Lunches, Babies, calving, and prayers…

Today we held our first “virtual staff meeting” with the elementary staff. I was surprised at how powerful it was to see my colleagues smiling faces on our screen.

In addition to actual planning information, we all also “checked in.” What a potent reminder of the complexities of life for families with babies and children (and grandmas, and aunties, etc.) at home.

Our kindergarten teacher had her baby last week and our 4th grade teacher participated in the virtual staff meeting from her car on the way to her doctor’s appointment. She’s due April 22. It is definitely a scary time for families welcoming new babies into the world!

Our two fifth grade teachers both are, in addition to teaching and parenting, also “ranch-hands” during the recently started calving season. Noted one, “I would much rather be at school with my fifth graders than spending nights out in the fields checking pregnant animals!”

A sixth grader from the public school in Britton (45 miles from here) has been diagnosed with COVID-19, as has an adult up in the tribal housing at Enemy Swim (about 45 miles from here in a different direction). Needless to say, this has ramped up the anxiety of parents and families! Among our little group of educators, there’s a sense of “we’ll get through this because that’s what teachers do.” And, at the edge of that… is clearly a prayer that families and neighbors would be spared.

At the same time, there’s a willingness to take on new tasks and responsibilities, be they creating classroom Facebook pages, recording audio instructions onto MP3 players and giving them to our non-readers, learning how to create personalized work packets… or at-home new tasks (like calving cattle!!) That willingness to dig in and get the job done is a gift many rural folks out here (and elsewhere, I know) prize greatly. It is certainly inspiring.

Each day at our tribal school we typically open the day with a prayer song. Today at the end of our virtual meeting, Mindy, my principal, asked if I’d lead a prayer. (Don’t worry- it was not a prayer SONG! ?) This is what I offered:

Good and gracious God, Creator of the Universe, Wakantonka, be with each of us and our loved ones in the days and weeks ahead.

  • When we are afraid, gift us with courage.
  • When we are lonely, remind us that both family and colleagues are within our virtual reach.
  • When we are stressed, especially as parents, grant us peaceful moments to remember you are beside us.
  • When we feel overwhelmed, help us to take a breath and look out the window and be aware all the ways we can support each other.
We do not know what lies ahead- for our kids at school, our tiwahe (families at home), or our tiospaye (relatives.) Help us to trust that whatever happens, we will not be alone. You are with us as we journey in these difficult times.

Mitakuye owasin. (traditional Dakota closing for prayers)

The prayer is for you, too.