Two students wearing masks and reading books, sitting on a rug in front of a bookshelf full of books

Looking for space, joy and grace

A few months ago, I was in a Zoom call with Deans of Students at various Quaker schools. One of the questions asked, to which everyone took turns responding, was basically, “What does it feel like at your school right now?” And what I said, a few months ago, was, “It feels like we’re trying very hard to be back to normal. There are fewer restrictions in place than there were last year, we’re all used to the restrictions that still exist, and it feels like the staff are doing everything we can to create normal pacing, normal expectations, and a normal environment. And yet, things are not normal—they’re not even close.”

Now, in January, a theme I hear echoing among our teachers is that we are searching for moments of grace. How do we soothe this internal drive to keep things ticking along at speed? Where can find moments of quiet in the day? How do we create opportunities for reflection and stillness? How do we open the door to joy and silliness and connection?

Hearing this resonate in one conversation after another is itself hopeful, to me. It’s a different way of reaching for normality: pre-pandemic, I think both stillness and silliness, and the connection and joy we find through both, were hallmarks of this school. (I think they still are, compared to many schools.) I’m glad we’re consciously seeking this now. Learning is not best served by a frantic pace; in a way, it comes in its own time, and making a fertile space for it is half the work.

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Renata McAdams

is our grade 3-4 classroom teacher. She has taught in a variety of public, charter, and independent schools, including a combined 3-5 classroom in Ann Arbor, Mich., for two years. Rentata graduated from Vassar College and received her M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in Oberlin, Ohio, and moved to Chicago from Philadelphia with her husband (then-fiancé) in August 2014.

In her free time, Renata enjoys singing, acting, dancing, and reading.