Healing in the Time of Corona

by Vielka

I was recently struck by a blog post from Antero Garcia: 

You don’t do school when you are sick. You heal.

When a school community is rocked by a natural disaster—an earthquake, a wildfire, a tornado–we don’t send students to Google classroom and we don’t ask teachers to prepare for distance education models. We heal.

[…]

We can pretend to “do” school online for the coming weeks and months. We can force teachers to do this work in ways we have not adequately prepared them for. We can make students go through the rote exercises of pretending to engage in tasks that are not central to their current well-being. Or, we can call the charade off for a little while. Like we would in any other catastrophic scenario.

When it was announced that we would close schools due to fears of spreading coronavirus, we (Vielka Hoy Consulting) were inundated by requests from families to do online learning.  We tried to pivot to meet that need but something struck me: the college access business (including tutoring and test prep) is an anxiety industry. As an industry, we’ve convinced people that their scores aren’t high enough, that their grades aren’t good enough, that they haven’t demonstrated enough passion.  So we keep people anxious enough to keep buying our services.  

But there is a tipping point, and we’re seeing it now.  You can become too anxious.

When I talk about a business for underserved people, a majority of that is addressing the systems that made people so anxious in the first place and addressing that anxiety.  Honestly, that’s about 90% of what we do. We start with a few realities:

  • There are plenty of colleges out there that will graduate and fund students.
  • They don’t need or want your grades or test scores to be perfect.

That’s it.

Even with your school closed for a few months, you’re going to graduate from high school and college, and get a job.  I promise.  

As a small business owner, I’ve also been bombarded with messaging around how my business is going to fail as a result of coronavirus.  I’m being told that we should brace for the inevitable failings of the market, investors backing away, and people not spending money in the ways that they used to.

As a small business owner, these are already my fears.  I’m in an arena that backs .01% of Black women. What of the above is new to me? 

I thought about how Antero positioned “healing” in the context of schooling and what has been revealed for us as a result of this pandemic: we’ve essentially just revealed all of the things we are already fearful of, from how we would survive on a micro-basis to what would happen under this administration under a crisis.  So this is an opportunity to heal, not make ourselves sicker.

For me and the businesses, healing looks like this: 

  • We pivot to implementing the same strategy that we’ve always done, but in an online format.  You’re going to see a lot from us from the lens of reducing anxiety in college admissions.
  • To underscore the above, we are not creating or pushing anything that is counter to our mission.  It would be easier to do the college access version of buying all the hand sanitizer and trying to upsell it, but that’s not us and I refuse to do it.  I don’t think it means we will go out of business. I think it means we are forced to understand the purpose and potential of business, something we should always be doing.

For families with students, healing looks like this:

  • Students use the time to do the things you haven’t been able to do because you’ve been in school all day.  Learn something new. Read for leisure. Build something. Get to know your neighbors and what they may need.
  • Families can get to know each other.  You’re working from home and your kids are home.  That’s opportunity. There are days that I only was able to talk to my son when I dropped him off at school each day; now, I have all the time in the world.  I’ve learned that the boy is almost as funny as his mother. Almost.
  • A few more things that might help:
    • Everyone’s high school is closed.  That means that colleges will adjust.  No worries about your application.
    • Everyone’s college is closed.  That means your colleges will adjust.  No worries about your graduation.
    • Everyone’s SAT was canceled.  That means that colleges will adjust.  No worries about your application. 
    • Everyone’s AP exams are moving online.  That means that everyone will adjust. No worries…You get the rest.

For everyone, healing looks like this:

  • We’re in the middle of an election.  If you didn’t see what the big deal was four years ago, you do now.  Vote up and down the ballot, or whatever you need to do to get your voice heard.
  • See what anxiety is being raised for you and address that in ways that do not make it worse.  

Tomorrow, March 17th, we are hosting a Facebook Live event where we answer all of your questions.  We hope to see you there as we all heal.

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