Xavier University has a prayer index on their website that I stumbled upon while I was searching for religion class resources at the beginning of the school year. Throughout this year, my fifth graders and I have used this index to find prayers of peace in times of global conflict, prayers for the environment in response to natural disasters, and prayers from other religions in efforts to increase our understanding of other faith traditions.
In a year that has involved countless attempts at classroom management plans, means of assessing, and seating charts, this prayer index is one of the few things that has stuck around since those first weeks of teaching in August.
Naturally, I found myself turning to this prayer resource once again while hurriedly planning for the past two weeks, which for many of us ACErs marked the beginning of some form of “distance learning.” What I discovered on the index was a new subsection with “Prayers During the Coronavirus.” Amidst the many prayers and examens, my eye was caught by one titled, “The Other Side of the Virus, An Opportunity to Awaken,” of which I want to share a few excerpts:
“They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear...
...All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
... So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.”
It didn’t click until after reading this prayer that many of the feelings present in our world in this moment, whether fear, isolation, panic, or feeling overwhelmed, remind me of the same feelings that first-year teachers have been struggling with since the beginning of the school year. The fear that our teaching is a detriment to our students’ learning. The isolation of being the most inexperienced teacher at our school. The panic and overwhelmed feeling of somehow finding time to grade and lesson plan and also practice some form of self-care.
And yet, we’re still here. We’ve resolved to not let the negative feelings override the positivity and joy that stems from teaching. Sometimes that joy permeates from a lesson going perfectly, other times it comes from a great conversation with a group of students at recess, or seeing students show vulnerability with one another during a group discussion. Heck, sometimes the joy radiates from something as ridiculous as doing a tik tok dance with your kiddos.
As we venture into the many unknowns of the coming weeks and months, I encourage you to join me in something that we’ve been doing since our first day as teachers; find the joy.
- Find the joy in finally getting better about email communications, something that I’ve personally had on my to-do list all year.
- Find the joy in zoom calls that were supposed to be grammar lessons, but ended up just being a time for students to talk with one another.
- Find the joy in taking walks around the neighborhood after finishing an online school day.
- Find the joy in being honest with students about the difficulties in transitioning to “distance learning.”
Regardless of the biggest challenges that you are facing right now, know that I and many others are sending a whole lot of love, light, and prayers your way.
I hope that you are able to find the joys, whether they are large or small ones, and share them with your students, communities, and anyone else who may be in need of such joy right now.