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Resilience & Growth: Learning During a Global Pandemic

“Life throws challenges but with patience and resilience, you can convert every challenge into a new opportunity to grow”

-Amit Ray

Massage Therapy is a creative mix of art and science whose teachings have always balanced theoretical knowledge and hands-on learning.  Most of our classes involve a combination of theory and practical work:  we learn the theory of a technique, how it is affecting the intended tissue and then we practice doing that technique so we can see and feel it for ourselves.

Here at Evolve College, we have always done our learning together and in-person.  So, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, we all had to adapt quickly to a new way of doing things…and continue adapting through the 2020-2021 school year as the case numbers in the province ebbed and flowed, bringing with it various restrictions.  It’s been a year of discovering different yet effective ways teaching and learning and what a ride it has been!

Back in March 2020, we were completely shut down and we had to move our learning to 100% online – a world we were not very familiar with.   Not knowing how long the shutdown would last, but wanting to continue as best we could,  we used this time to teach the theory portions of the class, using Zoom lectures and demos.   Our written testing was done using an online testing platform and we stayed connected to each other using the Workplace app, where we could clarify things, cheer each other on and remind ourselves that, even though we were temporarily separated, we were all in this together.

When we were allowed to safely return on June 08th, 2020, we used the theory that we had learned during the lockdown and added the practical elements of the learning to complete the picture into the summer months and we did so all dolled-up in the recommended PPE.   In addition, our Sophomore students did a clinical rotation through July and our Senior students worked to complete their hands-on work, eventually graduating in August, two months after their original grad date.  

Watching our faculty and students work so diligently toward their goals was inspiring and our graduation ceremony was a true celebration of the hard work, flexibility and strength that was needed to navigate these trying times! 

We had a short summer break and when we returned in late August, we were able to do so in-person, albeit socially distanced and masked.  We were able to use our large campus floor-plan to ensure that we could learn and work with safe-distance measures and frequent cleaning protocols.  In order to ensure distance could be maintained, we were creative in moving a few of our theory-only classes to Zoom learning so that any class that had a practical element (most classes!) could be done together and in-person. 

Throughout the school year, we have had to make a few adaptations to the plan to accommodate changing Public Health measures, but for the most part, we feel like we are back to what we do best:  learning together.  We have managed to do this safely and have had 0 transmission here at school:  this PPE stuff works!

We are on-track to have this year’s graduates complete the program as planned (and on time!) and we look forward to honouring the grace and dignity with which they handled the changing tides of their schooling.  As an RMT myself, I know the dedication and grit it takes to get through our in-depth schooling, but we are in awe of how they took it all in stride, kept their eye on the goal and treasured the experience.   They are the true epitome of what it means to be a massage therapist:  patient, kind, hard-working and caring.

While we are all looking forward to going back to ‘normal,’ this past 14 months has taught us a lot about how learning can look.  There will be things that we keep from this pandemic learning, for example:  recording lectures and demos so that, even though students will have been there to watch and learn in-person, they have an option to watch back later for clarification and understanding.  What a gift that is, almost like going back in time!   We have learned that our diligent cleaning protocols work to keep people safe and we will continue them with fervour!  We have confirmed that our program and the way it is set up to allow progression of learning is a great model and we learned that human beings with a goal can do anything they set their mind to!

To say we would do it again would be a stretch but as with most change, there is a bright side to the challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic brought us:  an opportunity to grow as people, as a community and as a profession.  It brought us an opportunity to EVOLVE.

See more images of our school and current protocols in our Gallery.