Week 10 of Shelter in Place: The Perfect Time to Reflect
May 20, 2020
A Time For Reflection
For many, grappling with what reality could be in the future is difficult to accept. This crisis has challenged us to redefine “normal” and has even revealed deep underlying issues, and more importantly, key strengths within ourselves and our society. As we move towards the future, we are forced to assess what is important to keep versus what we want to change – a challenge that our Francisco Middle School Beacon team is currently evaluating.
Beacon is facing a new set of challenging norms like social distancing and the dwindling financial health of our program recipients. For example, Beacon staff would normally “push in,” or join a class at nearby Francisco Middle School (FMS) to help students who often need extra support, but now they must learn to work with Zoom to give the same academic experience. Another reality they’re dealing with is the exasperated needs of the school’s predominantly low-income families who are facing added financial pressures during this crisis. More specifically, they are seeing how these factors negatively impact students’ focus on education and are helping to address them. Simply put, it’s a learning process.
Rebekah Foster, STEAM team coordinator, hosting a virtual gardening class
For Rebekah Foster, our STEAM team coordinator, her reality is learning how to ironically connect students to and highlight the beauty of nature through a computer screen. She normally teaches a garden class where students plant and grow their own food, but since then, hosts video tours of the garden to show the plants’ progress. She is creating a curriculum she hopes will continue to connect the students with nature.
The virtual gardening class receiving a tour of the plants they grew earlier in the year during Shelter in Place.
For Christian Martinez, his new normal is making phone calls to 600 families to listen to their personal needs and provide resources to address them. The calls eventually inspired him to lead “Fun Fridays” where students meet online for socials involving scavenger hunts and other activities so that students feel connected despite isolation. However, these calls and other programs have revealed long-established issues that have only been exacerbated by the crisis.
To elaborate, the staff has learned the extent to which these families were susceptible to macro systematic shifts even before the crisis given many of them are marginalized. More specifically, many of these parents were the first to be furloughed or laid off during this pandemic and have greater needs for basic necessities like food, which the Beacon staff has been addressing by donating Safeway and Target gift cards and staffing the local food bank that feeds almost 5000 individuals. The pandemic has truly shown the vulnerability these families face against these structural changes.
Our Beacon team packing groceries for SF Marin Food Bank’s food drive at FMS
More importantly, however, the crisis has also shed light on our most admirable strengths: our innate need to connect and give. Our staff and programs are key examples of this as they’ve ramped up their support to families through a lens of compassion towards those struggling. Their phone calls and Friday socials have also shown the importance of personal connection and support as students and their families have expressed so much praise and gratitude for these conversations. In the case of the gardening class, students have expressed they miss the outdoors more than ever not just for the fresh air, but simply for the fact that they’re present with their fellow classmates.
So, the pandemic has served as a time of reflection for us at TEL HI. We learned we have much to improve on and have even embraced new changes like utilizing virtual technologies and being comfortable with uncertainty, but our strongest learning is an affirmation of a key strength of ours: we are truly committed to and love our community— and that’s certainly been proven by our actions throughout this crisis.
Stay TEL HI STRONG everyone.