Coping with Covid-19 in the classroom

Emily Brigham, an elementary school teacher, wrote a lovely reflection for educators who are contemplating the Covid-19 classroom in Mere Orthodoxy. Here is an excerpt:

Amidst this apparent futility, it is tempting to join one of Thomas Hardy’s heroes in living “with the bearing of one who was going to give his days and nights to Ecclesiastes for ever.”

As an educator, I am asking myself how to continue to nurture the souls of my students in the midst of it all. As an image-bearer of God, I am asking myself how to nurture my own soul and the souls of those around me. And in this questioning, I find a counterpart to Hardy’s hero in lines from a poem by R. S. Thomas, a Welsh poet and Anglican priest, titled “In a Bright Field”:

Life is not hurrying
On to a receding future, nor hankering after
An imagined past. It is the turning
Aside like Moses to the miracle
Of the lit bush, to a brightness
That seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but it is eternity that awaits you.

It is tempting, even natural, to yearn for “an imagined past,” to the days before a pandemic. It is natural to hurry on to a “receding future” where pandemic, riots, economic downturns, and elections are past. But the unnatural thing—the miracle of God’s holy presence—is only here in our present. And when the talk and the traffic all around us rushes to the past or future, dwelling in this present does require a “turning aside” out of the mob of anxiety and alarum, into the stillness of a lit-bush-brightness.

We have been given a world that is consumed with the health of the body but averse to the health of the soul. It is our present, and it is what C.S. Lewis, following George Macdonald, called a “sacred present.” Like Moses, who turned aside to see the lit bush, we also need to turn aside to it: turn aside from a present we want to the present we have been given, from a present consumed with broken fragility to a present endowed with mended strength, from a present riddled with chaos to a present seeking rest, from a present that we want to endure to a present that we give thanks for, from a present fractured to a present whole. This is our holy ground amidst a crisis.

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