Over two hundred years ago, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” While Paine was referring to all the turmoil surrounding the American Revolution, I believe the same could be said about this school year, and I doubt if any teacher would disagree.
I wish I had a nickel for every time someone referred to this year as “challenging.” It was challenging alright… climbing Mt. Everest challenging. You know it’s been a difficult year when opening the last scheduled faculty meeting the principal offers a prayer of thanksgiving for making it through the year. All joking aside, at St. Mary’s in spite of the death of our pastor and secretary, we have a lot for which to thank the Almighty. We were able to remain open and have in person classes all year. Most of the students who were quarantined due to COVID were so because of family members contracting the disease. We had no student-to-student transmission of COVID. The few students who did come down with it contracted it outside of the school. Our teachers remained healthy for the entire year.
It is a tradition of the Catholic Church to honor the Blessed Mother in special ways during May. May Crowning, a special prayer service honoring Mary, was held May 3. During the ceremony, a statue of Mary is crowned with flowers. This year the honor of placing the flower crown was given to Callie Pope. The older students formed an honor guard for the procession and the younger students placed flowers on Mary’s altar. The eighth graders have been taking turns leading the rosary every morning for the school, except during the week they were on their class trip. The National Day of Prayer was May 6. However, since the eighth graders were on their class trip, we delayed our observance until May 13. The students and staff gathered around the flagpole as the eighth graders led the Rosary.
On May 20, teachers, support staff, and volunteers were invited to a special luncheon to thank them for their service. The luncheon was sponsored by the school’s board of trustees. It was a delicious and welcomed break in the week. Good food and good company, what more could you want?
On May 19, the student council sponsored a crazy dress-up day to raise money for field day supplies. There were some decidedly strange outfits that day. I raided my grandkids’ dress up box at our house for my outfit, which was a combination of my daughter’s old dance costumes. It was definitely not a good look for me. It did rate an “Oh geesh!” from our gym teacher. I’m sure he meant that in a nice way.
Field day is May 25. Mrs. Foster and the student council set up and ran the activities. For lunch, the students enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers cooked on the grill. After lunch, the students had the opportunity to visit the AR store. During the year the students read books and take tests on the computer, earning points that can be exchanged for prizes. Usually the store is opened several times throughout the year, but this year due to COVID (another phrase I wish I had a nickel every time it was uttered!), this will be the only opportunity they had to shop.
Eighth grade graduation was held May 27. It began with Mass, followed by a reception at school. The eighth graders met at school the next day for a final fun field trip, and as is our tradition, be “clapped out” by the staff and students lining the hall.
We have a teacher retiring this year. As the school’s chronicler I am required to write something nice about her, and this year I find it a little awkward. You see, I’M the one retiring. I began teaching at St. Mary’s in 1978 and taught for 6 years. I married, became a mom and “retired” for 18 years, or as I like to say, I left student education and went into student production, then returned for another 19. It has been quite a career and I can think of no other place I’d rather have spent my professional life. And like so many of my colleagues before me, I am not quite ready to leave. I have offered my services as a volunteer K-2 art teacher and K-3 music teacher, or in other words, I am coming back to do the fun stuff. I also said I would continue to write this column, assuming the editor is still willing to publish it. If you have read this last sentence, I’ll write you next September. Have a great summer!
Kathy Ayette is a teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.