PHILIPPINES -The coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the way we live our lives. It has hindered us from meeting physically with our students, partners, family and friends, and even our Brothers. However, this does not and cannot stop us from continuing our growth as Brothers. One venue where we can continue our growth is through the annual Young Brothers Conference (YBC). This year was different as this was done virtually through Zoom. The conference was held last 28 October 2020, and it was headed by the coordinator of the Young Brothers, Br. Mark Salvan FSC.
As Brothers, we have adjusted the way we go about our ministry in these changing times. We learn to innovate to ensure that our educational mission can move forward and continue to shape the lives of people entrusted to our care. As taught during our formative years: learning does not stop, formation does not stop. It simply goes on because it is a lifelong journey and commitment. As we engage in a ministry that continues to evolve, we also adapt to the new circumstances it brings. YBC2020 was a venue to learn more about how to adapt and to respond to this new normal. We may be distant from each other, but our response and our commitment to this journey and this mission goes on, together and by association.
Our speakers for this conference are experts in their respective fields: Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada talked about education and its legal aspects, Dr. Gia Sison is a mental health advocate who talked about education and its impact on mental health, and finally, Mr. Mark Averilla, commonly known for his stage name: Macoy Dubs, is a social media influencer, content creator, and a fellow educator.
In terms of the legal aspects of education, privacy was seen as one of the key issues because of the use of online modalities in teaching and the exposure of the students. Atty Erap was able to address this by emphasizing our role as parents ‘in loco parentis’. It was an invitation for all to be prudent to protect the name of the school, the Brothers, our partners, and our students.
Dr. Gia advocated responses on how to ensure that students’ well-being is also a focus in online learning. This is a mutual responsibility that both the students and the school need to work together to ensure the protection of both parties. The parents should disclose to the school the situation of their child so that the school can have the appropriate response. At the same time, the school must ensure that students have an avenue to express their thoughts and have people trained to address these issues. The school must also promote a work-life balance and advocate mental health to the entire school community. In the end, Dr. Gia acknowledged that every day will be a challenging day and that this pandemic, although it has greatly affected our lives, is but temporary.
Macoy on his part proposed that we use the content we create as our outlet. Similarly, he suggested that the students also use whatever task is given to them as their outlet to express how they feel. Also, he shared with us his experience of being an educator and how to touch ground with the students through different themes such as comedy, sports, pets, fashion, travel, dance, food, and music. This was to ensure that the content is engaging and that the topic is relatable to them. Moreover, a simple follow-up such as ‘How are you’ would go a long way for students and for them to know that there are those that are concerned about their well-being. At the end of his session, he reminded us to remember who we are as a way to ground ourselves to our identity.
Indeed, these sessions on the different aspects of education and how it affects our ministry was helpful for each one of us to navigate our response in this new normal. Until the day we return to our campuses, our classrooms, we have to adapt to these circumstances and to learn about the trends that affect education to ensure our relevance in this ministry. In closing, Br. Robert Schieler FSC reminded us during his 2020 Trinity Sunday message: to always be attentive to the emerging educational dynamics and to seize this moment and make the Gospel as the touchstone for all of our decisions. (Text: Br. Miggy Crisostomo FSC; Photos: Br. Irwin Climaco FSC & Br. Weegee Enriquez FSC)