Our  Perspectives from the “Classroom”  series will be shared every Wednesday bringing you a reflective piece from one of our St. Paul faculty members.

Brittney Mihalich grew up just south of Kansas City and attended James Madison University and George Mason University for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature. She taught post-secondary English in the Czech Republic and New York before returning to Virginia, where she met her husband on the first day of new faculty orientation at a Catholic high school in Arlington. They moved to Connecticut in 2015, and she began her career at St. Paul with a baby on the way. Four years and two kids later, Mrs. Mihalich is happy to be back “home” with her fellow Falcons.

We’re pleased to bring you Mrs. Mihalich's reflection on her teaching in the “classroom” of uncharted distance learning at St. Paul.
Mrs. Brittney Mihalich
Perspectives from the “Classroom”

The kids are asleep, the dishes are washed, the family Zoom chat has ended, and a mug of ginger tea rests next to me while I sit to reflect on my “perspectives from the classroom.” As we all navigate this cliché of “new normal,” I can’t help but disagree with the sentiment; our daily lives are now anything but normal, and it takes a healthy balance of creativity, flexibility, patience, and perseverance to thrive – let alone survive – in this time.

Here are my thoughts on navigating this balance:

1. My subject area is incredibly adaptable to unforeseen circumstances. As an English teacher, I recognize how fortunate I am. When concern of COVID-19 first began to spread, our Lord of the Flies discussions quickly shifted to the nature of savagery and how people react under pressure. Creative Writing prompts called students to imagine science fiction scenarios not unlike those outside our windows, and AP Language students reflected on what it means to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life,” as Henry David Thoreau did when he secluded himself at Walden Pond. Through these literary outlets, students have connected with their writing and their thoughts in ways that I could not have cultivated before. I daresay they are thriving.

2. When we lose one aspect of our daily routine, we are quick to compensate with another. While I may have filled my gas tank twice since mid-March, I’ve replaced the miles driven in my car with miles in the running shoes. Where my commute from Simsbury to Bristol once provided a quiet haven of solitary reflection, I’ve maintained a healthy outlet that helps me keep a level head in a time that is quite stressful. Also, my mile splits haven’t been this low since grad school. Whatever it is that enabled us to keep a clear head before the quarantine must be replaced by some form of catharsis, or release. Whether it be running, walking the dog, doing a puzzle, or simply sitting outside in silence for twenty minutes – we all need a little time to reset.

3. We might look at this as a test – not one that inspires dread as it zips through the scan-tron reader, but one that inspires us to better students, teachers, colleagues, sons, daughters, parents, and friends. One that inspires true interpersonal connectivity through any means possible. My test necessitates meaningfully engaging my own children alongside my St. Paul community. Matthew (4) joined D period today for opening prayer from my lap, and Brendan (2) closed out the period by festively throwing his crayons about the room. If, by the end of the day, my boys have laughed and gotten muddy, if my students have exercised their minds and connected with peers, then I consider the test aced.

4. Hope. Without it, we are stagnant. I look forward to printing my students’ book cover doubles and hanging them in the classroom, to giving paranoia-free fist bumps and high fives, to bringing my boys to Matilda and to games with crowded stands. I look forward to seeing you again, and I hope it’s soon.

To close with the words of my fellow Midwesterner Garrison Keillor, “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” And, as I now remind my students, make sure you get outside today.