This morning, I rushed into St. Thomas More Catholic Academy, running a little late after dropping my son off at daycare. I hurried down the stairs and to the side door to meet the 8th graders whose parents have chosen in-person learning. I took their temperatures and asked the same four COVID-19 related questions they get asked every day. As teens do, they mumbled their answers and complained about having to do this. Each scholar continued in their moodiness as they walked to class, dragging their feet, leaving me to my thermometer and never-changing questions. But this morning, as each one walked away, I marveled at how things have changed in one short year. In all honesty, a year ago, this typical teenage apathy would have highly irritated me. I would have asked myself why they can’t smile or speak up when they answer. But today, on this chilly, February, D.C. morning, I was just so happy to see their half-covered faces without a computer screen separating us, that none of their behaviors even phased me.
See, the truth is – I’m in awe of our scholars. They have taken this pandemic time, – this unprecedented, fluid, crazy, cliched after cliched time – and have grown. They have learned, and they have persisted, and they have succeeded. Please don’t get me wrong, this time has been awful, really awful, for so many countless reasons, but has it really been all a loss? Maybe our scholars haven’t learned as much multiplication as they would have pre-pandemic, or maybe they haven’t quite learned how to use possessive pronouns, but they’ve learned so many lessons we never would have been able to teach them in “normal times.” So have we as adults. In fact, here comes a list –
- Grit. As a community, we have often talked about how we build this in our scholars. How do we teach them to keep trying, to overcome obstacles, to deal with fears? COVID-19 has taught all of us this skill, maybe even too much. Our scholars have been living in a world where they have very little control. They can come to school; they can’t come to school. They don’t need a mask, they need a mask, now actually wear two masks please. It’s safe to gather as long as you’re outside. Wait, no no, you should probably just stay away from each other altogether. Yet, to my amazement, our scholars have not shut down. They show up for class, whatever that might look like for them. They turn in their assignments (for the most part). They get on Zoom with friends and chat on social media. They have found ways to overcome what’s been taken from them and continue to thrive.
- Fluency with technology. Let’s be honest. We were moving towards being paper-free at a snail’s pace. But now! Now! All of our assignments are turned in online. Our scholars are masters of Zoom, Google Docs, Google Slides, Nearpod, and so much more. Online calendars have made those dreaded agenda books obsolete, and educators can provide feedback on papers without getting blisters from their pen! Scholars, parents, administrators, and educators communicate through email with ease. And – we’re saving trees.
- Science. Dr. James is an incredible middle school science educator, but even she could not impart the amount of science knowledge on our scholars as this pandemic. Day in and day out, our scholars are learning more about science (and some math too!) through everyday life. They understand how viruses work and spread exponentially, how vaccine technology has changed and improved, and how human beings can adapt and prepare for the possibility of similar pandemic events in the future.
- Time with family. We have never spent as much time with those who live in our household as we have this past year. With schools, restaurants, and venues closed, we have been together almost 24/7. We have been given time to spend with our kids that we never would have had before.Yes,I know that this has been hard many of the days, and we often just wanted 5 minutes to ourselves to feel like we weren’t suffocating in our own homes, but we also would have missed so much. Maybe we taught our kids to cook a favorite meal, read a book together, built a totem as a family with Mr. Smith, or had a dance party at 11am on a school day. These opportunities to just be together were so much more sparse pre-pandemic.
- Appreciation. The old saying goes that you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone, and we really didn’t. Personally, I had no idea how much I would miss our scholars. I miss the mornings of prayer in the hallways, the chaotic sounds of recess, even scholars being sent to my office because they just need a little time out of class to compose themselves. I miss the triumphant eyes of learners when they “get it” , the proud voices of kids worshipping through song in mass, and the laughs at lunch while socializing with friends. And, no matter what they say, our scholars miss STM, too. They have missed the love, the learning, and the community we provide.
I guess in short, while we’ve lost much and still long for “normalcy” – whatever that may be – we’ve all learned how to be a little more determined, a little more patient, and a lot more grateful for what we have.
Thank God for moody 8th graders. What would I do without them?
- This blog post was written from the perspective of Mrs. Nancy Taylor-Williams our STM Academic Dean.