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Losses and Hopes: The new normal and social work during pandemic and beyond.

Sasha Kondrashov, PhD

The article is inspired after reading The Irish Times on Restarting Ireland: When and how will we ‘get back to normal’? by Jennifer O’Connell. The first part of the article provides a summary of the O’Connell ideas and their adaptation to Canadian reality on how pandemic impacts multiple areas of human lives. The second part highlights some of the future directions of social work can take to support people in meeting their needs in pandemic and beyond. The article is a living document, that I will update as new thoughts and ideas about new normal and social work responses evolve.

Questions for Inquiry

What is the future for social work look? What is the future of the world? When can we expect “normality” to resume in Canada? When will people regain their right to move and other rights and freedoms back? Will it be a gradual process or all at once?  And what kind of country – what kind of world – will be waiting for us once the pandemic is over?

The answers for Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, and the world depend mainly on the curve and how societies can control the spread of the virus. Many people around the world are looking for answers from researchers who explore, describe, explain and predict the world after the pandemic. Is the curve steep or flat? When it peaks? How far it stretches? What trajectory Canada will follow, will we become new Italy or new South Korea or develop a unique Canadian path. When and if we have a second wave of the pandemic. People do not know, and researchers are testing multiple hypotheses

New Normal

The hope is for a more optimistic scenario – that social distancing will work; that cases will have subsided by early summer, and at some point after that, the work of restarting our communities can begin.  Some places around the world are working on re-starting their economies while maintaining physical distancing guidelines to minimize future losses. The one thing is sure that each of us will experience multiple losses during the pandemic, but there is hope that we can rebuild our capitals if we will be taking appropriate actions. Now we know that things will not get back to normal for awhile. The normal we knew is gone. Now we are creating a new normal, and how it will look, it is up to all of us.

I invite all of you to think what new normal can look like for you, for your family, community, city, country, the world. The move to new normality cannot fully resume until there is a vaccine as humanity will keep experiencing a series of pandemic waves until the vaccine is found. It is science and the hope more people will be able in the future recognize the importance of scientific knowledge in moving humanity forward. The hope is that the health system and our economy will be transformed to manage those pandemic waves and ideally, we might only have one wave. At this time, it is unknown.

When will we start seeing the new normal? Some experts suggest that when schools and universities will offer classes in person or when restrictions are effectively gone, or when the people are still sick, but the ICU system is not overwhelmed or when all of the above conditions are met? Every Canadian will experience multiple losses during a pandemic, such as losing their loved ones, their jobs and their freedoms. Once the vaccine is found, and the “new normal” can be created, will people be okay with the idea the Government can implement austerity measures to recoup the losses? Another unanswered question.

Can the Canadian Government both federally and provincially respond adequately to the new normal?  Time will show, but everyone needs to take action now to demonstrate their willingness to accept changes that promote social welfare for all.  The role of the Government will be to harness credibility by showing the public it can deliver on their expectations. We need a new, much more sophisticated form of social dialogue between elected representatives and their constituencies about how we want to reshape our economy for the future. The hope is that Canada emerges from this crisis with a much healthier democratic future that is based on social work values. The governments should recognize and adequately reward contributions of all essential services and workers, such as truck drivers, grocery stores and delivery personal,  nurses, first responders, social workers, doctors and other health care professionals in providing essential services. Taxes will rise, and essential public services will be much better off as a result.

Losses, hopes and Social Work Response:

A lot of losses Canada will experience during a pandemic. A lot of people will be bereaved. Some will die. But there is the prospect for us coming out of this a somewhat better and socially responsible people. All spheres will be affected, and the social work profession will be reshaped in unprecedented ways.

Work Environment.

The reality of “the remote working and learning environments” will be tested during a pandemic and hopefully accepted as allowing greater flexibility for students/workers to either work/study from home or physical classroom/workspace. The question will remain as there is no consensus on whether people want to hang onto the freedom and flexibility remote working/studying allows, or will we want to get back to the workplace/physical classroom as soon as possible? Managers/Educators need to answer the question of whether the obsession with presenteeism is driven by productivity or by control? Some people might be happier, not commuting and working remotely. They should have choices to whether work remotely or not as some people in unhappy or controlling relationships might prefer to work from the office, which will provide an escape and opportunity to connect with others at the workplace. In contrast, others can be productive by working from home.

The social work research for work environment can focus on losses, hopes and social work responses to protect future workforce and support economy for all. The research questions can focus on remote work environment, what works, what doesn’t for each sector of the economy, how are workers rights are protected during pandemic and beyond, what layoffs mean for multiple groups of employers, how to work remotely and in paperless and cashless societies. Can industries maintain physical distancing to allow safe work environment for all. How nursing care can be transformed to ensure dignity for everyone? How pandemic work impacts vulnerable communities? Can parenting and work happen from the same space? What supports employers and employees need to work effectively during pandemic and beyond? Lots of possibilities for future research to ensure that future work environment adequately meets the needs of everyone.

Communication.

Zoom, an app previously used mostly to connect with colleagues in other parts of the world, has become central to the locked-down social lives, with everyone from five-year-olds to 95-year-olds using it to stay in touch with family. During pandemic Zoom is used to replace in-person interactions, and there are might be times when it is a more convenient alternative to driving across town to meet someone for coffee. So Zoom tea meetings and Zoom dinner parties might stay as there is no reason why one cannot have breakfast in Canada while your friend in Ukraine is having dinner. Pandemic can help us to reset our priorities. As everyone is faced with the prospect of the loss of many social connections, it allows us to reconsider things like the priority of friendship. The fact is that we don’t need to be hectic and busy all the time and many things can be postponed or cancelled to prioritize our health, safety and well-being.

