There were incredible visions of all of the amazing things they would do with an unanticipated two-week break from school. Or...just maybe...things would work out so that a month-long spring break could be in the cards with excessive time at the beach. Little did we all know what was to come and what we would all learn in the process.
The first two weeks did not include many of the fun experiences that students had in mind. Instead, school work quickly piled up, frustrated greatly by printing, access and other technological challenges. Acclimating to something that was previously unfamiliar did not go as smoothly as many thought it would. From there, things began to even out and routines began to be established for both students and parents. Some of those routines were positive and productive, like my family’s daily 10:00 AM virtual meetings. I will always remember the three of us, my 8-year old son, my wife, and myself, settling into our assigned places in the house so that we could all join our online classes and meetings far enough away from one another so that we wouldn’t disturb the other vide conferences.
While that is something that I will look back fondly upon, other, more challenging, times vastly outweighed that experience. As a school administrator, I heard from numerous families about the turmoil that the weeks of online learning brought into their homes. Not a day went by that I didn’t speak to multiple parents about how hard it was for them as they lamented all of the arguments that took place around school work. Many other students checked out, struggled to complete and turn in work, and saw their grades plummet. Teachers and school administrators scrambled to reach students and parents and do whatever was possible to support them as well as they could. In the end, valuable learning opportunities were lost. Students missed social interaction with peers, and their overall mental health declined.
As a Christian educator, I wholeheartedly believe that the Lord is faithful in all things and that trials can be used to remind us of what is most important and help us to appreciate the little things that we overlook each day. For our students who have been able to return to our campus full-time this year, they have been reminded of how much they actually do value and appreciate school. Of course, some love the work they get to do in AP Chemistry a little more than others; and students who didn’t like Math last year haven’t miraculously decided to make Math the center of their lives. All of them, however, now recognize how much they value the experience that they have on campus, with one another. After all, those relationships are the foundation of the independent school experience, and those are needed now more than ever.