small_Sr P Colletti_2014(2)

Not just donuts!

By Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS

My friend Betty and I celebrated an historic moment: completing the two COVID vaccines. Our celebration? Making donuts!

SHE made the donuts and I “supervised” and taste-tested! Then, we put them out in the hallway in baggies for neighbors to help themselves. It was a simple and fun way to celebrate our new freedom, mostly, from the stress of getting sick.

Now that 14 days have passed to let the second shot get up to “full” protection, I’m cleared to go back to face-to-face teaching today  ̶  February 22. My students have been back to school since February 8, while I’ve continued teaching them from home. So now, finally, I can teach them in person! It’s been almost a full year  ̶  March 18, 2020 was our last day together in school. 

Yes, our “normal” is new. It still includes masks, face shields and lots of handwashing and disinfecting. But hopefully, by being together we can help support our students in new ways. So many of them have been traumatized by the sickness and deaths they have witnessed. Every single child in my Grade 3-4 reading and math class has mourned the death of a close family member from COVID-19. And, unable to do the traditional ceremonials for burial, nor gather together to mourn and celebrate those who died has made things even harder for adults as well as kids.

This experience is connected to similar experiences of millions all around our global community, but in the microcosm of our tribal community, it feels uniquely raw and very painful. As “first responders” for mental health needs, we teachers will continue to do more than “just teach.” 

Youth suicide has taken an upswing in the past eight months. Children as young as age 8 and 9 have made attempts. This responsibility to provide “mental health first aid” is part of what we do at our school in “normal” times; it’s become harder, and even more important during the pandemic because suffering kids can so easily get stuck in isolation.

Let us join in prayer for these kids and families, and those all around the world who suffer the social and emotional effects of the pandemic. Prayer, and being able to TELL kids they are being prayed for, makes a huge difference.

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