Losses: The loss of social interaction is felt by many and social distancing and lockdown measures leave less opportunities to interact in a way most people do, by having personal conversations in close proximity to each other. The move to online communication can be frustrated and due to the lack of knowledge some groups might abuse online communication by increasing the possibility for online scams, bullying and compromise personal safety and security through using phishing e-mails and other techniques to take advantage of already vulnerable populations. The research can focus on how communication losses experienced during pandemic can be minimized and what can be done to maintain regular communication with loved ones while practicing physical distancing.

Hopes: The loss of in person communication, expanded the use of social media and practice creative expressions that can be shared online. Online communication is different and requires time to learn but it provides a hope that in between our in person meetings people are able to stay connected and once distancing and lockdown measures are lifted people will join others to celebrate in person and appreciate those moments together due to experience of in person communication loss during pandemic. The research can focus on what aspects of online communication might be used in the future to support people who lack communication before pandemic as well as during pandemic and what type of communications humans want to experience after pandemic.

Social work responses: Advocacy for universal internet access, phone connections and personal communication devices for all is one of the area where social workers can advocate in time of pandemic and beyond. Having online access allows people to stay connected when other means of communication are unavailable. Social workers can educate public on how to use online communication tools effectively, provide counselling supports via telehealth, and raise awareness of online scams, importance of security measures in online communication to protect the most vulnerable people.

Family Life

The pandemic has plunged families all over the world into a new and previously unimaginable balancing act: parents are trying to juggle work, childcare and their children’s education, in sometimes suffocating proximity to one another. One of the awful consequences of this is the rise in domestic violence and child abuse. Those who are already vulnerable now have no escape. We need to think about new solutions to the everyday concerns the vulnerable members of our societies face. On a positive side, when the pandemic is over, it is the hope that there might be an equal division of unpaid work in the home as now many family members work from home, and there are more opportunities to balance domestic labour. The social work research can focus on impacts of pandemic on family life. What supports are critical for families during pandemic? How social services can respond to family needs in times of pandemic. How to protect vulnerable families who are isolated and have challenges to cope with increasing demand of life?

Schools

The closure of schools has exposed a gaping digital divide across the haves and have-nots. Many students don’t have adequate broadband – or else their teachers or schools simply aren’t equipped to teach or support them online. Online teaching and learning will become far more embedded in the education system once this crisis is over. This raises the stakes for students at risk of being left behind. Ensuring all students have equal access to online support will become a much bigger issue, as will ensuring schools and teachers are properly equipped to deliver high-quality online support. The social work research can focus on how schools can be accessible for vulnerable groups, what supports are needed to make education adequate for all students. What supports teachers, administrators, parents and students need to deliver services in online teaching/learning environment? How to make sure that no children are left behind and actively participate in the educational journey.

Universities

The fact that universities have had to embrace remote learning without the sky falling means this way of teaching and learning could soon become the norm. Although there is a lot of resistance for online education, the fact that everyone who is part of post-secondary education in times of pandemic is now experienced remote teaching and learning. The possibility of remote education to save money for not travelling to university campuses and receive quality educational services at a time when students are under severe financial pressure allows an opportunity to think how the future of education can look like. What can be taught remotely, who can learn remotely and how on campus studies can be done in times of pandemic to meet the needs of those who need to continue in person education for experiential learning. Starved of public funds and with a private income, including that from international students taking a hit, universities and colleges may well reassess ambitious expansion plans. The cost-benefits of distance learning could well see universities and colleges rush to embrace this as the primary method of teaching and learning. However, there will always be students who want to be in the classroom, and in-person options should always be available to them when the pandemic is over. What is new balance between in person and online instructions will look like. Will hy-flex become the new norm, where it is up to students to choose the way they can meet learning objectives and it is important for universities to offer choices to meet students needs and support educators and students to create courses using universal design principles to make education accessible to all students and not only those privileged to attend university campuses in person.

Social work research can focus on how students are supported during pandemic, what are the experiences of students, faculty, staff and administrators who were required to deliver courses remotely during pandemic. How universities are coping with delivering on campus instruction when physical distancing measures are in place? How to create an effective learning and teaching environment in times of pandemic and beyond and what supports students and faculty need in course delivery during and after pandemic.

International Travel and Tourism

People’s travel intentions might return by 2021 or 2024 or???. No one knows when people will feel safe to travel again and how airline industries and airports will survive pandemic as their operations were reduced dramatically. The question is whether international travel will ever again be as affordable and accessible as it was, remains open. Planning for international conferences is now being pushed out as far as 2022 and people may be less likely to travel for work. From a climate perspective, that may be no bad thing. Will domestic travel become the new norm and how communities that depend on international travel and tourism will adjust to the pandemic world and post-pandemic travel. Are the future conferences and international collaboration will be online only? Lots of uncertainty for any industries that are connecting to tourism and recreation. We will definitely have a lot to re-create and re-imagine on how travel will look like in times of physical distancing.

Entertainment

The entertainment sector has been devastated by the lockdown. Outdoor events support a considerable amount of self-employed and smaller companies – staging, sound and lighting companies, camper vans, trucking, caterers, lighting companies, security, drivers, generators.  Some artists adapt and entertain the public via livestream from home.  Public also turning to the arts at a time of crisis. The artists are playing a crucial role, offering comfort, providing company to people in isolation. The sector will bounce back quickly, but that is dependent on continued investment and support. There’s a tremendous amount of income from box office and sponsorship that will be lost. Arts organizations are deeply concerned and trying to recalibrate their plans. Many artists displayed a generosity of spirit and have shown that they are adaptable and resilient. That has been very empowering. What the future of the entertainment look like, how we can practice physical distancing in venues that gather thousands of people before pandemic. Will all entertainment industry move online or we will look on many small community concerts and neighbourhood physical distancing concerts. What entertainment will look like in post-pandemic world.

