For the Love of Learning: COVID-19 and Beyond

Dear Chaminade Family,

Mr. Perrotta here.

It goes without saying that we’re living in unprecedented times. Never in my wildest imagination would I find myself is this particular narrative. Like a fantasy or horror film, we find ourselves facing an unknown force that has pushed us to our own sense of personal extremes. For nearly two months, we’ve been self-isolated, physically distancing and facing our own anxieties and fears. However, amongst all of the darkness there comes so much hope. This hope is our shared faith and individual outlook that will transcend this moment in time. So, with all the bad comes so much good. 

Personally, as I continue along this journey as a husband, parent and VP, I’ve found myself reflecting on my possible mindset if I were a high school student during this time. The thought is a daunting one.

To rewind:

I always enjoyed school but not necessarily “schooling.” This is to say that Mr. Perrotta of high school (1994 – 1999) was not the most studious student. I loved being in particular classes, socializing with friends in and out of school and always had a love of movies that I was fully engaged in. However, in regards to “schooling,” I wasn’t all that mature yet to understand my relationship with learning. Although,I flourished in creative courses that harnessed my imagination, I rested on the outskirts of others. This wasn’t because I couldn’t handle a particular course but rather because learning was equated to marks on tests and quizzes. I didn’t see learning as something greater than “schooling” itself.

So, as I think about what you as students must be experiencing during COVID-19 distancing learning, I recognize this extremely unique time and ask myself this question about assessment: 

What would I do as a high school student if I knew my mark couldn’t go below a particular threshold?

Frankly, I would probably find myself playing Sega Genesis, watching VHS after VHS and using dial up modem internet connection to play emulators. I would most likely disengage as I would look at “learning” as shaped by a mark in a course.  Writing this very fact now makes me incredibly disappointed in my high school self; I could have and should have done so much more during those years beyond the courses that spoke to my sense of creativity.  

Now as an adult who is a dedicated life long learner, I know that learning for a love of learning is truly empowering and transformational. Whether it’s learning a new recipe (I love to cook) or taking a professional learning course to support my improved educational practice, I wish I was a high school learner that appreciated that schooling was so much more than marks. It was and is about the personal journey of transformation. The more we learn the more we grow. As I say with my own children at home, “the more we know the further we go.”

Furthermore, learning must be personal and valued. I first realized this as I moved from my hometown of Niagara Falls to Toronto after high school to study film and television production at Humber College. Living in residence, paying hefty living and tuition fees, I quickly learnt that ALL learning is valuable. Although, I was specializing in film, I was enrolled and engaged in elective courses that broadened my perspective and shaped how I learn. I was deeply falling in love with learning regardless of subject.

The high school me, would have thought that courses not media focused (preparing me for film school) wouldn’t be of value. I soon realized as a post-secondary student that ALL learning is valuable and my own intrinsic motivation was the enabler  – not marks or a potential job. I was motivated by new learning in and of itself.

So, this is all to say that although marks can’t go below a particular threshold, doesn’t mean the learning stops during COVID-19 distance learning. Learning lives beyond marks and this is an important time to remind us that learning and school is about improvement – building upon successes and next steps.

As we continue to move along our distance learning journey, I encourage you to embrace learning as about more than a single mark in a course. Learning is about your transformation. Whether it is particular course content or the skills learnt along the way, all learning is transferable beyond a single course of study and importantly within this unique situation, slow and steady will win the race.

Importantly, part of learning is self-regulating. This means you know how you learn, reflect, and acknowledge where you are on your journey. So, if you need any support along this COVID-19 journey, please know you are not alone. Please reach out and connect. We all must take care of ourselves and focus on wellness and balance in our approach. So, as I encourage you to embrace your learning with a focus on improvement, please be well and know that your emotional well-being is so critical and important when looking to support your academic success.

Wishing you all the very best. Thinking of you and your families.

God Bless!