Lessons from a Pandemic School

Raise your right hand. Raise it high.  Now reach back and pat yourself on the back.  Congratulations! You did it–we did it.  We survived the 2019-2020 pandemic school year!  

What have we learned that we take with us into a future that is unknown to us but not to Him in whom we can fully trust? And how can our own experiences point us to greater empathy for those who have a different struggle? Here are some take-aways from Spring 2020 Pandemic School:

  1. Relationship matters most.  School is, of course, about academic learning, but it’s also (perhaps mostly these days) about the other kinds of learning.  Social interaction is the mortar to the bricks that make up an education, and school is also about safe, caring adults walking through life with kids inside and outside the regular classroom, pointing them to Christ.  Not just teachers, but coaches, administrators, cafeteria and maintenance staff–the tapestry that makes up Lakeland Christian School. Those relationships are valuable to maintain mental health. 

Relationship was harder in the post-March 12 world, but when all the pieces came together, it was beautiful. I loved hearing the stories and seeing the Facebook posts about the ways we connected, and our in-person graduation was the icing on the cake. Parents had a window into their kids’ days that was entirely new, and will likely result in stronger future partnership with teachers. 

  1. Kids are different. Bless the parents and teachers of littles–you need some extra praise for making it to the other side. And bless the parents and teachers of those with learning differences, some of whom struggled mightily and needed every academic strategy and word of encouragement in the book.  Bless the extroverts–the loss of the social parts of school were so very hard for them. For those of you with kids who worked independently, kept their rooms clean, and helped cheerfully around the house while you worked efficiently from home…you just might want to refrain from sharing for a while until the rest of us recover. 
three people sitting on the floor in front of a couch with coffee cups. A mom, a daughter and a dad all looking at each other smiling.
  1. Technology access is not a luxury.  While doing pandemic school, we learned that when the wifi went out, the academic world mostly ended. And we learned that sharing devices is hard–really hard–when everyone is doing school and working from home at the same time. Now that we’ve been through this, we can have deeper empathy for those who don’t have easy access to the strong wifi signal we take for granted and commit to supporting the nonprofits and places around our community that are helping kids with wifi access for school work. Kudos to Polk County Schools and Polk Vision for turning busses into mobile wifi hotspots. What a creative solution to meet a critical need for so many in our community.   
  1. Working + pandemic school is really hard. The ability to do paid work from home or to be a homemaker is a blessing that is not everyone’s reality. Though our school plans to be open in person in August if the government allows, as a broader community, we need to place emphasis on how to help the children of those essential workers (including retail, food service, and grocery) do school in case we were to have to go back to home education for a time. The experience of the YMCA of West Central Florida could be a model. They provided emergency respite care for the children of medical professionals and first-responders that included help with school work.
a mother, toddler son and a father. the parents are kneeling next to the boy holding his hands and the parents have white medical masks covering their nose and mouths
  1. Our realities are different. We have a daughter with an autoimmune condition, and are extremely cautious when it comes to her health. We don’t leave the house without a mask and are very sensitive to anything that might put her at risk. Others have loved ones undergoing cancer treatment or care for elderly parents.  Some do not have these constraints and have different standards for protecting themselves and their families. We are going to have to learn how to live graciously with each other, recognizing that those wearing masks “might have people in their life that they’re trying to take care of”, as North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum so eloquently remarked. The balance may become more challenging in the days ahead, but it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to each other.
  2. Empathy is the balm of Gilead. In the Bible, the balm of Gilead is named for a region east of the Jordan river known for the great healing powers of a medicine made from the resin of a rare plant.

The resin is helpful to the plant, protecting` against insect damage, literally coating and healing the parts that have been eaten away–in fact, the resin is not produced unless the plant is damaged.  The balm of Gilead refers to a source of help and healing for all that comes from the point of an injury. Without injury, there is no need for a balm. Of course, the ultimate balm of Gilead is Jesus, but there are lessons for us here, too. 

picture of a plant called the balm of Gilead with green leaves and brown balls

 In these times, understanding the perspective of others is the soothing balm that will help us navigate the most difficult challenges, which may be yet to come.  Our opportunity is to use both the inconveniences and true hardships we may have experienced thus far to lead us to greater empathy for our neighbors.  It is this empathy that will allow us to be mindful of the needs of others, planning wisely for a future we cannot yet know, but must prepare to embrace.