Sports

In sport, as in other sectors, a lot of things have been pushed into 2021. What we are going to see next year is all these mega global sports events, like Olympic Games and EURO 2021, being condensed into one year. Once the social distancing regulations are lifted, people will be desperate for some sort of normality. People keep now realizing the big part sport plays in their lives. Will the mass sport events can be adapted to post-pandemic world? How we can enjoy sports while practicing physical distancing? What are new ways to embrace sports activities in everyday life.

Politics

The answer to the question “what comes next?” in politics often depends on what went before. The prospects for the formation of the next Government – and its chances of enduring – depend on what happens in the coming months. While the number of Covid-19 cases continues to decline every day in Canada and the containment measures are having an effect that does not mean that there will not be a surge in the number of cases over the coming weeks. There will, experts warn. The significant thing will be whether it is of a sufficient order to overwhelm the health system. The worth scenario we can have Italy in Canada, it looks less promising now and hopefully will not become a reality in the future where hospitals may be unable to cope, patients unable to get treatment, intensive care could be overloaded, and thousands could die. Hopefully, Canadians will learn from Italy and find our Canadian way to deal with crises by slowly and steadily planking the curve as we have seen can happen when everyone takes responsibility to stop the spread of the virus.

One can imagine the stink there will be when the special Covid-19 unemployment benefit is phased out in favour of regular unemployment benefit. Such a devastating scenario might well also destroy the current Government. Right now, there is widespread support for the Government in Canada; people are willing them to be successful. If the health system is overwhelmed, that is likely to change quickly. There will be a lot of blame to go around. But if the health system copes and the numbers of deaths are kept relatively low, if the Government is perceived to have handled the situation as well as could have been expected – then the prospects improve for a current minority government to continue until the next elections.

The next Government will be formed against a background of unprecedented economic and social challenges left behind by the pandemic. It will face the necessity of unwinding some of the extraordinary financial supports put in place recently and the need to put the public finances back on a sustainable footing. That is never a task completed without rancour.

People might like the health, welfare and childcare services provided by a vastly expanded state; they might not relish paying for them through the inevitable tax increases. Public sector workers expecting pay increases under a new national wage agreement this year will be lucky to escape pay cuts instead. All this will make for a rough time for any government, and a bitter politics. And remember: that is the kind scenario. But while those challenges are inevitable for the next Government, there is also the possibility that politics is transformed by the experience of the crisis. So far, the crisis has been the occasion for extraordinary social solidarity.  The next Government will undoubtedly face daunting challenges; it may also experience the most exciting possibilities.

Social Work

What do the above changes mean for social work?  Social work plays a critical role in a pandemic situation as people experience multiple losses and need support in adapting to the new normal. Social workers are essential workers and are trained to provide holistic supports to rebuild various capitals on both individual and structural levels. COVID-19 has been frustrating, and deadly for so many people. However, some of the changes might allow us to think about the future on what we want the world to look like after the pandemic. It is important to remember that even amidst despair, there can be hope. The hope is that people during pandemic are starting to develop more genuine connections, with smaller groups of people, video conferencing with closer friends and family, instead of hanging out with crowds. The faith communities are finding new ways to connect with members to meet spiritual needs. People are finding new ways to cope and investing in one on one time with themselves when possible.  Some are learning new hobbies that they have always wanted to do, or old hobbies that they haven’t done in years. Those of us who are privileged and have extra time and space have started a garden, begun learning how to play an instrument, and even getting around to finally reading books that they have had on their list for so long. Many doctors offices and provincial healthcare systems have now moved to online video conference where prescriptions can be filled and then delivered right to your house without ever having to leave. We are living in paperless world and deliveries become a new way that help some businesses to connect with their customers. Many discovered that the 1 to 2 hour commute every day to work they were doing was completely unnecessary and work from home might be an option for some and home productivity can be just as good as in the office. This means more time for family, less pollution, less traffic, and a more modern working environment. All of the above statements can be some of the research hypothesis that needs to be tested for diverse groups to ensure that everyone’s needs are met and services are adequate, accessible, affordable for all. Hopefully some government initiatives that support homeless people by providing adequate housing during pandemic can be expanded after pandemic times and people without work will continue having guaranteed minimum income from the government. Hopefully on the hunt for a cure with COVID-19 vaccine we can also find cures and other treatments for tons of other diseases and develop new practices that are adequate, acceptable, accessible, affordable, applicable for all. Time will show, lets keep researching and exploring multiple ways how social work can respond to pandemic.

May 8-10, 2020: Days of Remembrance, Reconciliation and Mother’s Day weekend.

May 8-10, 2020: Days of Remembrance, Reconciliation and Mother’s Day weekend.

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov

In 2020 the second weekend in May reminds us about the value of human lives and dignity through the lens of war and love.

Resolution 59/26 of 22 November 2004 by the UN General Assembly declared 8–9 May as a time of remembrance and reconciliation. UN recognizes that Member States may have individual days of victory, liberation and commemoration. UN invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations System, non-governmental organizations and individuals to observe either one or both of these days annually in an appropriate manner to pay tribute to all victims of the Second World War. As we remember the victims of World War 2 this weekend, we need to recognize the ongoing armed conflicts that are happening around the world. Thankfully Wikipedia keeps track of many ongoing armed conflicts. I will list them here, and probably there are more that are currently not voiced on Wikipedia.

