Hello from MTMS!
We hope that you and your families are in good health and faring well under these trying circumstances. We are entering the seventh week since schools closed in Saskatchewan. Despite the isolation imposed by social distancing measures, Pope Francis reminds us that “thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love.”
Let us begin by thanking all of you for your response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our extended network and community have responded in creative and compassionate ways to support one another and work together to overcome new challenges, while simultaneously advancing the schools commitment to support students, alumni and families during these uncertain times.
This support, along with the dynamic collaboration between our community partners, has helped Mother Teresa Middle School (MTMS) develop a coordinated response plan, informed by the voices of our community and anchored in the School’s Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis, or care for the whole person. The scope of COVID-19-related school closures is unprecedented in Canadian history and while we know the pandemic has changed learning, there is no one-size fits all solution for schools or individual students. Through loving creatively, the power of our community has helped MTMS develop thoughtful and adaptable ways of proceeding, that go beyond learning.
The MTMS COVID-19 Immediate Response and Outreach Plan prioritizes students’ social-emotional wellness and engagement. Over the last month and a half, the team at MTMS has mobilized and provided resources that ensured students and families are safe, supported their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and fostered academic engagement. Our ongoing response includes: supplying over 360 food hampers (via contactless deliveries) to MTMS families monthly, providing hygiene kits and offering online workouts to promote physical wellness. It also includes working with students and their families to support their emotional needs, reduce stress, ease anxieties and address mental health concerns with increased check-ins and formal counselling. As the pandemic develops, we are noticing greater need to address housing concerns and emergent crises in the home. In addition to ensuring students and alumni have their basic needs met, the MTMS staff has worked to ensure that equitable learning environments exist and all students have access to internet connection to engage in remote learning. Simultaneously, the Graduate Support Team has worked to ensure that MTMS alumni have the technology required to engage in the supplemental learning offered by their respective high schools or complete their post-secondary semesters online. A culture of flexibility enables our staff to efficiently and effectively tailor approaches to meet the unique and evolving needs of each student and alumni.
While the rapid, unplanned transition to remote learning created a few obstacles, it has also presented a unique opportunity for students and teachers to grow together - anchored by trust, relationship and communication. Teachers are spending a great deal of time checking-in with their students daily, offering feedback on academic work but more importantly offering support, reminding students that they are thought of and part of a caring community. MTMS is a safe place for students and alumni and it is critical they know they are loved, cared for and listened to. MTMS volunteers and mentors are echoing these sentiments and discovering new ways to support learning through virtual tutoring or engaging in virtual book clubs with students.
At every level, we are finding ways to listen to each other from a distance, communicate with empathy and deep respect. We recently learned that tree roots continue to grow through the winter months and although this growth looks different than we would typically recognize, trees are adding new rings and driving their roots deeper into the ground, even when the environment is less than ideal. While formative feedback and strengthening relationships is not the grade-based approach to learning we are used to seeing, this people-centered approach transcends beyond academics. It provides a timely and important social support that will help move us forward as a society and help students navigate the new landscape of schools when they physically reopen. To say the least, COVID-19 has brought a wave of changes and affected every facet of our lives, yet the power of our community is helping to propel us through to better times.
Wishing you continued wellness,