Mr. Prat's Emails to Parents
April 2, 2020
Thank you for your survey responses thus far. Please continue to provide feedback if you have not already done so. As this process evolves quickly, I write to share with you some additional strategies that we will employ based on the feedback from the student and parent surveys as we continue to brainstorm ideas that are both meaningful and feasible.
First, as I mentioned in yesterday’s email, beginning now and moving forward each week, students will receive at least one teacher-oriented instruction per class per week either in the form of a live conference, a prerecorded video, or a voice recording.
In addition, we will coordinate one live conference via Google Meet for each homeroom each week. This will be coordinated by me and it will occur during the homeroom’s regularly scheduled office hours of one of its classes per a schedule that I will create and disseminate soon. At the very least it will provide students with an opportunity to connect with one another on a regular basis. This will begin the week we return from the Easter holidays. Be on the lookout for an email from Mr. Joubert with a Google Form Permission Slip in order for your son to participate.
Furthermore, we will begin daily student-led prayer for all students to access via Canvas. Deacon Len will coordinate as he does on regular school days. If your son would like to lead a video prayer for the school, please contact Deacon Len at email@example.com. He will provide you with the prayer and instructions. This will begin this coming Monday, April 6 so contact him soon if you are interested.
We will continue to make minor adjustments to policies regarding the consistent posting of messages and content, e.g., the posting of the entire week’s assignments at the beginning of the week for the sake of convenience and flexibility. We are also working on creating Homerooms in Canvas so that the students will have one location in which to find the Weekly Overview for each subject all at once.
I would also like you to know that I plan to send a video to the students with a Lenten/Easter message early next week. It will be posted to their Canvas pages for easy access.
I know that as the days pass, you may begin to ask questions regarding the coming months, particularly May activities and end-of-the-year ceremonies. Please know that we understand the need for information and we recognize the importance of such activities and ceremonies for students and their families. We are working daily on providing you with accurate and timely information. As we continue to make the most of this less-than-perfect situation, thank you for your patience and your partnership during these challenging times.
April 1, 2020
When we began this extraordinary process a few weeks ago, we understood that there would be a need to gather feedback and make adjustments. We knew that there was no way to be prepared for each and every scenario given the constantly changing circumstances and the individual needs and situations of each of us, parents, students, and teachers. Over the past weeks, we have been collecting the feedback of all of us so that we can improve the experience for our students, who are our primary concern.
Initially, as we created policies and guidelines for At-Home Learning, our goal was to create an environment of flexibility for parents, students, and teachers. We recognized the importance for teachers to feel comfortable in delivering instruction, interaction, and assessment. To that end, we provided broad parameters that allowed teachers to be comfortable and creative. What has made us successful thus far has been our communication and our commitment to people over content. As we all well know, it is our Lasallian heritage to put relationships at the forefront of our educational community.
To that end, after listening to suggestions and having conversations, we are requiring teachers moving forward to provide a minimum of one teacher-oriented instruction per subject each work, e.g., either a live conference, a pre-recorded video, or a voice-only instruction. While many are already doing so, we believe that this policy will provide a more consistent experience for students while fulfilling our mission as Lasallian educators to foster relationships with our students, especially during the most difficult of times. As Mr. Scaffidi said during a recent conversation we had, “It is not a CBS education without our teachers. The kids need to BE WITH them as they are the backbone and strength.” We hope that this helps your son as he continues during this transition.
This week we distributed a survey to students. We are grateful for the outstanding participation we have received and the authentic feedback they have provided. Now, we would like to solicit the feedback of parents.
Please use the link below to complete the survey. Thanks in advance for your help in this partnership.
March 27, 2020
By now you have received your son’s 3rd Q. report card. If you have not, please contact Ms. Karen in the front office. I hope your son enjoyed his Slice Pop! My hope is that Week 2 of “At-Home Learning” brought for you some routine and sense of familiarity. On Monday, your son will receive an “At-Home Learning Survey” via his school email address. We are interested in his feedback on how this experience has been so far for him, and we intend to use that feedback to improve where we can. Please encourage him to complete the survey, which should only take a few minutes. In addition, early next week parents will also receive a similar survey. We know that more now than ever this is a partnership between school and home. Thank you in advance for completing the survey and for all that you are doing to make this partnership thrive. As a reminder, we have a special page on the school website with resources for parents and students and with pictures of our school community. Here are the direct links below.
For some sense of normalcy, today I am sharing with you thoughts on one of our most important school experiences at CBS…Speech Night. For some classes, students were able to fully participate in the annual event; for others, you did not have the opportunity. Today would have marked the annual Speech Night Gold Medal Encore performances held in front of the entire student body. This is one of my favorite events of the school year—in part because I am able to witness achievement and talent that I myself do not possess but mostly because I am able to witness the culmination of months of perseverance and hard work. I am inspired by the resilience and the drive for success that these young men demonstrate.