Africa: ADF insurgency, Anglophone Crisis, Batwa–Luba clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, Central African Republic Civil War, Communal conflicts in Nigeria (Herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria), Conflict in the Niger Delta, Ethnic violence in South Sudan (South Sudanese Civil War), Insurgency in Egypt, Insurgency in the Maghreb, ISIL insurgency in Tunisia, Islamist insurgency in Mozambique, Ituri conflict, Kamwina Nsapu rebellion, ‎Katanga insurgency, Kivu conflict, Libyan Crisis (Second Civil War), Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency, Northern Mali conflict, Oromo–Somali clashes, Second Afar insurgency, Sinai insurgency, Somali Civil War (War in Somalia), Sudanese conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, Sudanese nomadic conflicts, War in Darfur

Americas: Colombian conflict (War in Catatumbo), Peruvian internal conflict, EPP insurgency, Mexican Drug War

East and South Asia: Afghanistan conflict (2001–present), Balochistan conflict (Sistan and Baluchestan insurgency), Insurgency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Insurgency in Sindh, Insurgency in Laos, Insurgency in Northeast India (Assam Meghalaya Manipur Nagaland Tripura), Insurgency in the Philippines (CPP, NPA, NDF, Moro), Internal conflict in Myanmar  (Kachin, Karen, Rohingya), Kashmir conflict (Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir ), Naxalite–Maoist insurgency, Papua conflict, Sectarianism in Pakistan, South Thailand insurgency

Europe: War in Donbass (Ukraine), Insurgency in the North Caucasus

West Asia: Arab separatism in Khuzestan, Iraq conflict (2003–present) Iraqi Insurgency, Israeli–Palestinian conflict (Gaza–Israel conflict), Kurdish separatism in Iran (West Iran clashes), Kurdish–Turkish conflict (2015–present), Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Qatif conflict (2017–2019), Qatif unrest, Syrian Civil War, Yemeni Crisis civil war, Arab protests (2018–present), 2019–20 Persian Gulf crisis

As I typed the name of each conflict, I thought about the victims of war: human beings who lost their lives in ongoing armed conflicts. War is one big global human tragedy that is comprised of many local tragedies. As citizens of the Earth, we haven’t yet found ways to stop mass killings of human beings in 2020. But many individuals and organizations keep trying to find ways to manage wars and find ways to peace, remembrance and reconciliation. The ending of World War 2 is a historical event that “established the conditions for the creation of the United Nations, designed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and called upon the Member States of the United Nations to unite their efforts in dealing with new challenges and threats, with the United Nations playing a central role, and to make every effort to settle all disputes by peaceful means in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and in such a manner that international peace and security are not endangered”. The United Nations can only be effective if all member states are willing to work together. Until then, it is critical to keep organizing efforts to promote peace and stop wars. Remembering past histories and seeking reconciliation for the future is critical for everyday reflection. Lest we forget!

On Saturday, May 9th I have participated in the 45th annual Walk for Peace, the Environment and Social Justice in Kamloops. Council of Canadians organized it. BC Association of Social Workers was one of the many organizations that participated in the walk. Due to COVID-19  the walk was done via Zoom 2 hour Marathon. It was an excellent opportunity to unite people who think of global peace and act locally and share their gifts of passion for peace, social, environmental, political, and cultural justice, and service to humanity. If anyone can participate in other events the #NoWar2020 is going online this May 28-30, 2020. https://nowar2021.worldbeyondwar.org/ I have shared their poster image as a cover photo for this post. I support the idea of demilitarization and commend 25 countries that already disband their militaries altogether. I believe that nonviolent resistance is much more successful in comparison to armed resistance, and resources spent on education and health care and social welfare produces more jobs than the same resources spent in the war industry. I also know that my birth country, Ukraine, does not receive proper support from those who have signed Budapest Memorandum that promised peace and no change in Ukrainian borders in exchange for removing nuclear weapons. Ukraine is now at war, and Crimea was annexed to Russia, and the global community has done very little to protect people of Ukraine who are being displaced and uncertain of their future.

I want to end this message on a more hopeful note. Today is Mother’s Day, and hopefully, each of us has someone special in our life that we call Mother. I am very fortunate that my Mama is with me in person today and we will celebrate together. I think about every person who is part of my Mama’s circle, as each one helped me to become the person I am today. It is extra challenging to connect during the pandemic, and I hope everyone can find a way to say hello and thank you to their Mama(s). My special thanks are always going to my Canadian Mama, God Mama and Milk Mama. To all who are named a Mother by someone in this world thank you for your care, love and share. Humanity will find a way to stop wars and promote peace by having more people who are Mother to others, who love, care and share the values of peace and justice for all. 

Acknowledge your Mama. Say thank you, and have a reflective Mother’s Day and the weekend of remembrance and reconciliation.

COVID-19 Kills People. If you do not believe in it, reread the title!

COVID-19 Kills People. If you do not believe in it, reread the title!

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov

April 2020

This post is inspired after reading the blog of Confession of Funeral Director

It shocks me how many people still believe that COVID-19 is not real!

I often wonder how someone can listen and follow advice to inject disinfectant in their body, but apparently, some do both: listen and obey.  Unfortunately, in our society, there will be some who might only believe in COVID-19 when they or someone they know/love contracts it and dies.  No scientific evidence will be enough for them, because there will be one doctor, or 1 taxi driver, one nurse or 1 “I know everything” expert who will tell them that COVID-19 is a lie and even better “conspiracy” against their freedoms. It is sometimes frightening to observe what else will come up from the US President’s mouth, and it is even more terrifying to know that a large number of people will believe it is true!

It is easy to ignore millions of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare and human service professionals who ask people to stay at home. No, some will protest and only once they are sick and they hear how fluid builds up in their lungs, and they cannot breathe, they will beg with their eyes for intubation (a medical term that allows medical professionals to add more air into someone’s lungs). Maybe not, as some might claim, it is their freedom to die without medical supports, vaccination etc.

I don’t know what makes people not to be concerned about their health and even more important the health of others.  I spend time with students to discuss trauma, greed and ignorance as root causes of societal problems. Losses fuel the development of trauma, greed, and ignorance. We discuss how love, care and share can support people at times of loss, but I haven’t found an adequate response on what to do with those who cannot recognize their trauma, greed, ignorance or all of the above and keep causing harm to themselves or others.

