Finding Meaning, Making a Difference during the Coronavirus Crisis

Mar 26, 2020 by

Connectivity among humans is critical in times of crisis. 

It seems that I have been living with Covid-19 – the pandemic coronavirus – for perhaps longer than most. Although I have not contracted it, nor has any of my family or friends, I DID livethrough the SARS epidemic in the early 2000’s, traveling to and around China during this time.

Even then, it was strange and frightening to have people in what I can only describe as science fiction hazmat suits greeting you on your international flight arrival. Not unlike a mob movie where it seems you are about to get your brains blown out with a gun-like tool, actually a thermometer, pointed at your head, taking your temperature before you could even exit the plane. Walking through the Chinese airport, more thermometer gunspointing, forms to fill out about where you have come from, where you are going, and an affidavit about your current state of health. 

My lifelong interest in China, sparked by a fourth-grade teacher, led me to my current life of extensive travel through China first beginning in 1989. The past two years I have split my time between Michigan and China, helping launch an innovative, project based, e-learning partnership to build creative educational bridges between our two nations with WAY American Schools. (

To learn more about my China experience see: The People’s Republic of China Turns 70- A 30 Year Look Back @ and


When the coronavirus first China our WAY American schools had to immediately adapt to a disruption that no one had planned for and to assure that learning continued for frightened students who, along with their parents, extended families, and WAY teachers. I am extremely proud of our teachers who sprang into action adapting to the new normal. As smoothly as hitting a switch, they have assured that student learning continues remotely. Our WAY teachers, spread across the globe, are engaging students as they “shelter in place” in large cities and small villages in China.  Easy? Absolutely not. This could not have happened without the flexibility and commitment of our teachers and our partner schools.

It Does get Better

The coronavirus has been at the forefront of our collective mind. I have watched as colleagues and friends in China have dealt with self-quarantine and isolation as China shut down. They are just now cautiously beginning to return to normal, even as Starbucks and Apple Stores slowly reopen, people return to work, and a sense of normalcy returns. It will get better in America as well. 

We are all in this together and together must beat back this war without bombs. Our health and welfare is quite literally dependent not just on our governments do to keep us safe, but also what we and our families do. But what about what others do (or don’t do)?

Parents and students are panicking and wondering how they are going to keep up with their kids’ studies. There is a way. With technology, learning has become ubiquitous. Education is no longer confined to 6-hour school days, the 4 walls of a school building or classroom, or between the front and back covers of a book. 

It is about eLearning. And it is vitally important during this unprecedented crisis that our young people understand we are all working together to keep them safe.

Online learning has received more attention and focus in the past week with the coronavirus shutting down universities, community colleges, and public, charter, and private schools here in the USA and across the globe.

Policymakers and educators can learn about WAY-Online, WAY Academy, (a charter school network) and WAY American Schools. WAY (Widening Advancement for Youth) partners with local schools, parents and teachers to offer a robust, internationally accredited, project-based curriculum on their innovative cloud-based platform.

For more information about how to partner with WAY American School as a school board member, superintendent, principal, teacher, parent or student you can learn more here:

WAY American School

Accredited On-line/eLearning School


Educators are leading during this crisis. The great educators across Michigan and America are showing once again that our public schools are the true Statue of Liberty of this great country of ours – and our exceptional teachers and support staff hold the torch lighting the way for us all!

In this article, I give thanks to the many who have truly stepped up in this crisis: Coronavirus: A Time To Give Thanks

Disruptive Change 

Coronavirus has come front and center in everyone’s life. With everyone from Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and his wife being diagnosed with coronavirus to collegiate and professional sports players quarantined and the sport seasons – including the Summer Olympics in Japan – being postponed or shut down in an effort to flatten the virus people, across the country are paying a lot more attention to what they must do. 

Since the World Health Organization’s (WHO) designating the coronavirus a global pandemic, President Trump declared a national emergency and Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has shown leadership in the thoughtful actions she has taken to date to help contain it to protect our collective public health.

What we CAN do

Covid-19 /coronavirus is a frightening pandemic that has blanketed the world, bringing with it, illness, fear, and death. ALL of us need to do our part to help rid the world of this scourge – a silent virus that has attacked us all. Acts large and small are needed: Wash your hands – constantly. Shelter at home, don’t hoard food, toilet paper, cleaning products – allow others to obtain these basic requirements in their home. Love your family. Help your neighbors.  

Together, we are truly better.

We are all experiencing the pain of this pandemic. But we are also finding meaning in this crisis as we strive for each other’s well-being and happiness. Oddly, this virus may help us re-discover meaning in life as we bond with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. In the midst of a silent war without bombs, it is also a powerful moment – a magnet for humans to find the true meaning of life in the search for the greater good.

Tom Watkins served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and state mental health director. He is the former president and CEO of  the economic council

of Palm Beach Country, FL. He is a sought out commentator on all things China and has worked for nearly 4 decades building cultural, educational and economic bridges with China Read more of his writing on the US/China relationship here:

Reach him at email: or wechat: tdwatkins88

Helpful Information:

WAY American School
Accredited On-line/eLearning School

State of Michigan- & State of Michigan COVID-19 hotline. Public health experts available to answer health-related questions about the virus and direct residents and providers to the right resources. Hotline open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 1-888-535-6136.

US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization (WHO)

Track The Global Spread of Coronavirus in Real Time

Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19

Learning Resources: Coronavirus Resources: Teaching, Learning and Thinking Critically

MIKE ELLIS Coronavirus Resources: Teaching, Learning and Thinking Critically

By Katherine Schulten March 11, 2020. 
This page will continuously be updated with ideas for working, at school or at home, with content from The New York Times and other reliable sources about this global pandemic.

Michigan Virtual

Learning Community- information for educators, teachers, parents and students — learning need not end simply because schools are closed. Engage and share ideas.

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