Oftentimes in the sheer humanity of facing our own fears we discover that which God was waiting for us to discover in ourselves. There is a beauty to the shyest, quietest student in the class belting out in front of 350 of his peers lines from an inspirational movie scene. Sure, the ecstasy of the victory and the enjoyment of the entertainment are terrific. But more than that, the unleashing of the human spirit and will on that fear or that obstacle or that challenge is infinitely more powerful. Further, recognizing the will of God in our lives, the talents he has given us, and the awesomeness of his grace on our behalf is what can inspire and guide us during those moments of weakness.
My hope is that upon our return to school as a community we will look back and be proud of the resilience that we too have shown during these trying times. We will see that God’s Spirit was alive and well within us not because it was forced upon us but because we cultivated it and provided it a home in which it could flourish.
During this time of Lent, I find myself drawn to the human struggle of Jesus who, despite facing the ultimate persecution and rejection, persisted. This example provides me with the perspective I need to fight the good fight, particularly in those moments of vulnerability and frustration.
God, who does all things for a reason, does not place upon us any more than we can handle with his help. De La Salle speaks many times about the will of God in his regard. The idea of Providence—God’s unfolding plan and care for our lives—is an important component of De La Salle’s Christian view. This is great news, especially at those times when we face those challenges and obstacles, when we feel defeated or overcome, when we know it would be easier to give in or give up rather than go on.
There can be no doubt that the good fight is always worth fighting. As we continue through this season of Lent and turn to Jesus on the Cross as our point of meditation, let us keep the faith and remember that after there was death, there was resurrection.
You and your family are in our prayers!
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever!
March 25, 2020
Dear 7th Grade Students, Parents, and Family Members,
Spring is upon us and as such it is a special time to celebrate life and all that God has given to us. One of those great occasions at CBS is the 7th Grade Class Mass, which is a special opportunity for 7th graders and their families to spend one last time together in the chapel celebrating Christ and one another. I thought that I would send you the reflection that I usually offer at that time in the event that we are unable to celebrate together and especially since the first of the masses (7C) was scheduled for today. I still hold out hope that we will be able to celebrate with one another. And if we do have the opportunity, then I guess you’ll have to hear the reflection twice!
7th Grade Class Mass Reflection
As is the custom at each of our class masses during your time at CBS, I will offer a reflection on some aspect of our Lasallian heritage. In 5th grade that reflection centered around the life of Saint John Baptist de La Salle and in 6th grade around the Five Core Principles of a Lasallian school. And whereas in 5th and 6th grade, those comments were meant for adults and students alike, today, gentlemen, I speak directly to you. Today, I will focus on three expressions you have heard countless times over your years here:
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us!
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever!
I’ve done the math, and over your three years at CBS, you’ve uttered those words well over 5,000 times. I’d like to take a moment to reflect some on each of those phrases and their meaning as you near the end of your time here. Although you’ll move on to other schools with other charisms, you’ll always have a special place here at CBS. My hope is that no matter where you are in life, these three sayings will elicit for you fond memories of your time here and key aspects of your faith. For each of the three expressions, I will offer two points of reflection.
1. Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
First and foremost we are to remind ourselves that we are always in the presence of God. We do not need to place ourselves there as if sometimes we are not. Instead, we need a simple recalling that God permeates our lives. As you make your way in this world, you will undoubtedly face obstacles. It is not a matter of if but when. Remember that even in the most trying of times, God is present. He does not give you more than you can handle with his help. Trust in him to be there for you when you need him most.
Second, none of this is by accident. God has surrounded you with beauty and only asks that in return you recognize it and take advantage of it. Perhaps it is in the cool spring breeze or the smell of a single scented rose. Perhaps it is in the faces of those around you—family and friends who love you and care for you. In any case, never take for granted what God has given to you.
2. St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us!
In his life, St. Lasalle faced many challenges, some of which were in direct opposition to his work as educator and founder of the Christian Brothers. Despite these great obstacles, he persevered. He believed that if God wanted it to be, then it would be. He had faith that God was alive and working in him and on his behalf. Let the life of St. Lasalle be an example for you during your most difficult times.
In addition to perseverance, St. Lasalle believed fervently in the Providence of God working and moving in his life. He realized that there were things in his life that he could and would not understand, but he trusted deeply that God had a plan in store for him. He had faith that God works imperceptibly in our lives and that although we sometimes do not understand or recognize our own paths, God does. You too should have faith that God has a plan for you. It may not be the plan you have for yourself but trust that his plan is good and it has been created especially for you.
