Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington successfully navigated what will certainly be recorded in the history books as a major event of the 21st Century – the COVID-19 pandemic. With gratitude to administrators, counselors, nurses, and teachers for the 180 days of in-person education, schools move forward with ten lessons learned in the coronavirus pandemic:
#10 – Life happens. Regardless of any social or economic conditions, faith belief, or level of academic achievement, life happens. Sometimes we simply need to accept what comes our way and deal with it.
#9 – A little inconvenience goes a long way. Mask-wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand-sanitizing were valuable safety precautions. Students and staff adhered to these conditions daily, indoors and outdoors, resulting in low to moderate numbers of isolated or quarantined persons. Following rules, even when unpopular, can lead to positive results for everyone.
#8 – Less is more. Schools and classrooms were required to reduce items to allow greater space between persons and fewer opportunities to share learning equipment. Most of the classroom furniture, other than student desks, along with learning tools for experiments and manipulatives for instruction could not be used. Even without all of the usual classroom accompaniments, solid teaching and learning is possible.
#7 – Numbers are our friends. Schools attended daily to staff and student temperatures, the mandated distances between persons and furniture to protect the safety of all, the number of days required for isolations and quarantines, and the state positivity numbers for COVID. Following the numbers is a skill to connect the dots in life.
#6 – Quality counts. Whether online or in person, teachers provided quality Catholic education to students. To the greatest extent possible, the regular curriculum was offered to students. Standardized test scores and college acceptances and scholarships attest to academic success in 2020-2021. Quality Catholic education results from committed teachers and hard-working students.
#5 – Creativity abounds. Teachers became tech leaders in order to instruct well and engage learners. A host of new and different technology tools and apps were discovered, utilized, and shared among educators and with students. Truly, necessity is the parent of invention and discovery.
#4 – Friends are important. Public, private, and parochial schools collaborated for the good of all students and teachers. Weekly meetings among private and public school administrators with state leaders and public health officials resulted in communications and programs that addressed the common interests important for all students and teachers. Public, private, and parochial schools need to work together in many ways for all students in our states.
#3 – Parents are our partners. Without the support of parents and guardians, Catholic schools would not have been able to offer in-person learning this year. Their cooperation with school expectations, their flexibility in adjusting schedules, and their presence and participation, as needed, resulted in as close to a regular school year as possible. Catholic school education is a partnership between parents and educators.
#2 – Teachers love their students. Despite the difficulties placed before them, teachers, administrators, nurses, and counselors reported to school in person every day for 180 days. They came to work, literally placing themselves in challenging situations, because of their commitment to the vocation of serving as Catholic educators. Catholic school educators are one of a kind!
#1 – Trust in the grace of God. Although the expression may be overused, truly “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.” The goodness and generosity of the Lord is not to be overlooked in the many blessings Catholic schools experienced in this pandemic year through the presence of clergy, educators, families, and community members. The LORD is good to all, compassionate toward all your works (Psalm 145:9).
De Angelo is superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Wilmington.