This letter first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Vine & Branch Magazine.
What have we learned? This is a great question in a variety of contexts, especially in education. We ask our students to answer this question by way of final assessments. We ask our children to answer it after a misstep. And we routinely ask our academic leaders to examine this question as they refine programming. In a year when we adapted nearly every aspect of school life, a question like this one is fundamental to our future.
So what did we learn through the difficulty of conducting school during a pandemic?
As you might imagine, we learned new ways to connect with our community using digital tools. Virtual offerings, while not ideal, enhanced accessibility to school events and activities for families. I observed this firsthand as an eighth grade advisor, meeting parents for the first time during conferences over Zoom. In fact conference attendance by both parents was higher this past year than any other. Event recordings provided flexibility for busy parents who could tune in to things like the grade-level Parent Association meeting at their convenience. In Preschool chapel, even grandparents were among the weekly guests, logging on to the participate via the livestream.
“Adapting and Innovating” on page 6 highlights some of these examples, as well as ways faculty used digital tools to enhance lessons. On page 28 you’ll see parents who somehow coordinated – from their own dining rooms – an all-school volunteer event. I was awestruck time and again by the recurring examples of human ingenuity and persistence. It was miraculous. And…it was really hard.
In addition to the operational challenges, this year was one of tremendous loss. Loss of normalcy. Loss of routine personal encounters in the lunchroom or hallways. Of singing and stomping together in chapel. Of holding hands in prayer. And more painfully, loss of dear, dear loved ones.
These are the hardest lessons of all. The book of Job is an iconic story of godly patience through suffering. The story of Job speaks to me personally because it shifts the focus from the WHY of suffering to the WHAT: what is God trying to teach me?
Lessons of suffering are hard to understand, but here is what I now know. We belong together. Virtual offerings can never replace the transformative power of learning in community. ROBS is more than a place to learn math facts and grammar rules. Any computer program can teach that. We are a community with a soul, and we’ve learned the hard way that it must be nourished.
Sharing meals, worshipping in chapel, collaborating on strategic initiatives, serving our neighbors side-by-side…we need to feed the soul of the ROBS community.
By his grace alone,
Leanne B. Reynolds
Head of School