What might help people who believe they are immune to COVID-19 to recognize that they still can cause harm to others? If fear of dying is not a concern, it is hard to think about what else makes people change their minds.

Maybe it is when they hear how their loved ones are isolated from family and friends when in ICU fighting COVID-19 or when they hear how so many die without their family by their side. Maybe it is when their family and friends will have to mourn without the community support of a funeral. I do not know and keep asking myself if learning the hard way by contracting COVID-19 is the solution for some people to start believing that the virus is real, and their action might cause multiple deaths without them might not even know it. Their ignorance might already infect many others, and the hard way of learning might not give the person a second chance.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay home when possible. And keep educating those who still believe that COVID-19 is a conspiracy theory. COVID-19 kills people, and only when all recognize it, together, we can look for solutions that can restore the economy and protect societal health and well-being.

Students Concerns During Pandemic around the World

Compiled by Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, Ph.D., RSW

April 2020

Thank you for voicing your concerns. My words of thanks are going to all students. Your stories and experiences are unique. I hope universities around the world will listen and adequately respond to your concerns. I want to thank you all for finding the courage to share your worries when asking for an extension, when you needed someone to listen, when you just needed to Zoom in!.

Thank you:

  1. To the first-year students all the way through to Masters and Ph.D. students, domestic or international, part-time or full time, who entered the Winter 2020 term
  2. To the student and recent graduates who were looking toward internships and jobs over the summer
  3. To the student caregivers who provide extra care to their dependant family members during the pandemic
  4. To the student in public and private schools who are required to fund their education
  5. To the student parents who are required to become teachers for their kids when schools are closed.
  6. To the student who cannot attend the in-person convocation ceremony which has been cancelled or postponed
  7. To the student who cannot receive an extension and struggle to meet the deadlines
  8. To the student who cannot return home due to travel restrictions
  9. To the student who does now know how to fund their future education
  10. To the student who doesn’t have a relationship with their parents or doesn’t feel comfortable going home or are financially independent now
  11. To the student who experienced  other unforeseen circumstances, they could not have planned for
  12. To the student who experiences an unexpected change in living situation
  13. To the student who experiences depression due to social isolation
  14. To the student who experiences financial hardship due to COVID-19 outbreak
  15. To the student who experiences more general stress and anxiety while navigating the unknown remote learning environment
  16. To the student who experiences personal illness or illness or death in the family
  17. To the student who faces barriers to accessing online classes and exams
  18. To the student who feels frustrated and uncertain about future studies or post-graduation plans
  19. To the student who is  postponing their studies as universities cannot offer required practicum to complete degree requirements
  20. To the student who is adapting to new campus culture, learning style or city as a result of campuses closures
  21. To the student who is expected to show up for class and write the scheduled exam at a specific time
  22. To the student who is faced with an exceptional medical situation as a result of COVID-19
  23. To the student who is finding new ways to cope with feelings of isolation, loneliness or depression   
  24. To the student who is forced to create a unique balance between personal and academic priorities
  25. To the student who is looking for free wifi to submit their final paper
  26. To the student who is online or distance education student and whose voices were not heard on campuses around the world
  27. To the student who is postponing a return to their communities and provide needed supports as their classes have been cancelled  
  28. To the student who is postponing their studies to take care of their well-being
  29. To the student who is required to write more papers as a result of COVID-19 to demonstrate their knowledge while their instructor has limited experience teaching remotely
  30. To the student who is unable to have funds transfer out of the country
  31. To the student who lost their income due to COVID-19
  32. To the student who lost their loved ones due to COVID-19
  33. To the student who lost their temporary jobs and currently looking for ways to buy groceries while studying for final exam
  34. To the student who manages tensions with family members, friends and instructors to complete course requirements.
  35. To the student who suffered from the devaluation of a country’s currency
  36. To the student who suffers multiple losses from going to universities in 2020 due to pandemic
  37. To the student who was denied emergency benefits as their concern is deemed ineligible for assistance
  38. To the student who was unable to complete courses and is looking for supports
  39. To the student who had the supports to complete courses in winter 2020

Thank you for voicing your concerns. Thank you for advocating for others. Thank you for taking care of yourself. Thank you for your dedication to your studies. Thank you for your desire to learn. Thank you for your support of your instructors, your universities as they transition to remote learning. Thank you for demanding adequate supports during a pandemic. Thank you for being you.

Every day, students keep learning to ensure their communities will have future professionals to innovate, share their knowledge and skills and build a better world for all.  Every day, students show up more capable, stronger, and braver than the day before, as we all do.

My name is Sasha. I am a social work educator. I have heard my student’s stories on managing their studies during the pandemic. I am hopeful universities find ways to provide an adequate learning environment in times of pandemic to all students and attend to their needs to become our future leaders, innovators and trailblazers in their chosen fields of study.

To students around the world keep learning and sharing your knowledge. We need your expertise now and in the future.

To class 2020, thank you for all your work and your commitment to complete your studies when possible. We will celebrate one day in person with you whenever it is safe to do.

Copy and paste on your newsfeed, add your name to the list, share your story, make your voice heard. Can we get to 50 reasons to say thank you to students during a pandemic? Support students in their studies. Together we will build a healthier future for all of us.

