Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
Blog Number 20
May 18, 2020
Heroes in Hard Times
We are inundated with bad and scary news. During this month I will be doing blogs that celebrate heroes in our congregation. I hope that you gain some inspiration from these and receive a respite from the bad news that the media continues to feed us.
Parents with small children have hectic lives. Now with the children home and doing lessons online, the tasks of parents are even more difficult. Teachers have difficult times also, as they teach online. What happens when the teachers who are teaching online also are parents supervising the online learning of their own children? How about when both parents are teachers?
This is a shout out to Anthony and Maureen Senzamici. Both are teachers who are rearing three boys. Somehow they manage to supervise their children while teaching others online. They are heroes! Maureen described how they do it for this blog.
Anthony generally meets online with students and assigns work in the mornings, and he grades completed tests, labs and assignments in the evenings. Kevin and Luke are on a pretty fixed schedule with their schools in the mornings between 8:20-12:20. Their schedule is such that they meet as though it were a half-day, and they continue to follow the typical rotating schedule of “A” and “B” days. I have always had difficulty understanding it, but they seem to know it which is wonderful! Connor and I generally work between 9:30-12:00, and he loves to have breaks for snacks and Legos! My days, like Anthony’s, are a little staggered. I Zoom with 80% of my students, and I communicate through phone with the remaining ones (Zoom is preferred, but some families have expressed preference for phone communication). My hours can vary, but I have few sessions between 8:30-9:30, and then I generally see students between 12:00-4:00.
In terms of preparation, the school districts had been sending out surveys inquiring as to the number of devices present in the house, how many people could be online at the same time. At the time, I did not think of the implications of these surveys. The older boys are essentially on their own, they report their own attendance, and they complete work. They meet regularly with most classes through Google Meets. As during the year, we receive a weekly summary. Their teachers have continued to really reach out through providing extra help, and Kevin’s music teacher is putting together a virtual concert!
For Connor, the kindergarten team sends a weekly lesson plan with supplemental pages and websites. There have been weekly, small group meetings with students on reading skills. Beginning this week, Connor will receive supplemental reading instruction through a Basic Skills teacher (he was not formally on her caseload, but his reading skills are a little behind). We are grateful for the support. While the older boys are essentially independent, Connor’s instruction resembles guided homeschooling.
Some of the blessings which have come out of this unwanted crisis which has so devastated so many beautiful souls physically and economically:
-We have enjoyed the increased family time. There are fewer disruptions, and we have had more uninterrupted family dinners. Although we absolutely love Little League and hope to God that Kevin can play sports this fall, there are often practices and games during the evenings. It has been nice to have increased family time.
-It has been a special gift to work individually with Connor. The lessons have provided opportunities for multi-sensory experiences, and I’ve gained a sense of some of his strengths and challenges. For example, I can see that he becomes distracted easily so we have spaced out work during his mornings. Sometimes, when I have a work meeting, it gives him a nice break during which he can complete some independent work. When we do reconvene, he seems more attentive than if we just worked side by side for a long time.
-This time together has forced civility. As we are all working together, we need to be mindful of one another’s needs, i.e. who needs to sit where, when orchestra is occurring, etc. It was a challenge initially, but it has worked out.
-The older boys alternate daily with taking Connor outside for the afternoon. In this way, we avoid that problem of kids just “wasting the afternoons on electronics.”
-The school district has been outstanding in its response to COVID-19. They have continued to provide the best instruction possible under the circumstances, and they have really reached out to students. Connor’s principal at Gibbs Elementary School continues to send morning announcements, and he has joined in on Zoom meetings to wish a child a happy birthday! The kindergarten team has worked together to modify instructions to best meet the students’ needs. They have responded to parent requests for individual or small group meetings, and they have worked to master technology to reach out to students. Thankfully, they have also preserved traditional instruction methods.
-At the middle school, teachers have demonstrated flexibility with learning. They have connected their subjects to the pandemic (i.e. Kevin’s algebra teacher discussed exponential growth in relation to COVID-19 back in February, and his music teacher encouraged her students to use music to connect with one another). They have demonstrated flexibility. For example, Kevin’s algebra teacher is an intelligent man in his mid-60s and was clearly struggling initially with the online learning. Kevin really likes this teacher, and he joked about how the students had to teach him the system. He’s mastered virtual learning. Kevin and Luke both have a social studies teacher with a 2-year-old and expecting another child, and she’s sometimes taught their classes with her child in her lap. These are the moments that people will remember with a smile.
-This has been a learning curve for teachers. At the outset, Anthony said we would be forced to learn technology, and it has been true. I have never been a tech-savvy person, but we’ve all been required to learn this new method. As a friend said, we’ve realized we all can do it.
-I believe there has been an increased sense of civility, politeness and gratitude. I have personally been truly impressed at the ways in which the parents with whom I work, parents of children with very significant special needs, have adapted.
-Our house is more in order. We have done some family cleaning projects together too.
-On a personal note, I was inspired by my mom and a fellow catechist to read the Bible. I know it shouldn’t take a pandemic for this to occur! However, I am trying to carve out time daily for one chapter in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.
May we all imitate these teaching/parent heroes.
To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: