While this week felt about twice as long as a normal week, we were SO glad to have our students back where they belong! Like you, we are all tired and adjusting to the demands of the moment, but there is no question about it: in-person learning is where “it’s at”! Thank you for completing and submitting the daily COVID screening form required for attendance at schools. It’s easy to forget as part of the morning routine, but it is a very important communal responsibility in our effort to avoid learning interruptions for our Matthews Hall family. You will have noticed that you are receiving a daily reminder by email. In only a few short “clicks” each morning, your “ticket to the school day” is processed and submitted, and we can be confident that our school has the green light to function!
As Head of School, one of my overarching responsibilities is to ensure the safety and health and wellness of our students and staff. In times like these, it is not a simple task to accurately grasp how everyone is feeling – and I am not referring to sniffles and sore throats. For months, we have gone about our days with increased vigilance and awareness of everything and everybody around us and it is, without a doubt, becoming more tiring for some than others. By observing our students and staff each week, I am even more convinced that ensuring our school’s commitment to wellness is more important than ever.
Isn’t it true? We know our children and what makes them tick. We also know when they are stressed out, in a state of disequilibrium, or generally exhausted. These same observations are true about the adults with whom we share our homes and lives. People going through the motions. Moving forward each day with plodding steps. Uncertainty and diminishing trust in people, places, and things. During the past two COVID years, all of these characteristics have become increasingly visible around us in our communities, homes, and work places. And experts have a word for it – it’s called languishing.
What is languishing? That feeling of being stuck and not making any progress; of pining in grief, hopelessness, or confusion; of suffering from being forced to remain in an unpleasant state or situation without an end in sight. Ugh! Sound familiar? These are all things that our schools, communities, and world continue to endure as we respond to the pandemic moment.
But with that said, I will tell you something. Do you know a place where languishing will never gain a toehold? In elementary school classrooms where teachers and their parent partners continue to cheer on the “re-newers” each day!…where kids have the opportunity to connect with other human beings without incessantly looking over their shoulders!… and where interactions are normalized and prioritized for the long-term mental health of its members – that’s where!
Our pandemic path has had a few twists and turns during the last twenty-four months, but, unlike in some places, our school team has remained focused, supportive, and “dialed-in” to the needs of the people around them. This is no easy task when, as human beings, we may be distracted by the plight of others in our own lives.
Researchers say that teachers can help children avoid languishing by supporting them in setting clear goals; by giving students the time, resources, and empathy they need to do their best work; and by not withholding regular inspirational feedback about their work and progress – not just about their homework and assignments, but about their intrinsic worth as a person.
Let’s all make this a personal goal beginning next week, as we help to lift up the languishers in our midst. As that old familiar Hollies’ song goes, “He Ain’t’ Heavy, He’s My Brother”!
Ric Anderson. Head of School