They may not be physically together but Archbishop Jason Gordon has asked teachers of Catholic schools to see their classes as sacred spaces and see the face of Jesus in their students.
His Grace held a series of online meetings with teachers September 28-29 and October 1. At Tuesday’s meeting, September 29, he told teachers, “When you are in you class, when you are with your young people…that is a meeting place between Heaven and Earth. And to see that way is to understand what you are doing is sacred work.” The meeting began with Lectio Divina on John 1: 47-51. He said the passage showed the world as humans saw it was just one part of reality but Jesus was saying there is more. “Angels were ascending and descending in other words there is an inter-communion between Heaven and Earth; there is a portal and through that portal Heaven and Earth is laid open.”
Archbishop Gordon said the work they did was not just teaching challenging or good children but entering into the presence of God. “The face of each child is really the face of Jesus Himself.” He encouraged as Catholic teachers in Catholic schools to remember the Catholic ethos. Give their children the advantage of faith. “There is something there they can hold; it is God it is faith it is Jesus himself,” Archbishop Gordon said.
He gave a brief discussion on the five phases of performance to explain the internal processes they were going through with the shift to digital learning and acquiring new skills. He told them not to give up but continue to build their ability. Archbishop Gordon invited teachers to share their experiences and what they have learned.
At Mucurapo Boys’, it was necessary to assist parents to overcome their fear of the implementation of e-learning. Parents had to be walked through “every step” from setting up a Gmail account to using the Google Classroom and Google Docs because they were “stressing out”. It took many WhatsApp video calls and telephone calls to get them comfortable and reassurance they did not have to know everything but could help support their children. A teacher commented that the parents who appear to be unwilling to work with teachers could be afraid.
Parents of children at Mayaro RC were worried about how they would access online classes. Some of them purchased a day plan for data on their phones. Most children had to use their parents’ phone. The Microsoft Teams was downloaded to get to the classes and videos sent in a WhatsApp chat. A teacher commented that parents showed “where there’s a will; there’s a way”. Teachers at this school purchased paper for the printed learning material for offline students.
A Vance River RC teacher shared that teaching a First Year Class online was “very daunting” since she never met the children face to face and she liked to “connect” with her pupils. Poor connectivity is a major issue so WhatsApp —video, voice notes, was the main mode of transmission. Not dwelling on this, a positive outlook helped. The school’s praise and worship during morning assembly has reached beyond the children. “Everyone in the house was singing…now I can touch not only children the entire home, everybody pausing God on a morning, singing—it is turning out to be wonderful experience after all.”
A teacher said children today are very strong and resilient. She disclosed that at a session where Standard Four pupils could share their feelings, many confided about the loss of older family members like grandparents. Although there were many tears, they were not “in a state”. She asked how they were able to still attend classes and be “normal” and the children responded they prayed, talked to their parents or were cheered up by siblings.
The teacher noted children were dealing with a lot including not being able to socialise with their friends but were taking it all in stride and will learn to handle things in their own way. She said teachers have to prepare them to be strong spiritually and emotionally.
Teachers touched on their support for each other and the stress of managing online and offline learning. They were candid about as one said not being “tech savvy”, and how they adjusted and learned.
Roland Baptiste, chairman the Catholic Education Board of Management anticipated a “new order” would emerge in the education and other sectors of society coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Something none of us would have predicted in the beginning”. From the experiences and things learned Baptiste said hopefully there will be new things and “new education system”.