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Lessons Learned Through Unexpected Experiences

Meredith Banner

One of my guilty pleasures during the coronavirus pandemic (ok, to be truthful, during anytime) is watching The Voice and Songland.  I’m not much of an American Idol fan, but I’ve even watched it several times during this pandemic.

As these shows opened their new seasons weeks ago, contestants typically performed on glitzy stages with exquisite sets, back-up artists, and full audiences cheering wildly—and with the judges front and center to listen to, applaud, critique the performances, and encourage the performers. Great theater. Great interactions. Great learning.

Now with stay-at-home orders in place, these shows feature their contestants performing from their living rooms, back porches, and dens. No glitzy sets or back-up singers. The judges themselves are another camera screen away, sitting in their own offices, dens, or living rooms.

I can’t help thinking how disappointed these budding artists must be. This just isn’t the experience they expected and deserved.

Of course, they are on the show, singing for the judges, competing against each other, getting invaluable feedback, being coached into the next stages of the competition and—whether they win or not—perhaps on their way to stardom.

Hmm.  Kind of like our students.  This distancing, online instruction and feedback, social media relationships, and more?  Not what they signed up for—or deserved.

And yet.  They are still learning and performing and getting feedback. They are still building relationships and supporting each other. They are still participating through creative reimaginings of beloved traditions, club activities, and more.  And they are living a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope!) experience that will, like participation in music TV, shape their lives, depending on what they learn and do with the experience.

Because ultimately, the opportunities for learning and demonstrating that learning—performing, if you will—go on. Our faculty and staff are eagerly mentoring, guiding, counseling, and supporting our students in these difficult times.  And strong students are accepting this new reality, remaining focused on their education and appreciating the commitment of their instructional faculty and staff advisors in their ongoing development.

It reminds me that much has been made of this generation as “snowflakes,” unable to rise to the challenges of disappointment and “undeserved” circumstances. But I find most of this generation to be remarkably engaged and committed and inspiring.  So I hope nobody would be heartless enough to dismiss their emotions and reactions to the confusing world in which these emerging adults now find themselves. It is hard enough for the rest of us, right?

So how do we not only support them in this time but also encourage their resilience?  At Meredith College, we focus on students’ individual strengths—their essential talents that can be developed through coaching/advising/mentoring into true strengths useful in any number of situations—including these difficult times. (Learn more about StrongPoints)

What I am sure of by watching The Voice and Songland and American Idol is that despite disappointment, these contestants realize they have an extraordinary opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. I know just as well that our resilient students will see they have an equally powerful opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed—even if the experience is radically different from what they anticipated. The alternative is just wasted time. And development.  And intellect. And character. And a future worth the exchange of this chaos for that beauty.

More than guilty pleasures and more than an undeserved twist of fate, this is real life and the lessons are all around us. Rich with opportunity, even when circumstances are less than ideal, these days teach us that we can support each other and rise.  Now is our one time, our one opportunity to shine because it is the only now we will ever have.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330

allenme@meredith.edu