I recently heard someone say “Never do planning during a crisis.” Granted, everyone needs some time to react to the immediacy of a crisis, determine if we fight or flee, and try to understand what is taking place. But then we have to start adapting, especially when we realize the crisis is here to stay for longer than we thought or want and may not get better for the foreseeable future.
After almost three months into the present health crisis, our Catholic schools have made incredible adaptations to sustain their mission and continue providing quality education for their students. Everything is moving at what seems light speed and we are learning a lot of lessons through it all – how to organize a totally remote learning system in a matter of days (perhaps hours!), pondering and researching options for reopening schools that will be very different in a few months, adjusting for potential changes to enrollment and funding, and constantly asking ourselves, “What’s next!” We are learning to pivot, flatten our curves, look for a “new normal,” and swivel to something new, while keeping some of the familiar in our schools and lives.
In pivoting or swiveling from adaptations to the adoption of enhanced or very different ways of sustaining quality Catholic education in our schools, we need to be planning and talking about a new vision for a different world in our Catholic schools. It is time to reflect on what we did best in our schools and classrooms before the pandemic, what worked well, what may have been so-so, and of course, honestly admitting to “let’s not do that anymore!” In considering what folks are calling a “new normal” we need to see if our best practices still have merit and vitality, what we can retool, adjust and enhance to make it better in a new fashion, and make our schools even better, stronger, and far more sustainable.
Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun reflects, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Evidently, we still have much to learn in our world as this current crisis continues. While we are working to conquer online teaching and learning, sustaining our teacher-student and school-family relationships via Zoom, trying to decide what our schools and “classrooms” (real or virtual) will look like, and making almost weekly adaptations, it is with all due respect that I say we need to do some serious planning beyond adaptations and create a new vision to determine our own “what’s next” for Catholic education.