By Esther Wendel-Caraher

Principal, Kettle Creek Public School, Port Stanley

During these extraordinary times, we have continued to do our best to make the learning experiences for our students as meaningful as possible.  Many of the “traditional” ways we did things in past have had to be revamped and that has been challenging at times.  Despite that, we found some wonderful things to celebrate and realize that sometimes the “new ways” aren’t all that bad or may be even better than the way we previously did things.

One such example was our Remembrance Day service which we have typically celebrated together in the gym every year.  This is a very important part of our school culture and the thought of not taking the time to explicitly honour the soldiers who have given us the freedom we enjoy was unthinkable.  Thankfully, our team was able to adapt this important service to be “COVID-friendly,” using technology to share the service simultaneously throughout the school.  Although we were not able to be together, teachers were able to highlight the significant parts of program and it turned out to be a wonderful service, with the important message of Peace ringing loud and clear.

The anticipation of the holidays and the festive spirit has made December a great month to learn and even with the circumstances we are facing, our Student Voice has come up with many different and fun activities that our students can do to learn and celebrate the season and our community.  We are not able to do a live holiday concert for obvious reasons, but we are able to use our creativity and technology to do a virtual concert on December 16, 2020, linking with the residents at Extendicare and our school community.  The link to our show will be shared simultaneously and the community may come together to watch the program in the comfort of their own homes, without having to worry about parking issues or finding a seat in the gym. As well, the folks at Extendicare will be able to enjoy the energy and hope of our children with us.

As we look forward to the hope of the New Year, oddly enough, I am looking at the past year with a sense of profound gratitude.  The fact that we made it through the year and were able to come together to learn and grow as school community fills me with tremendous relief and happiness.  From our perspective at school, the challenges we faced were met with amazing resilience by the children and what we kept seeing over and over again was the kindness and support of our friends, families and community members.

I am not going to lie, it has been stressful trying to ensure everyone stays safe on my watch, but overwhelmingly, I can truly say that what I saw in 2020, more than anything, was the beauty and generosity of the human spirit and people who truly love and care for each other and our children.  For that reason, I continue to say that 2020 was not all bad.  Maybe the dark days of 2020 allowed us to see the amazing light of the human spirit shining more clearly.  Maybe it reminded us to take on the attitude of children who notice and appreciate each moment for what it is.  Maybe it challenged us to look at how we do things and forced us to make some of them better than they were before.  Maybe it reminded us that we are all one and no matter what our differences are, we are all connected in this life by our collective human experiences and helping each other to carry our burdens on this journey is in fact, a better way to do things for all of us.