Dear BSM Senior Families,
I hope you are well, wherever you are in the world. We are heading towards three months of lockdown now and whilst it looks different for all of us, I hope you are managing to stay sane through it all and finding the positives.
The current chatter around the world of education is ‘how will school look and feel in the next academic year?’. It’s certainly something that is being discussed widely at BSM, with lots of questions and lots of gathering of experience from other schools around the world. It has been insightful and challenging but not insurmountable. We are finding out we are way more creative than we ever thought… and that box, well we are definitely thinking outside of it!
As I ponder on the future of schools and the evolution of education as we know it, I begin to also think about our children, staff and families. How has this impacted their lives? We are presently dealing with the here and now and many of us are not stopping to think about ‘what the hell is going on’ – it’s easier that way. The rabbit hole is too deep and I fear I’ll get lost in thought and never return! So, I opt to live in the moment and deal with whatever is thrown my way in the day. However, looking forward is also something we must do.
On our return to school we can find solutions to logistics and geographically put measures in place to minimise infection, contact and cross-contamination but what is harder, is the ability to respond to the psychological effects of this event. I suspect we will be changed forever and it is with this in mind I am resolute I want the outcome to be a positive one for our BSM kids and families. This article outlines some great points. Dr Tara Quinlivan says:
‘For many children the return to school will be a delightful experience. It will mean reconnecting with friends and school teachers and they will race out the front door ready to get back to normal. This however won’t be everyone’s experience. In fact, I imagine that it won’t be a lot of families experience. The return to school is likely to stir up some anxiety for our kids, ourselves and our teachers. Emerging from the sanctuary of our homes and back out into public spaces is likely to be a little confronting. This is at odds with our concurrent feelings of wanting to break free from this lockdown. At the moment I’m feeling pretty stifled being at home. In my mind I’m ready to get back into the world. A few weekends ago I took a very big adventure to the local fruit and veg shop, I even chose to do my shopping at a nearby farm to make it extra special. However, once I was there I started to feel nervous. I suddenly remembered that the world was not as safe as I wanted it to be. I was confronted by the hand sanitizer at the door, the restriction of how many people could be in the shop at any one time, I remained vigilant about keeping a respectful distance from other shoppers and staff, and I had to stand a socially uncomfortable distance from the check out. It wasn’t the outing I envisioned. I left feeling sad and a little angry. Something like this might be our children’s experience of returning to school. First, our children will be hit by the anticipatory anxiety of going out into a world that feels unsafe. Over the past few weeks we’ve had to teach them that the outside world is dangerous and that staying home is a must. Soon we will renege on that claim and force them back into the world we just told them was unsafe. It’s going to be a tricky transition for them. Second, once they are at school they’ll discover it isn’t exactly the same experience that they knew before COVID19. There will likely be many differences whether it be the initial lack of other year levels, or the additional safety procedures the school is implementing. This lack of congruity is likely to be uncomfortable. For children the ‘not quite the sameness’ and anticipatory anxiety will only be compounded by their innate desire to be near their caregivers and places of security when they feel distressed’.
Whilst this paints a picture of imminent doom – I would like to reassure you that this time will pass and we will be better for it. We will look back and see we were resilient, our character will have strengthened and the things we once took for granted we will NEVER take for granted again.
The article does not end there but offers strategies (which I was delighted to read after feeling a little hopeless with the first part of the article!). In preparations for the holidays and the ‘return to school’ here are a few things you may want to include in your conversations moving forward (taken and adapted from the article):
- ‘Start using language such as “when you go to school” rather than “if you go to school”.
- Use visual aids such as calendars to count down to school ending/starting.
- When you know the safety procedures BSM will be implementing, discuss them a few times before school starts (i.e. you’ll still be doing lots of hand washing, your teacher will still be using the hand sanitiser).
We can also start to prime our children emotionally:
- Give emotions names. These can be names such as “sad”, “angry” or “worried”. But they can also be descriptive words such as “shakey”, “fuzzy”, “spiny”, “gurgley”, “heavy”.
- Check in with your kids before school starts. Ask them what they’re looking forward to, what they think might be different, what they’re expecting. Validate any fears and correct any misconceptions.
- Problem solve with kids – if something is a particular worry, work with kids to help come up with a few solutions. Include kids in this problem solving.
- Use your own feelings as a model. A conversation with your child/ren may look a bit like this;
Me: “We might start school again soon, how do you feel about that?”
Will: “I might feel a bit nervous”
Me: “I’m starting to go back to work again soon and I’m feeling a bit nervous about seeing people again”
Will: “Like you’re a bit nervous that they might have the cold, and you don’t know, and then you’ll get it”
Me: “Yep, exactly like that. But I’ve been thinking…I’ve thought of some stuff I can do that’ll make me safe”
You could then talk more widely about what you have seen in and around Manila (or wherever you may be moving on to). The students will quickly start to make connections between their old and new norms and realise whilst lots may change, lots will stay the same too. Validating their feelings of trepidation will leave them feeling listened to and hopefully less anxious.
We find ourselves here, on unfamiliar ground and as families it is challenging to navigate for ourselves and our loved ones around us. I will continue to share my ideas, thoughts and any article I read that may be helpful. We are doing just great, keep going BSM families!
Please take a look at the article to further empower you and give you a sense of control moving forward.
I miss you all hugely and I think about our wonderful families often. Please stay safe and sane.
Head of Senior School