I was dating my weekly newsletter to parents last Friday and noticed that January was about half over. Today as I write we are well on our way to February. Jan. 22 was not only the last day of the second quarter, but also the last day of the first semester. The school year is half finished! You would think that after all the years I have taught I would have ceased being amazed at the rapidity of the school year. But every year I find myself wondering what became of the previous month.
The staff and students returned to school on Jan. 4, after enjoying 12 days of Christmas break. (Hmm…12 days of Christmas. You know that would make a nice song, don’t you think?) We opted to begin school in person. Looking back over the first semester, I realize how fortunate our school has been. I hesitate to tempt fate, but we have had no serious outbreaks of the virus. Most students who were quarantined this year did so due to a family member’s illness. Our custodial staff have been great keeping the school safe and sanitized. They have not only cleaned the school, but constructed plexiglass dividers for the classrooms. I have been so proud of my little students for their cooperation wearing masks or shields and washing their hands. In my classroom all the COVID precautions have produced a side benefit. I was tidying up my room after school, when I realized how many unopened boxes of tissues I still had stacked up on top of the lockers, and in various other places around my room. Usually, this time of the year my classroom is a cacophony of coughing and sneezing. I don’t ever remember a January in which no students had colds. Remarkable! Hopefully, we will be able to continue with in-person learning for the remainder of the school year. I think I can state with confidence that none of our teachers wants to go back to online learning. Teaching is way more fun with the students present.
St. Mary’s School has a long tradition of children participating actively at Mass. The students look forward to “having the Mass.” In case you are unaware of what “having the Mass” entails, it means that each classroom has a turn at planning the music for the Liturgy and participating in special roles such as reader or gift bearer. Of course, COVID has caused us to alter that tradition. Earlier this year, due to health precautions, no students participated in any of the special roles. We didn’t even have music. Being a cantor, I found that particularly hard. Thankfully, we are now allowed to sing parts of the Mass, and a small number of children are serving as readers. Today the kindergarteners were the class responsible for the Mass, which meant that their fourth grade buddies read the Bible reading, the responsorial psalm, and petitions while the kindergarten buddies stood in front of the ambo. Talk about overwhelming cuteness! It is so nice to see the children once again in the sanctuary, and I am sure Jesus is happy to see them there, also. After all, didn’t He say, “Let the little children come unto Me.” Yep, He’s happy.
Catholic Schools Week begins the weekend of Jan. 30 and 31 and continues on to Feb. 5. This is a nationwide celebration of Catholic education. Naturally due to the pandemic the celebratory week is a little different. The children will be participating in the opening Masses, however fewer children will be participating. The cherub choir will not be singing this year. We are also unable to have the parent luncheons and Special Persons Day. However, enough with what we won’t be able do! When discussing the week, the staff tried to safely include as many of the children’s favorite activities during the week. First of all, it wouldn’t be CSW without the Bubble Wrap Stomp! One year when planning the week, a staff member discovered that National Bubble Wrap Stomping Day occurred during the week, and a tradition was born. This year, the students will stomp the bubble wrap outside, socially distanced of course. There will be special clothing themes, and other special activities and treats throughout the week. This year instead of gathering in the cafeteria for a movie and popcorn on the last day of CSW,
students will have their movie and popcorn in their classrooms. If there is one thing this year has taught us, it’s if there’s a will, there’s a way.
I have not only come to the end of the first semester, but also to the end of this column. So here’s asking God to bless you and keep you safe and healthy.