Assumption Catholic School

From a Distance, Our Child Learned Just as Much this Week

 by Tara Gilligan Reimer

It’s 8 am, this past Monday, March 16, our first day of learning-at-a-distance-for-safety, and our third-grader is weeping. “No school at school. No grandparents visiting for Easter. You’re Mom, not my teacher. The Corona virus has ruined everything!”

One hour later, deep into a division fluency lesson, delivered online and assigned by Mrs. Paula Martin-Zender (Mrs. MZ), our child chirped, “This is so much fun!”

For the last five days—Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20—our child has been in full learning gear at home, thanks to Assumption Catholic School (ACS) teachers and their hours of preparation.

With only three days of lead time, this past Monday morning, Mrs. MZ e-mailed a letter to encourage parents, made a video to launch her students, and tailored a week’s worth of lessons to her learners.

In trying to support Mrs. MZ’s teaching, I fumbled through Seesaw, an online learning system that ACS kindergarteners use.

I quickly realized that my support from home was not home-schooling. While I had to figure out a new online system (that ACS kindergarteners know how to use), I didn’t choose the curricula, wade through seas of resources, and tailor lessons for my child and his twenty classmates. Nope, Mrs. MZ did that.

So, this past Monday at 12 noon, I e-mailed her, feeling equal parts grateful and desperate: “Only 24-and-a-half days left!” (Monday, April 27 is the possible back-to-school date—but parents know this could very well change).

Then, in person, Mrs. MZ called every parent. I was able to tell her that our child, separated from beloved teacher, now refers to his mother as M and to his father as Z.

But we know who the real Mrs. MZ is. Along with the ACS team, she’s a Catholic School teacher—a highly accomplished professional, who knows that learning happens in relationship with each other, not solely because of technology.

For the last five days, our child uploaded fraction equations, a personal essay, and a summary on a book his whole class read. He compiled a thick packet of hard-copy learning, thanks to the teachers in Spanish, music, art, and physical education.

This past Friday, the culmination of our first week of learning-at-distance, multiple classes at ACS, filled with children of all faiths, celebrated their first virtual lunches. From their homes, students munched on PB&J sandwiches and connected online, telling stories and jokes, if only for a short time. Relationships—how we belong to each other and God—are the most important ways we share at ACS, and distance makes these ties even more precious.

Though we’re far from classrooms, though we naturally feel overwhelmed at times, we also feel more connected than ever.

Assumption Catholic School, founded in 1913 and led by The Reverend Jeffrey Moore and Principal Daniel Anderson, is the oldest private school in Bellingham, WA—the Catholic school for families of all faiths in Whatcom County.