With the announcement that all schools in Kentucky will remain closed until at least April 20, educators and parents must again adjust expectations of a “normal” day of learning.
In addition to providing instruction as students remotely complete assignments, teachers are also trying to maintain a sense of community, one of the hallmarks of Catholic education, said Jennie Meirose, a teacher at St. Xavier High School.
“Now that we are more than a week in, teachers are finding more ways to reach out, to check in with students, not just about class assignments, but to see how they are doing, to keep that community alive,” said Meirose, who also coordinates the school’s EXCEL program for students who need extra support.
“I think because Catholic schools have such a history of community that we are able to support one another beyond the classroom,” she said.
Meirose and her husband, Andy, both theology teachers at St. Xavier have four children: Matthew, 10; Katherine, 8; Elizabeth, 5; and Clare, 3. The oldest three attend St. Agnes School, while the youngest attends preschool at St. James School.
In addition to her teaching responsibilities for her St. X students, she and her husband must also navigate their own children’s distance learning assignments as well.
“It’s definitely been a challenge to both be present to my students in a way they need me to be and also to keep my own children engaged in learning and excited about it,” she said.
The key right now, Meirose said, is to be flexible.
“Teachers have a better sense of what is working and what doesn’t. This is an opportunity to work together, to share successes,” she said. “As we get further along, we’ll need to find more creative ways to communicate and share information and to find the best, most effective way to teach.”
That may look different from one teacher to the next, she said.
“Students have been great about going with the flow and learning the best way to communicate,” she added.
Leisa Schulz, Superintendent of Schools, said that while maintaining learning is important, maintaining a sense of connection to the school community is “even more important in providing support to our students during times of uncertainty.”
“We’ve heard wonderful stories of teachers maintaining contact with students through daily emails and face-to-face meetings,” she said in an email March 24. “Teachers have been intentional in scheduling check-ins with students on a daily or weekly basis to connect with students and create a sense of community.”
In this time of uncertainty and frankly a sometimes scary reality, Meirose said she has turned to her faith to find comfort and solace.
“I keep thinking about how much uncertainty Mary and the Apostles felt and their willingness to embrace that uncertainty. I have no idea how this will play out. I don’t know when I’ll see my students again or my coworkers,” she said but noted that this season of Lent is a “perfect time to offer all this up in prayer” as a sacrifice.
“I have to trust this is something we’ll get through and be a better people because of this struggle. Even if we can’t be with one another right now. I think of that time Jesus spent in the desert and I imagine it was so lonely and isolating,” she said.
Still, she said she tries to have a grateful heart. “There are people in so many more stressful situations. This is stressful but people are making greater sacrifices than I am.”