St. George and the CoronaDragon
Dr. Joseph Kreutziger

 

I have a timely, new favorite story of St. George and the Dragon, one that was created by Max in 2nd grade this past week and shared with his teachers. If you have not yet seen the brilliant student drawing above that we have adapted as our StG Community at Home signature, please take it in now.

You’ll notice that the expected dragon’s face has been replaced with the artist’s rendering of an image we’ve become all too familiar with on websites and newscasts, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Instead of a fire-breathing, teeth-gnashing monster, we have Covid’s fearful geometry—a perfect circle and dozens of triangles that appear more floral than killer. There is no uncanny resemblance to the human or mammal or even reptile in this dragon’s visage. The flames of death appear like pollen or particles floating our knight’s way, and no bellowing roar but the word cloud right above Covid’s form holds the letters “C-C-CO,” as if it’s an adult helping a child say “COVID-19” aloud for the first time. I hadn’t considered until I saw this and mouthed it myself; the sound Covid makes when we speak it into a word; how that sound replicates a cough, an onomatopoeia of its symptoms and far more deadly than a traditional dragon’s breath when carrying this contagion.

How eerily familiar is this grassy field with flowers, the imagined weather here a clear, sunny spring day. This has been the pattern we too have enjoyed this past week, if “enjoyed” is the right word, while we shelter in place and arm ourselves with distance and what shield hygiene allows.

I wrote to our faculty a couple of weeks back—the weekend Governor Edwards shuttered Louisiana schools and we began transitioning to our StG Community at Home—that “Covid is a dragon our naked eyes could not see, much less imagine breathing into life and our lives.” Now we can see it, at least for our community, thanks to our very own artist in residence. And like our 2nd grader’s rendering, I should add that what we draw of ourselves from this experience, what our students and our whole community draw from this experience together, still does have the form of humanity about it, a new story of St. George’s. 

We are all St. George: student, teacher, parent, friend, guardian, administrator and grandparent.

The shield is forward and the sword is raised. This knight could be any of us, and indeed is all of us. We have a collective enemy, and yet our community seems one, e pluribus unum. I, for one, have rediscovered this in pandemic, as have so many. 

At the very beginning of this school year, indeed in my installation speech as new head of school, I shared several dragon tales and St. George’s stories. I also shared a cartoon image of St. George after battle, disheveled and defeated with a splintered lance and broken shield in hand. The cartoon caption read, “Some Days the Dragon Wins.” Like the seeming contradiction that we are St. George’s and our mascot is our purported enemy, as an educator I’ve always appreciated the message behind it-- facing our dragons is not always glorious, not a single heroic day where the enemy is overcome and the village saved. Rather, it is a process. Most days, it looks more like perseverance than victory. None of us knew when this year began that our new dragon was COVID-19, or that we’d need to be so at the ready to test the values and virtues of our community. But indeed we do. 

What I also wrote to our faculty a few weeks back is that we as educators “sketch together, pencils in hand, erasers on the back end, devising while revising new possibilities for ourselves and our students.” This is not the dragon we imagined for our school, and though horrific and tragic, something good can come of it if we approach this common enemy as a community. It will be tremendously important to learn from it, to render meaningful the lessons. We’re learning to live with this new vision of education and the dragons we face, even the armor we wear. By necessity, this is education boldly reimagined, and there’s pride in knowing our community is at the ready.

Next week, I invite all of you to face COVID-19 as a community of one. We will be launching our StG Community Fund, the purpose of which is to lend the shield of St. George’s to community members who find themselves in need in this time of uncertainty. The very idea was instigated by the leaders of our faculty Sunshine Committee who suggested that we take their committee funds pooled together for social gatherings and donate them equitably to our hourly workers. That is the spirit of St. George’s; what we give now we give to each other. That’s one thing we need our StG Community at Home to mean-- something we give to each other, something we do together that Covid-19 cannot take or break. I look forward to sharing details with you soon.

 

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