Going ‘back to school’ always involves a transition for families and educators, but this year it will be even more challenging. Families returning to traditional, in-person schooling will need extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes, in addition to the usual school supplies and back-to-school clothing. Families transitioning to new modes of schooling—whether online instruction, homeschooling, or “pandemic pods” (i.e., education co-ops)—will need to develop new routines, practices, and relationships to make learning both effective and sustainable. And educators, regardless of who, where, and how they will be teaching, will need both creativity and grit as they flexibly adapt to changing conditions when teaching and connecting with their students. Given all this, something everyone will need and benefit from taking back to school this year is hope.
Although anytime is a good time to learn more about the Catholic faith, the present is a particularly opportune time for deepening one’s intellectual and spiritual appreciation of it. Some of us may find that the cancellation of graduations and other spring events provides extra time for learning. Others, troubled by the unfolding world events, may feel a need to consider how the Catholic faith sheds light on personal experience. And still others—for example, parents, students, and teachers who are involved in remote learning—will require access to high-quality theological content that “thinks with the mind of the Church.” One opportunity that will appeal in all of these instances is an educational offering made available by the McGrath Institute for Church Life called “The Pillars of the Church.” This web-based video series, available at no cost until July 1, presents the four sections (referred to as “pillars”) of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, adapting them for a general audience and featuring faculty members affiliated with the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology.
A crisis has a strange way of clarifying things. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped me to recognize the important contributions Catholic schools are uniquely positioned to make. As I’ve worked to support Catholic school leaders in “pivoting” to distance education, I’ve become keenly aware of the many ways Catholic schools help the families they serve.
Relocating is different from moving. This was one of the first things my husband, daughter, and I learned when transplanting ourselves, our stuff, and our lives from one mid-western city to another. Sure, both involve packing (and unpacking), finding a new place to store the Crock Pot, and identifying a good route for walking the dog. But relocation, because it involves moving across the country rather than just across the street, involves a much bigger transition. Starting over in a new community, new schools, and new jobs, involves transitioning one’s whole life. For this reason it is an entirely different enterprise and poses unique challenges. One challenge I had not fully anticipated was making new friends.
Although many people experience a “let down” in January after the holidays are over, students, parents, teachers, and others associated with Catholic schools have an opportunity to continue the festivity through Catholic Schools Week (CSW). Special liturgies, essay contests, community receptions, “dress-down” days, and other thematically-linked activities celebrate the gift of Catholic education.