By Dr. Samuel Torres
The world has, indeed, changed since we last spoke those familiar words, “Back to school!” In these past six months we have encountered our new reality; losses from the pandemic (COVID-19), distancing, forest fires, poor air quality, and economic impacts resulting in job loss or underemployment which have touched our lives in many ways.
The varied and numerous challenges we have faced have been difficult and have presented new territory for our reflection and action. Please know that a diligent and daily discernment regarding our schools is always in the forefront as information changes and evolves. This new paradigm has ushered in our new reality.
Back in March, we pivoted our delivery of Catholic education. I can proudly say, we succeeded in maintaining the quality of our education during this pivot while successfully completing year-end celebrations leading to graduation. Many took the opportunity to create a new rite of passage to the next grade or to high school or to college. At the end of the school year, we all believed that school would reopen with the familiarity we knew from previous school years. That was not to be.
Our principals worked diligently throughout the summer to prepare for various scenarios, in light of our changing guidelines. Together with the Office of Catholic Schools they have considered the ways to work within the guidelines to best prepare students, teachers, families, and school communities for the best experience in education. Our teachers have become acquainted with new technology, new pedagogy, and new surroundings designed for educating our students this year, such as: Zoom, Zoom rooms, Facetime, Google, Google Suite, Skype, Class Dojo and many other platforms. Many of these applications are being utilized in validating the learning process and increasing the student-teacher and student-student interactions.
The core of our concern is to know they are learning, while supplying evidence that establishes that fact. This core has not changed. The tenets of our faith have not changed either. A Catholic education is rooted in the exposure and understanding of our faith. Our Sunday worship has been limited in person but, our domestic church has been reintroduced. We are able to view our Sunday obligation on our devices, make physical appointments for sacraments, and be receptive to new meanings of the Gospel. Jesus, our teacher, is still with us, guiding and blessing our community of learners and instructors.
Our goal remains the same for our students, in preparing them for the rigors of the world, while, helping them understand that our faith is intertwined in all we say and do. As we continue through this school year, we bring our new ambitions, newly acquired teaching skills, and most especially, our resilient and faithful hearts before Jesus, our teacher. We may be saying good-bye to an old norm but saying yes to our new reality is a step in faith we take together.
Jesus, be with us on our journey. We do not take lightly the mission of preparing your children. Bless each family, each child, each teacher, each administrator, each pastor that supports our endeavors so that our work together reflects the Christian response you so desire. Amen.
Dr. Samuel Torres is Superintendant of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino.