Peep, peep, peep.
I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my first grader at my side, laptop open. Together, we’ve made the virtual journey from Mrs. Battle’s desk to her garage, where she is raising baby chicks. She holds one up to the camera and we join the rest of the class in their oohs and aahs. She asks if anyone has a question and patiently answers one after another about the care and feeding of her new pets. The meeting runs over a half hour and she never once tries to rush the kids along. When all the curious minds have been satisfied, she prepares to sign off and reminds them all they will share a virtual lunch bunch time together the next day. Oh, and she’ll see them in their morning meeting too.
We close the laptop to a chorus of goodbyes from what Mrs. Battle calls her “firsties,” and I take a second to appreciate what I’ve just witnessed. I have two children at Eastern Christian and I spend every day of our remote learning experience in awe of the patience and care of their teachers.
Our teachers have worked hard throughout remote learning to connect with their students and parents, in spite of being physically separated. For the past three months, we have logged onto a virtual classroom that is vibrant and personal. We start our day with a morning meeting. The teachers engage the students with roundtable questions, give a preview of upcoming lessons, and offer a devotional. They send the kids off into their schoolwork with a clear view of the schedule and expectations for the day. When we visit their Google Classrooms, we discover activities and videos that tackle core curriculum subjects as well as specials. There are daily invitations to meet with their specials teachers for fun classes and weekly opportunities for more quality time with grade-level teachers.
Week after week, we haven’t left our house, and yet we have gone all over the world. Teachers have pointed us to guided tours of the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, and even Mars. They have read us books that marked the change in seasons, spotlighted award-winning authors, and celebrated diversity. With each meeting, they have shared their own feelings and the hope that comes from a walk with the Lord as our kids navigated the fear and confusion brought on by COVID-19. Specials teachers have led bi-weekly workout sessions, done live art projects and played countless learning games.
I have always felt that our relationship with the staff at Eastern Christian was something special. It is not unusual to be walking the halls during morning drop-off and have a teacher stop you to ask about a detail of your life. We receive cards telling us that our children are being prayed for by name. It is a relational school at its core. That didn’t change when we pulled out of the parking lot and powered up our computers.
As we were looking forward to next school year, that connection was at the foremost of my mind. I wondered what things would look like in September. Would we be back in our buildings or still at home? Would there be social distancing requirements or would things appear more normal? Was it even worth paying tuition for a year that felt so unpredictable?
Then I thought about those relationships. I thought of all of the teachers that have sown into my children, of the tenfold return we have received on our decision to send our kids to Easter Christian. I thought of that covenantal relationship we had formed with the school. We would sacrifice to send our children to a Christian school and in return, the school would provide us with a high quality education. Not just that, but an education that is led by teachers who love Jesus deeply and are passionate about passing that love along to their students. It feels cliche to say that is priceless, but it is.
Across the table, my daughter, a member of Mrs. Vander Wall’s preschool class, is singing along as Mrs. V. closes out their morning time together. “Today is a brand new day, and I want to say ‘Thank you.’”
Today, as I look back on this season and ahead to the uncertain times in our future, I want to say thank you to the Lord for His guidance and peace. But I also want to say thank you to the faculty and staff at Eastern Christian. What a different experience this all would have been without them. I look forward to joining hands with them in the coming school year, and embracing the changes together. I don’t know exactly what the 2020-2021 school year will look like, but I do know one thing. With Eastern Christian in our corner, our family will have a successful experience. You could even say we will soar.