Words of Gratitude to Social Workers around the World

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, Ph.D., MSW, RSW

April 2020

Thank you:

  1. To the social worker who advocates that every homeless person has a place to call home.
  2. To the social worker who assists agencies in rethinking policies and practices.
  3. To the social worker who becomes the informal support group for colleagues struggling with remaining sober and wanting to quit their essential job.
  4. To the social worker who can feel their spirit breaking.
  5. To the social worker who can no longer breathe on their own.
  6. To the social worker who chooses the profession, not because of income but for an outcome.
  7. To the social worker who collects and analyzes data from COVID-19 driven research.
  8. To the social worker who conducts community assessments to be better prepared for the future waves of COVID-19.
  9. To the social worker who didn’t pack lunch today because their work schedule does not permit time to buy groceries.
  10. To the social worker who engages in both anti-oppressive and anti privileged work.
  11. To the social worker who engages in political activism to ensure everyone is included in income security support programs.
  12. To the social worker who facilitates grief groups and individual therapy for the multiple kinds of loss experienced.
  13. To the social worker who finds resources for those who have none.
  14. To the social worker who has a spouse also on the front lines.
  15. To the social worker who has arrived at a shift with 8 call outs.
  16. To the social worker who has been admitted to the ICU.
  17. To the social worker who has been denied COVID- testing.
  18. To the social worker who has been living out of a motel to avoid infecting their family.
  19. To the social worker who has been made to feel like their life does not matter.
  20. To the social worker who has been referred to as, “just a social worker”.
  21. To the social worker who has been told to cohort the cancer patient with the suspected COVID patient, because there’s just no more space.
  22. To the social worker who has had no food or drink their entire shift.
  23. To the social worker who has no childcare but must report to work.
  24. To the social worker who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  25. To the social worker who has worked 4, 5, 6, 7 consecutive, 12-hour shifts.
  26. To the social worker who has not hugged their family in weeks.
  27. To the social worker who helps children readjust to school after an extended absence.
  28. To the social worker who helps comfort families after the death of a loved one.
  29. To the social worker who is a single parent and has had to send their kid away to live with relatives.
  30. To the social worker who is active in the union and spends off days writing up Demands and Calls to Action to ensure safety for all.
  31. To the social worker who is afraid to bring home the pain of clients and their families.
  32. To the social worker who is an unsung hero and angel of mercy but paid less than almost every other healthcare professional with a university degree.
  33. To the social worker who is battling their depression and anxiety.
  34. To the social worker who is being reassured by leadership shift. after shift that PPE stockpiles exist… somewhere and social workers can access them too.
  35. To the social worker who is diabetic and now their glucose is low.
  36. To the social worker who is emotionally conflicted about how to balance personal care with that of clients and community ethically.
  37. To the social worker who is immunocompromised, but can’t help but feel like failing coworkers by not coming to work in an emergency shelter.
  38. To the social worker who is not being offered mental health support.
  39. To the social worker who is not recognized by the media and the public for providing essential services.
  40. To the social worker who is on a travel assignment and nowhere close to their loved ones.
  41. To the social worker who is part of the palliative (hospice) care team and provides end of life supports for clients.
  42. To the social worker who is pregnant and feels guilty for not accepting COVID clients.
  43. To the social worker who is protecting children in times of neglect.
  44. To the social worker who is running out of sick leave.
  45. To the social worker who is skilled in operating the naloxone kit and is not afraid to do it during the pandemic.
  46. To the social worker who is supporting victims of family violence
  47. To the social worker who is thinking about putting in their resignation.
  48. To the social worker who just graduated and is in their first year of social work practice.
  49. To the social worker who leads conversations about how social service providers can develop trauma-informed care in the face of widespread community trauma.
  50. To the social worker who must find their voice and now use their client advocacy skills for themselves.
  51. To the social worker who now has skin breakdown from prolonged mask use.
  52. To the social worker who offers online/telehealth and e-counselling.
  53. To the social worker who offers remote students placements.
  54. To the social worker who only sheds tears in the shower so that it can drain with the water.
  55. To the social worker who protects children, isolated seniors, and families who are experiencing trauma.
  56. To the social worker who provides free consultation to other social workers and human service professionals.
  57. To the social worker who provides hope in times of multiple losses.
  58. To the social worker who provides linkage to resources for colleagues and their families.
  59. To the social worker who realizes the public did not know what social workers, “do,” even now.
  60. To the social worker who shares the news to the family that loved once passed away as a result of COVID-19.
  61. To the social worker who stayed up last night sewing together pieces of fabric so that they’d have a mask.
  62. To the social worker who stepped outside to catch their breath but instead ended up pulling an unconscious person out of a car.
  63. To the social worker who strips in garages and shower before starting dinner for their families every night.
  64. To the social worker who supports people in corrections.
  65. To the social worker who supports people who have fallen into depression and substance abuse.
  66. To the social worker who teaches remotely and support their students to become the best social workers.
  67. To the social worker who was just intubated by another health care professional.
  68. To the social worker who was laid off due to funding cuts for what government classified as a non-essential service.
  69. To the social worker who was told they signed up for this.
  70. To the social worker who was verbally assaulted doing child protection work.
  71. To the social worker who woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and cough.
  72. To the social worker who woke up to a text message that another one of their coworkers has died.
  73. To the social worker who wonders if this is how they treat “heroes.”
  74. To the social worker who wonders well what about the CASW Code of Ethics, you know, values 2 and 3: service to humanity and social justice?
  75. To the social worker who works in health teams.
  76. To the social worker who worries about their families, friends, and coworkers.
  77. To the social workers who are there to make life worth living.

Every day, social workers provide essential services to help the most vulnerable members of society. Every day, social workers show up more capable, stronger, and braver than the day before.

My name is Sasha. I am a registered social worker and social work educator.
To the social workers all around the world, I feel you.
I share your pain. I have your back.
You are me. I am you. We are each other.
Let’s share with society our truths.

