Pandemic & School Year End Lessons Learned

This school year ends as the United States slowly emerges from the pandemic a year-and-a-half after the World Health Organization declared the public health emergency. The closure of in-person schools last March, sent families, especially low-resourced ones, in need of childcare and dependent on subsidized school meals reeling. We can only imagine the chaos, stress, and exhaustion of hybrid teaching for educators, especially in advance of the vaccine this year during our national reckoning against social and racial injustice and inequality. As we prepare for the post-Covid world, lessons learned include the value of attention, compassion, and practice.

Life slowed with the exponential spike in work from home. To comply with CDC recommendations and stay-home guidelines, we decreased our social circle to essentially be our family unit and school cohorts or classes for our boys who returned for in-person school in September of 2020. The school community adapted with masks, temperature checks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer. Although my husband and I continued to work from home, much to our pleasant surprise, our boys continued to learn in-person all school year. Throughout this cautious time, the resilient administration, staff, teachers students, and other families at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in Chicago continue to wow and inspire our family.

In line with Center for Disease Control recommendations and regulations, we wore masks for our youngest’s First Communion and throughout the pandemic until the mask mandate just ended. We worshiped without the traditional school choir and extended family due to restricted occupancy rules.

First Communion 2021

The pandemic’s public health recommendations guide world citizens to practice common sense hygiene precautions against the constant backdrop of climate change. Pandemic quarantine disrupted auto-pilot for many who may ignore social and emotional wellness, cold symptoms, and allergies. I last took the el train to my downtown Chicago office surrounded by skyscrapers 15 months ago. While our workplace setting shifted, other coworkers, parents and I continue to meet work deadlines and juggle competing priorities. We pay attention to reimagine and work toward a better reality that values access to vaccines, justice, democracy, and childcare to name just a few essentials.

We slowed it down to be more effective communicators with our loved ones albeit some inevitable mishaps. As the late American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou explained, people remember how you make them feel.

My parents’ garden near Wrigley Field

We stumbled during the pandemic just like always, but strive to cultivate a foundation of love and and compassion. The 19th century English writer Charles Dickens opined, “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires and a touch that never hurts.”

We reflect on social issues. We thrive as part of a community, especially as we shift to rebuild the global economy with sustainable progress. Many aspects of big technology and business grapple to be more accountable as we learn from current failings. We try to be more intentional, open, and thoughtful about plans. Our family made our first summer bucket list. First on our list is a visit to Chinatown with my Mom. Next, we’ll tour Green Bay with my husband and boys, avid fans.

The pandemic forced our school year to pivot as our family and world reset. Although we navigate sadness and grief, we also celebrate new beginnings. We applaud Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy’s outdoor safe and social distanced activities, including the recent school musical. We admire puppies, babies and neighbor kids that grew up during the pandemic. This last year-and-a-half, local parish steeples tower over my neighborhood garden walks. My boys joined my gym Lakeshore Sport & Fitness, which meant a fun family day at the pool this weekend, outdoor and indoor basketball plus continued yoga, spin and tabata high-intensity interval training for me.

Best wishes for a safe summer!

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