in small apartments, they are in places that are not home, they are surrounded and supported, they are in homes that are hostile.

There is a killer stalking their grand-parents, their uncle has died, they are reunited with family. They are getting tons of advice, their summer job prospects have vanished, their lab space is locked up, their funding is running out, their peers are scattered to the four winds, their familiar, comfortable classrooms are empty. Their future is a question mark.

Their borders are closed, their flights are cancelled, their parents aren’t working, they are in rural communities, they make minimum wage packing bags at the grocery store downtown, they are sheltered and safe, they are dodging the virus on the city bus.

They lie in bed all day, wondering why no one is around, they try to stay away from depression and anxiety, they get some much needed rest. They plow their too many waking hours into gaming, they exercise in the morning, they drink themselves to sleep. They haven’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks, they worry about how much rice is left in their pantry, they take their vitamins, they count what’s left of their prescription, and they aren’t sure how to get it refilled.

They are being taught, and they are being rigorously tested. They are learning important lessons. They are learning to deal.

What matters right now is that we don’t pile it on. What matters right now is that we give them space to learn how to deal. What matters right now is that we make it easier, not more difficult.

They will remember us. They will remember that we helped them. They will remember that we gave them a break, that we broke their backs, that we kicked them when they were down. They will remember that we taught them how to deal, that we made their lives impossible, that we showed them compassion, that we were indifferent. They will remember it all.

They won’t remember that course material. They won’t remember what was on that test or that assignment. They won’t remember who wrote that book, who made that critique. They will remember what they learned about how to deal. They will teach the next generation.

What really matters now, is that we help them deal. What really matters now is what we teach them how to teach the next ones who come along. What really matters now is that this doesn’t permanently derail them. What really matters now is compassion.

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