3. Live Jesus in our hearts…forever!
As an English teacher, I can’t help but make note of the punctuation (or lack of) associated with this expression. As a young teacher at CBS, I remember attending a workshop during which an experienced Brother gave us a similar lesson. He explained that although some put commas around the word “Jesus,” this is incorrect. As you studious young men know, to put commas would make the word “Jesus” into direct address as if you were commanding Jesus to live in your hearts. Of course, we do not need to command Jesus to live in our hearts. He lives there permanently because he wants to. All we must do in turn is to allow him to not only reside there but to flourish in all his glory and to let him shine forth to the world around us so that others may see him in us. As you move about in this world, allow others to see Christ in you.
Finally, let this saying be a reminder to you that Jesus is our ultimate example and witness to our faith. When we are looking for words to say, things to do, decisions to make, and ways to approach the world, let Jesus be our guide.
In closing, please know you will always be a part of CBS. We hope that you choose to remain an active part of the CBS community. I hope that these three phrases serve not only as reminders of your time at CBS but also as points of reflection as you live your life.
Again, I hope to be able to say these words in person to you sometime in the near future. God bless you and your family!
March 20, 2020
Well…we are one week into this experiment. As a teacher, I am working on new ways to connect with my students. As a parent, I am working on new ways to disconnect from my children!
For each of us, our experience over the last week has been different. We acknowledge that for some it’s working well and for others it isn’t. We, teachers and parents alike, continue to listen to feedback and make adjustments, granting that it will never be perfect for everyone’s unique situation but with the hope that we will look back months from now knowing that we did the best we could given the circumstances. Please take comfort in knowing we are all doing the best we can.
This morning we met as a faculty, and I mentioned to them some of the feedback I’ve heard from a few of you, namely, students would appreciate more visual contact from their teachers. I have encouraged teachers to include more videos of themselves teaching lessons as a way to make that personal connection as best as possible. We spoke at the meeting about the importance of flexibility with assessments, understanding that many parents are balancing extra work hours with their child’s schoolwork. In that regard, I’d like to share a link to what I think is a decent article entitled “You Are Not Your Child’s Teacher,” that could provide some comfort and perspective for you.
Finally, for some sense of normalcy, I have included the Principal’s Reflection that I normally would send at this time of year at the beginning of the 4th Quarter. (Incidentally, we are mailing 3rd Q. report cards home on Monday.) Although circumstances are atypical, the message may be useful.
Recently, as I distributed 3rd quarter report cards in each of the home rooms, I spoke to the students about the notion of the 4th quarter as being a time of transition—transition away from something familiar while at the same time transition toward something new. For each grade, of course, and for each individual even, those aspects of transition differ.
For 5th graders, the transition is one away from academic reliance on parents and teachers as they near the end of their first year of middle school and a transition toward a greater independence in the classroom and in life.
or 6th graders, the transition is one away from the role of underclassman and into a new role of leadership in which they are held to even higher expectations and given even greater responsibility in their own development as Christian gentlemen.
For 7th graders, the transition requires them to reflect introspectively on their time at CBS noting their successes and failures while also looking forward to a new set of challenges along a new, unknown journey.
May the peace of Christ be with you. You and your family are in our prayers!
March 17, 2020
You and your family are in our prayers. I write to you with a message of comfort. We understand that all of us find ourselves in a time of uncertainty, and we know that your child’s schooling may be a factor in that uncertainty. Our goal instead is to be a source of comfort and familiarity instead of a source of stress and anxiety. If we learned anything as school leaders during those trying times after Hurricane Katrina, we learned that what students and families need most is stability and understanding. We hope to be able to provide you with that.
By now, you have received a message from Mr. Scaffidi outlining the plan for instruction moving forward. In addition, you have received information from each of your son’s teachers. Please know that we have spent many hours in conferences and meetings, reading information and best practices, and listening to newscasts so that we can be as informed, trained, and prepared as possible. Teachers have spent hours together and individually preparing for the weeks ahead. They understand the importance of flexibility and support for students and families. They understand the importance of consistency and simplicity among them and on behalf of your son.
As a parent myself of four school-aged children who attend CBS, I understand the importance of balance between staying occupied and active as a family while also allowing for downtime and personal and work time for parents. After Day 1, my primary goal is to stay sane over the next few weeks at home! As our lives are altered for the foreseeable future, we would like for you to consider us as your partners not only in your child’s education but also in any capacity that we can be of help to you. Fittingly, as we continue through the season of Lent, we remind ourselves of the uncertainty that Jesus and the Apostles faced as they neared the Passion. No doubt we will need to be a faithful people as we navigate these waters together.
Should you need to talk regarding your son or your family’s experiences or should we be able to help you in any way as the weeks unfold, please let me know. I have attached a memo from our school counselor, Mrs. Susan Lavie, who you are welcome to reach out to at any time. In addition, we will have a link on the school website on which we will post links, blogs, articles, etc. that may be helpful to you during the time away. We pray for the Holy Spirit’s forceful presence in our community for the coming weeks.
Michael J. Prat, Jr.
Christian Brothers School
#8 Friederichs Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70124