For many teachers and students, last week served as the most unusual and uncertain spring break in history.
As a teacher and communications director for our school, I teach five classes and handle the school’s publications and social media. I spent my spring break walking my dog, doing spring cleaning, spending quality time with family (in person and via facetime), revamping lesson plans for potentially the rest of the school year, intermittently watching COVID 19 updates, and creating fun videos and informative social media posts for our school community.
As I prepared myself for teaching virtually through April 30 (and possibly beyond), I rose at 6:30 am, walked the dog, read my Bible, and drank my coffee.
Now, as I sit here this evening and reflect over the five classes of Zoom meetings, with postings and emails in between, along with one bathroom break and a quick bite to eat between zoom 3 and 4, my heart is full, and I am exhausted.
It’s interesting, though, how the fatigue of cyberspace differs from that of physical classroom teaching. The exhaustion, from my perspective, stems from revamping an entire quarter of work and deadlines, brainstorming out of the box approaches to filling yearbook pages for spring sports and activities that have been postponed, and feeling, through the screen, the weight of emotion these students carry as they long to be back together in their school or on the field or just hanging out in the parking lot.
Today, my first Zoom class began at 8 am. I showed up in a sweatshirt and jeans (a nice perk of teaching from home) with some of my students still in their beds with only their audio turned on.
“Next time,” I told those students who didn’t want to be seen, “I need to see your faces! I miss you!”
As we did each day in our real classroom, I began with the sharing of gratitude, and many of us were especially grateful for the sunshine we’ve experienced lately, and others took turns sharing a plethora of thankful statements:
“I’m thankful for my mom because she’s been cooking every night!”
“I’m thankful for friends.”
“I’m thankful for extra sleep.”
After gratitude, from one class to the next, we discussed revised plans and how I will take attendance each week and how communication during this virtual time is crucial.
“We must stay connected even though we aren’t seeing each other every day.”
No one had an attitude, and everyone participated.
My journalism students shared plans for their 2-minute videos, and in my yearbook zoom, we went page by page and created to-do lists and need lists so that we could help each other finish telling the story of our year.
We even sang Happy belated Birthday to Sam!
In my senior Advanced Comp/101 zoom classes, each student shared wisdom from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince–which we finished right before school closed.
Every time I read this treasure, I have a new aha moment, and today, hearing my students share what they had learned–without us even discussing it– made my heart beam! And oh how we as a society need this wisdom right now:
“I learned to see with your heart and not your eyes.”
“I learned how important it is not to judge people.”
“We must not forget what’s it’s like to be a child.”
“Relationships are essential.”
“Being tamed teaches discipline.”
“I think The Little Prince symbolizes Jesus and how he sacrificed everything, and the rose represents us.”
Okay, well, maybe I should not have put these nuggets of wisdom in direct quotation marks because I was actually paraphrasing, but you get the point. Hopefully.
As I closed each class today, I made a heart with my hands, held it over my face, and told my students I missed them and I loved them. I reminded them to put on love each day and to stay focused.
Then, I closed each class with the prayer our campus minister shared via email.
Since I teach at a Catholic high school, praying in class is a normal activity, and these kids need more normal today than uncertainty.
However, for all those public school teachers who would normally be afraid to say a prayer with their students, I understand. I used to be one.
Yet, still, I say, don’t be afraid. No one is going to fire you.
It seems society has a newfound respect for teachers right now, so if you feel like, go for it!
Offer a prayer opportunity after you end your virtual class and see how many kids stay connected to experience the peace of a prayer.
Now, besides zooms and postings and screens filled with sleepy, smiling teenagers, I send a shout out to all health care workers, and I encourage you, as I asked my NHS members to do, to take a break from the virtual world and create a small piece of art with heart. Once finished, write your name, city, and state on the back and send it to
Art with Heart
1315 Skipping Stone Dr
Evansville, IN 47725
If you’re still reading this, I thank you, and I offer up prayers for peace and wellness for you and our world.