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COVID-19: Our Ignatian Discernment and Response Experience, reflection and action in a year of tumultuous change

Version 1.0 - April, 2021

Context

Beginning in March of 2020, COIVD-19 fundamentally changed virtually every aspect of life, including the processes and parameters of education. During the year that ensued, the Jesuit Schools Network provided opportunities for our members to share their experiences of encountering and responding to the changes demanded. This report represents a brief summation of what was shared and learned.

Experience

Virtual Coffee Shops

From April, 2020 through February, 2021, the JSN Conference Office hosted four series of Virtual Coffee Shops, totaling 54 sessions. The format of these sessions was open conversation, focusing on the shared challenges of responding to COVID-19.

The fourteen sessions during the Spring of 2021 focused the conversations on recognized successes from the past year.

Notes were taken across the entire series of Virtual Coffee Shop sessions. The JSN staff compiled these notes into a final, amalgamated set for review and synthesis.

Reflection

Following the February, 2021 Virtual Coffee Shop sessions, the JSN compiled and reviewed the notes taken. Three core themes emerged as we did so.

Generosity of Mission

Some “unanticipated graces” have emerged through the series of adjustments made; most faculty have been more accommodating for students with learning support needs. (Learning Support Specialist)

Jesuit schools tapped back into the core tenet of going out into the world, even amid the constraints of not being able to physically do so. They responded to circumstantial restrictions with:

  • innovation
  • adaptation
  • greater transparency in communications

Community Redefined

Zoom opportunities have been more equitable for our kids in many cases. "Starting close in" has demonstrated a lot of grace - looking first at the needs in our immediate community. (Mission Formation Director)

Schools employed virtual means of connecting with all of their constituencies and realized a potential pivot in how to engage them in the future. Virtual attendance benefitted some sectors and contexts, making engagement more convenient. However, virtual learning created disparities among students, and brought to light the importance of socio-emotional needs.

Change Changed

The pandemic has been an accelerant for school improvement, a catalyst to change things we really knew needed changing. (Principal)

COVID-19 was a cannonball moment for Jesuit education. It forced change and conversion in a way that superseded typical school change initiatives. Resources that had once been peripheral or optional became imperative, and rates of adoption increased. Instructional and communications technologies shifted from being assistive to being transformative.

Action

Ignatian Colleague Virtual Gatherings

As we move forward with our Virtual Coffee Shops in April in groupings that reflect the upcoming cycle of Ignatian Colleagues Gatherings beginning this fall, our reflective, hour-long conversations will focus on three primary points of inquiry:

  • What resonates with your school within the theme areas outlined: Generosity of Mission, Community Redefined, and Change Changed?
  • Even amid adaptation, how has your school’s core charism been sustained and strengthened through the pandemic period?
  • What have we learned through this past year, and what are we carrying forward toward to post-pandemic future?

As we have stepped through context, experience, reflection, we are mindful of ongoing action, from the time the pandemic began last March to looking ahead to the post-pandemic new normal, it is important that we examine how our schools have adapted and will continue to discern moving forward. The five thematic Virtual Coffee Shops in April will provide us an opportunity to do some sharing across broader groups of school related staff.

Credits

  • Tom Noonan - Director of Ignatian Mission Formation, Jesuit Schools Network
  • Bob Reiser, SJ - Executive Director, Jesuit Schools Network
  • Tim Sassen - Director of Leadership Development and Communication, Jesuit Schools Network
Created By
Jesuit Schools Network
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