Loss and Creativity
What is the ultimate value of my work, knowing that my plans and accomplishments might fall apart or be rerouted by events that are beyond my control?
This time of year is particularly poignant for me. Normally, now is the start of the period many of us view as the “most wonderful time of the year” (as former Spanish teacher Mr. Hank Coreiro used to call it). Spring Phase is when the regular four blocks-a-day schedule comes to a close, allowing students to engage in more hands-on experiential learning. Instead, we continued our Winter Term classes. A prudent decision that, be it as it may to the chagrin of students, has afforded teachers more time to complete their curricula.
I’m extremely disheartened, even though it’s due to circumstances beyond all our control, I was not able to run the Community Service project I normally manage over Spring Phase for students. I always anxiously await this time in the school year so that I can observe our students as they learn and grow from their experiences at our many local service sites. I love watching them connect with the senior citizens (who they initially thought were going to be “boring”) at our adult medical daycares. I’m encouraged by seeing the same students I taught moving on to take over a classroom and teach elementary students in the many charter and parochial schools where we send them. Not only did I have to miss out on such powerful and gratifying experiences, but now I feel like the month and a half that I spent contacting sites and collecting sign up sheets has gone to waste!
This “loss” has made me take a closer look at the meaning of my work as a teacher. What is the ultimate value of my work, knowing that my plans and accomplishments might fall apart or be rerouted by events that are beyond my control? What gives meaning to my work if the outcome is not always in my hands?
I can’t say I have all the answers. But I can say that this question has made me appreciate the surges of creativity that are manifesting in our school community.
For many teachers, the switch to online classes has been ridden with frustration. On top of having to learn to maneuver the highways and byways of the Google Suite and generating lessons capable of engaging students through a screen, so many of us have had to chuck out plans and projects that cannot be carried out virtually. I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say that the feeling of knowing that so many hours of work have now “gone out the window” is just a tinge more painful than having to spend hours navigating the annals of RenWeb, our incomprehensibly convoluted online gradebook software.
I’m amazed by new initiatives I see my coworkers coming up with, for example the Drama Guild Revive YouTube show, the We Are Family lip sync video that Ms. Stephanie Kranz put together, and Dr. Glenn Cassidy’s “Tuesdays with Cass” discussion group. All this creativity has inspired me to come up with new ways to help our students get involved in serving the community, even while at home. It’s also spurred me to start reaching out to other teachers for ideas, allowing for a renewed spirit of collaboration to emerge from these less-than-ideal circumstances.
For starters, Ms. Candace Bradsher and I have put together an Alumni Call Campaign. A group of UD2s and seniors are reaching out to some of our alumni over the age of 75 to check in and see how they’re doing. It has allowed for students to forge connections with Gray Bees from previous generations by sharing their Benedict’s pride and learning from their wisdom. Also, some students who did Community Service at a senior adult daycare last year have been making calls to the clients to check in on them. Some other teachers have also been working on a “virtual Community Service” competition, in which a great many students participated.
So as much as these difficult times may involve loss and sacrifice, I’m determined to heed to advice of Pope Francis, who said recently in a homily, “we have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity. We can either get depressed and alienated or we can get creative. At home we need a creativity shorn of so many useless things, but with a yearning to express our faith in community, as the people of God.” Let’s look forward to seeing what the Spirit inspires in us next!