This is the Year of the Social Worker.
Never again will you be, “just a social worker”`

Copy and paste in your newsfeed, add your name to the list, share your story, make your voice heard. Can we get to 100 reasons for saying thank you to social workers in times of pandemic? Support social workers and other essential service workers to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Words of gratitude to social workers was inspired by heartful tribute to all nurses around the world posted on kidspot.com.ua and myrnao.ca  as well as a love letter to social workers written by Melanie Sage and posted on Linkedin

10 Tips How to Run / Participate in Online Meetings Like a Pro.

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, PhD

April 2020

In recent years I expanded my classroom leadership and now run many meetings in communities, conduct practicum supervision and co-chair business meetings. Here are ten tips for hosts and meeting participants to have a successful business meeting online.

The most important reminder for online meetings is to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Rules should be followed in the same way you follow them when meeting in person. Agnes Jozwiak in blogpost provides suggestions on how to implement Robert’s Rules of Order in online meeting:

  1. A Designated “Chair” Maintains Control to ensure the meeting is conducted in a fair and orderly manner
  2. Everyone Else’s Job is To Stay on Topicto keep the discussion focused on the subject at hand without going off-topic
  3. Participants Get Their Turn to Speak to ensure that everyone who wants to speak on an issue have a turn before allowing a participant to speak twice
  4. Courtesy and Professionalism are Paramount to avoid personality clashes or delving into ulterior motives

Jozwiak also lists rules to remember and sources to study Robert’s Rules. In addition to Jozwiak article please review Ann Macfarlane’s tips on how to run the meetings. On some of them, I have elaborated below as they apply to most meetings I chair/participate.

Tip 1: Time each agenda item. When creating an agenda for online meetings, estimate the time for each agenda item and write those estimates on the agenda to keep everyone on track.

Tip 2: Have a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order handy in case you need to consult them quickly. Check the summary version of the rules or print a five pager cheatsheet for Robert’s Rules of Order in case you need them during the meeting.

Tip 3: Know your online platform. Make sure you are familiar with the online web conferencing system you are using for the meeting before the meeting starts. The chair cannot provide technical support during the session, so if you might need technical assistance, please arrive 15 minutes before the meeting to test your audio/video. The chair can arrange to have technical support before the meeting by scheduling a test drive for the members of your group and ensure that everyone can hear and be heard. Check the video on some examples of the challenges one can experience during the conference phone call and video conference call and adequately plan to avoid them.

Tip 4: Prepare a doable agenda. A virtual meeting can’t cover as much as an in-person meeting. When you are charing online meetings, schedule critically essential items early in the session and the rest of the items later in the agenda. Ask members to read reports and other information in advance.

Tip 5: Prepare yourself and your “screen” for the meeting. Choose a professional-looking background for the meeting. Dress appropriately and comfortably. Check that you have adequate lighting, and your microphone and camera are working. Minimize background noise, review the materials and study the agenda.

Tip 6: Use the mute/unmute button when participating in the meeting. Good practice in starting online sessions is to mute yourself. Practice mute/unmute function and test your equipment before the meeting begins. If you dial from the phone, learn what combination of numbers (*6 or *7) can mute/unmute you. Kurt Birkenhagen offers more rules for conference call etiquette.

Tip 7: Minimize presentation length. Meetings should be discussion-focused. Long presentations are not okay for an online meeting. Background information should be provided and read beforehand. If someone needs to present, use screen sharing to guide the conversation, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.”  Read World Economic Forum article on more advise and additional resources on how to work from home and run a great virtual meeting

Tip 8: Be present and do not multitask during the meeting. As soon as the meeting begins, please stay involved in the meeting to contribute to its success. Klaxoon, an innovative company dedicated to collaborative meeting tools, in 2017 released the results of its “America in Meetings” study and found that 38% of respondents (2,000 American adults age 18+) during the meeting zone out and daydream when they’re not speaking; 30% work on other projects; 24% surf the web; 21% check social media; 18% think about vacation; 15% read the news and 12% shop online

Tip 9: Use meeting chat function strategically. Avoid using chat function for side conversations or asking questions without being acknowledged by the chair. Side conversations on chat distract the meeting as the chair focuses on the person who is speaking. The chat function can still be used during the meeting and serve as a voting system (only no and abstain vote should be recorded in chat). You can also use chat as a queuing system when people need to speak. Ask people to type “I have a question” and wait to be recognized by the chair. Such a process allows the chair to create a speaker list.

Tip 10. Keep online meetings short and efficient. Remember that meeting attendees might have already participated in many meetings online, so keep your meeting to the point. In addition to limiting presentations during meetings, stay focused on critical agenda items. Online meetings provide extra challenges for attendees to stay focused and not lose interest. Short and efficient meetings are the recipe for increased productivity and overall online meeting success.

In addition to the above tips, check online resources that can help you to design specific rules for your online meeting.  Each online session is different and might require additional regulations to be in place to run online meetings smoothly. Please review Jim Slaughter’s article “Let’s Have Our Meeting or Convention Online!” that can help you to decide what additional consideration you need to make to run meetings online successfully. And if you want to review extra tips here is the list of 16 ways to make remote meetings more effective and 50 Rules for Online Business Meeting Etiquette

27 Tips on how to host Zoom meetings like a Pro.

Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, PhD

April 2020

This semester I used Zoom much more than merely an extension of my in-person classes for students who are unable to be in class in person. Zoom became my primary classroom for one month to complete all on-campus courses.

Here are 27 tips to make your classes run successfully on Zoom.

Tip 1. Schedule the meeting using Zoom security settings. When you plan to have a Zoom meeting, go online on Zoom and review all features on how you plan to run the session before sending the link to your participants. Check the Meetings tab on your Zoom profile. https://zoom.us/meeting/schedule

Tip 2. Once you set a security setting, make sure you send the link to your participants via e-mail and use the phone numbers from your country to avoid your meeting participants to dial in without paying long-distance charges. You can access zoom numbers online once you signed in to zoom account: https://zoom.us/zoomconference

Tip 3:  If you want people to register for your meeting, then tick the registration required box when setting your session, so you know how many are coming.

