29 Apr Learning a Lesson…Outside of the Classroom
4/29/20 – Amber Reini
“Flamingo, fun, flower, fire, flame, fly, frog, facts, flippin’, fish!” echoes in my mind each morning – something I had grown accustomed to yelling with my students as we prepared for the start of each school day. Now, rather than silly chants, my work day begins by opening up my computer only to see the 3,497 (it seems) emails I need to catch up on. I miss the smiles, laughter, endless energy, and protests of “Mrs.Reinnniiiiiiii” that used to fill my classroom.
For many educators, adjusting to the “new normal” has been challenging to say the least. “No one ever becomes a teacher with the expectation that they’ll go weeks and months of the school year without seeing kids” says Shea Goita, an art teacher in Loudoun County. Rather, our days are now consumed with virtual meetings, phone calls, lesson recordings, paperwork, and yet another tutorial for a new online learning platform. While this may seem like a typical work day to most, many of these efforts can feel in vain when so many of our students face limited access to technology.
Beyond academics, Valery Erickson, a second grade teacher at Dogwood Elementary, recounts that the hardest thing during this time is “not being able to support the social-emotional health of [her] students” or ensuring that many of the needs provided for by the school are, in some capacity, still being met for students and their families. Families are especially devastated when a parent loses their job, or is struck with illness as is the case for many of Cindy Abell’s students (Preschool Special Education Teacher at Timber Lane Elementary). It can feel like we aren’t doing enough, limited by the walls of our homes.
Yet, in His grace, God is revealing to us new opportunities for how to serve in the lives of our students. For Sherri Dezort, an Elementary Resource Assistant, that looks like starting a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) with God program with eight students from her school. “It’s amazing to create lessons where the primary learning is ‘What is God showing us through this?’”, says Sherri. Lindsay Skolrood, a 2nd grade teacher in Alexandria, has devoted her time to engaging in daily hour-long calls with her students. The “short, silly, intentional time” with her students has helped create a sense of normalcy amongst the chaos, and has enabled her to continue to demonstrate the love and care of Christ. Shea Goitia has been reminded through her virtual art lessons that “rather than be disheartened by what [her] job doesn’t have right now, [God is] pointing [her] instead to what’s still there: kids that want to learn, and want to create”. Finally, through our church’s weekly Mark’s Pub deliveries, Cindy Abell has had the opportunity to deliver meals to two of her students’ families. “What an incredible opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus through my role as a teacher in their lives”, Cindy rejoices. As Devon Yorkshire, a school librarian at J.L Simpson Middle School, so eloquently put it, “teachers are helpers, and even if it’s in school or virtual, we want to help. God has allowed us to become even bigger helpers during this ‘pause’”.
Despite the chaos and worry, God is faithfully reminding us that “classroom or no classroom, He is in control” says Valery Erickson. His love covers the lives of our students and their families and as Lindsay Skolrood encourages us, “[we] can trust the work of our Perfect Savior”).
During education week, we ask that you would pray for the lives of our students and their families. Pray for protection. Pray for peace. Pray that God would ultimately lead their hearts to Him. Lastly, we ask that you would pray for us as we navigate this unfamiliar territory of distance learning. Pray that despite our physical limitations, we might find creative ways to demonstrate the love of Christ to our students.