March 2020 SOLC–Day 11
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
I taught a reading lesson yesterday about the importance of keeping track of timelines in historical fiction: the character’s timeline and the historical one. Preparing for this lesson, four years ago, I created my own timeline adjacent to one with the relevant history. I pull them out every year, and every year, students are fascinated.
The first reaction is always to my birthdate. This was true yesterday as well.
“1967, Mrs. Hogan!?!”
At first, they looked at me doubtfully, pretty sure I had made a mistake. Then, when I assured them that the date was accurate, they looked at me differently–sort of like I was a museum exhibit.
Yesterday, once they recovered from the shock of my birthdate, we looked at the time lines, considering how both my personal history and the history of the time impacted me as an individual–my actions, my perspective, etc. We talked about my life events—births, deaths, moves, travel, educational milestones– juxtaposed with historical ones–the advent of cell phones, the Challenger disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall. I indulged in a brief nostalgic monologue of how cool Sony Walkmen were when they first came out. (I’m not sure they knew what I was talking about.) We talked about the Twin Towers, how that was such a change in my world, yet has always been a part of their own. They nodded solemnly.
“What’s that?” a student asked, pointing to the historical timeline dot labeled Y2K.
I briefly explained, but it was pretty incomprehensible to them. From their vantage it seemed like a blip in history, something they’d never heard of and would probably never encounter in their history books. Slightly ridiculous.
Yet, I still vividly recall the the turmoil around the perceived Y2K threat. People forecast bank collapses, massive computer shutdowns and system failures. There were rumors that any planes flying at midnight would drop from the skies as their computerized systems failed with the advent of the new year. People stockpiled money and supplies. Cooler voices tried to chime in with solid advice and realistic expectations, but fear and rumor prevailed. It was hard to know how real the threat was.
It made me pause and wonder about the current situation with the corona virus. The parallels are there. Threat. Rumor. Fear. Are we overreacting? Will it, like Y2K, be a footnote on future historical timelines? It’s hard to know. But even if the health impacts turn out to be relatively minor, the social, economic and political fallout is mounting.
The children in my class will certainly remember this. The newest game at recess is “Corona Virus Tag,” but beneath that they are anxious and have many, many questions. In the face of the intensifying hubbub, my reassuring, “The best thing you can do is wash your hands!” is beginning to feel like an inadequate response.
Years down the road, if my students have to construct their own timelines alongside historical ones, I’m pretty sure they’ll include a 2020 dot labeled corona virus. I only hope, like Y2K, that it’s something they have to explain to an incredulous class.