Virtual Learning: Week 2 of ?

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.

IMG-5326Today, 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.IMG-9171

We even sang Happy belated Birthday to Sam!

In my senior Advanced Comp/101 zoom classes, each student shared wisdom from Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’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:

IMG-5331“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.”

“Kindness matters.”

“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.

daily prayer

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 HeartIMG-5338

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.

 

The Class of 2020

As I wake early on this Tuesday morning, just like I would any other school day morning, I make the coffee, read my devotional, and go to Google Classroom to double-check the virtual assignments that I posted last Friday.

Last Friday. Sigh. When we left school last Friday to embark on the unknown of COVID-19, I heard some of my seniors in the hall saying,

“This could be our last day of senior year.”MJ-139

It is all so bizarre.

Our principal, in a school-wide assembly, told students and teachers to take everything home because no one would be allowed back in the building, and he concluded with a statement that we will have to remind ourselves of daily for weeks–perhaps months–to come:

“Don’t make this about you. You can be disappointed, and I understand that, but this is not about you. It is about all of us and doing the right thing for everyone.”

My seniors understand those words, as does my daughter who is a senior at a different school, and they will all do the right thing. They have no choice really, but the sting and reality of those words have settled hard on these smart, creative, big-hearted, dream-carrying, fear-of missing-out, young adults.

Through their eyes and screens, their senior year of “last times” is potentially becoming their senior year of “disappearing times”–from prom to spring sports to group bicycle rides to school the last week and much more.

Two weeks ago when rumblings of potential school closings could be heard, my daughter said,

“I will walk across that stage, Mom.”

Now, with rumblings of closing school for the rest of the semester and press conferences that speculate the COVID-19 wave spilling through August, my daughter–who rarely ever makes anything about her–is more than disappointed. She is sad because she sees that stage disappearing right along with her spring break trip and prom and everything else that comes with the end of senior year.

I am that mom and teacher who preaches positive thinking and gratitude and kindness.

What are you thankful for today? When negative thoughts show up in your brain, ask God to get rid of them and replace them with positive. Keep your focus. Be kind. Put on love.

All of these things I say, and yet, today, only two days into the school closure, I don’t have the right words for my girl and my students.

The only words that come to mind are from God, for in Proverbs 3:5-6, He reminds us that we may not always understand everything that is happening, but we must trust in Him and He will direct us.

However, when you’re 17 or 18, and high school is literally your life– you wake for it, you stay up late for it, you celebrate and abhor it–even God’s words seem to sting.

So, as all of us navigate this unknown for our kids, students, communities, and nation, I echo my principal’s words that we not make this personal, that we not make this about ourselves but rather the greater good, and I also cling to God’s words and put my trust in Him through all of this.

IMG-5690BUT, once we are able to give a hug again instead of an elbow bump, and once we are allowed to surround ourselves with more than ten friends, let’s make a promise to the class of 2020 that we will make this right, even if we have to hold a prom and/or graduation in one of our backyards or down the road at the 4-H Center.

Be smart, healthy, and safe, everyone, and let God direct your path. Peace.

The Power of a Podcast

attitudeofgratitudeLast November, I participated in my first ever podcast. I was excited and nervous and truly did not know what to expect. Will they only ask me questions about being a journalism teacher? What if they ask questions I don’t know the answers to? Will anyone really listen to this podcast? As I waited in the hallway, I said a prayer. I gave God my nerves and fear of the unknown, and after an hour-long conversation with three people covering everything from yearbooks to thank you notes, I walked out of that podcast with a huge smile on my heart. God is good.

I had no idea when that podcast would air, but today, my friend texted me with a screenshot. The podcast had finally been posted, and they titled it Being the Light! WOW!

Then, in the blurb by my picture, they wrote: “Angela St. Clair has the light we all wish we had. With gratitude, we present our newest episode with the adviser from Mater Dei High School. In this conversation, we discuss living in the present, being the light in the world and the importance of writing thank you notes.”

I had not even listened to the podcast yet, and tears filled my eyes. I was totally humbled and knew that God had heard my prayer that day back in November while I stood in the hallway. He had taken my anxiety and replaced it with His peace so that I could be a witness for Him through this podcast that was supposed to be about being a yearbook teacher.

I warn you, listening to this will take 30 minutes of your life, but I hope it will make you smile, increase your gratitude, and give you the courage to let your light shine!

Special thanks to Haley, Nelson, and Steve of the Herff Jones Yearbooks Mind the Gutter Podcast for providing this opportunity to me.