Tip 4: Only enable “join before host” Zoom function if you are setting private meetings, and you trust participants that they will be able to manage the session before you arrive.  It can also be a useful function if you might be late, so other participants can connect before you arrive.

Tip 5: Good practice in starting Zoom meetings is to mute participants before they enter and to greet everyone when possible. It will allow everyone to learn the mute/unmute function and test their equipment when they reply to your greeting.

Tip 6: Never record meetings and ask participants to do the same to protect the privacy of all attendees. If I need to record a video, I usually do it before or after the Zoom meeting. The only time you can record the meeting if you receive prior written consent from all participants and inform participants before signing in that the session will be recorded.

Tip 7:  Embed password in the meeting link for one-click join. In such a way, you protect your password. Be mindful that the one-click links can be shared, and you might get some unwanted participants to join your meeting.

Tip 8: To prevent Zoombombing (unwanted participants from taking over your meeting) enable a waiting room in your meeting set up on zoom.us and only allow registered participants to join the main room by screening the waiting room. In such a way you will have attendees full name and e-mail addresses to report if they are acting inappropriately

Tip 9: Prevent participants from saving chat by clicking the appropriate box on the basic in meeting setting tab on Zoom to avoid any personal data exported from the chat. Participants can still do a screengrab, but nothing can stop participants from doing that without your knowledge.

Tip 10: When you start the meeting, inform participants that no screen recordings, screenshots are permitted during the session. If any information is shared from the session, participants will be liable for the breach and will face consequences that are similar to classroom conduct violations.

Tip 11: Only allow chat and file transfer in chats between participants when you trust participants that they will not abuse this feature and will not transmit viruses\malware software through Zoom chat.

Tip 12: Use breakout rooms to allow participants to do a group project and have small group discussions. Breakout rooms allow participants to work in teams, and the host can always enter the room if any team might need help.

Tip 13: Use annotation/whiteboard Zoom functions to allow participants to create art collage / crowdsource ideas, practice arts and have some fun brainstorming session

Tip 14: Only allow trusted participants to share their screen. Disable desktop/screen share for users when setting your meeting to avoid unwanted participants to take over control over your meeting

Tip 15: Mute audio/video for the participant when you noticed that they forgot to do it by themselves or do not know how to do it to avoid potentially embarrassing moments that are widely documented #Zoomfails

Tip 16: Allow participants to rename themselves to protect their privacy. I encourage my students to use their first name only, so I know who is present, but no full name is displayed in case someone takes a screenshot of the meeting.

Tip 17: Share your screen only when necessary to avoid possibly sharing any personal information that you have on your computer as the screen share shows everything you have on your screen.

Tip 18: Allow users to replace their background with any selected image. Choose or upload an image in the Zoom Desktop application settings. The virtual background will allow participants to hide their room background and avoid any embarrassing moments in case someone might be in the room (check #Zoomfails). You can also sit closer to the wall to avoid any distractions in the background.  

Tip 19. Having all participants with their faces on the screen can be overwhelming. Teaching to a no face screen is challenging too. Ask participants who can share their videos to do so and be okay when someone is not sharing their video.

Tip 20: Show a “Join from your browser” link and allow participants to bypass the Zoom application download process, and join a meeting directly from their browser. This is a workaround for participants who are unable to download, install, or run applications. Note that the meeting experience from the browser is limited

Tip 21: As a host be prepared to remove anyone who is not conforming to your Zoom room rules. Zoom allows the host to remove any participant from the meeting and ban them from attending the future meetings. Use the waiting room feature to screen for anyone who can disrupt the meeting.

Tip 22: If you need to post any Zoom screenshot, please blur out any private/sensitive information to avoid potential privacy breaches (e.g. Boris Johnson inappropriate post on Twitter).

Tip 23: Go Mobile.  There is a mobile Zoom app for your smartphone. In case your computer is not working you can still run Zoom meeting on phone. Zoom app is full-featured and a great tool when you need it.

Tip 24: Add a picture to your Zoom profile. The image will be present when your video is turned off. 

Tip 25: Invest in good microphone/headset. A dedicated microphone and headset may provide a better experience for participants rather than using the integrated/built-in microphones and speakers in your laptop. I use Jabra Evolve 65, but the price went significantly up after the COVID-19 due to increased demand. If you do not need a wireless headphone, choose something more reasonably priced.

Tip 26: Use Zoom Customer Support  Zoom has excellent support. Their customer support center is available 24×7 and they maintain a wealth of excellent resources to guide you through almost any scenario. My students never needed to contact support center as Zoom worked for them perfectly and is a reliable system that proves to be working when other web conferencing software fail, crush, freeze, or stop working.

Tip 27: Share your privacy concerns with Zoom to make the platform even better. There is a reason why many use Zoom: it simply works. If your university/organization is not recommending Zoom, ask them to reconsider their decision as Zoom is used by millions and address many security concerns that were recently identified in the media. Instead of banning Zoom, help to make the Zoom platform more accessible, secure, safe to use for everyone.

My students praised Zoom and commented on the great experience they had using it in times when they cannot attend classes. Know that Harvard School of Education uses Zoom. The University of British Columbia and BC Schools licensed Zoom to support students learning. Check their webpages to learn about any new security measures Zoom installed to make your Zoom experience even better.

If you have any other tips for using Zoom successfully, please let me know, and I will add them to the list.

Watch helpful videos on Zoom Youtube Channel or check my Youtube playlist with many useful videos on how to use Zoom successfully.

Learn more on how to use Zoom in your classroom in the following academic article:

Sutterlin, J. (2018). Learning is Social with Zoom Video Conferencing in your Classroom. eLearn2018(12), 5.