A Lesson in Patience

As mentioned in last week’s blog, the reality is that we cannot replicate what happens in the classroom in an online learning platform, and that can be a source of frustration for some. While we are doing our best and teachers are spending hours creating programming that will keep students engaged, online learning simply is not the same. The hours spent vulnerable, on screen, can be a cause of heightened anxiety for some of our students. Change and uncertainty, in times like these, can be even more of a challenge for others. Self-management can be more difficult, as can initiation. The importance of face-to-face contact, discussion and deliberation has really risen to the surface. That said, children are resilient and they can adapt far more readily than many think. As adults, it’s important to acknowledge how are we modelling adaptation and resilience.

Last year, I wrote about a day in the life of a head of school. What that looks like “virtually” has taken on a new shape. I start my days in meetings with other senior leaders now, rather than on the curb behind Boulden House, greeting students as they arrive to school. I drop in to classroom Meets but quick touch points happen through the chat rather than a short conversation at the side of someone’s desk or workspace. I try not to disrupt the flow of the lessons, so I “hover” and wave when I enter the “room,” my microphone on mute. Rather than eating lunch with the students in Osler Hall, I now go on walks with my dog, to get some air and exercise, and some time away from my MacBook. It is currently my lifeline; however, we all need breaks and alone time! I feed the Junior School fish, water class plants, and continue to work on writing, research, and keeping up to date with other CIS and CAIS schools to hear their stories and glean from their experiences. I’ve taken a course on online learning, and participated in webinars about various tech tools and assessment practices for e-learning. I continue to work on various committees, such as the CIS Professional Learning/Networks, and the Ontario College of Teachers Investigation Committee. I also spend time debriefing with our teachers, guiding and suggesting, and sometimes just providing a safe place to vent. Mr. Powles and I brainstorm what else we can do to support students’ wellbeing.

This week, during office hours, I have started to meet with students one-on-one to check in and to listen because we aren’t crossing paths in the hall, hanging out in the library, chatting at recess, or after school. Being deliberate and intentional in these times is key to maintaining relationships that have been forged in what seems like another world. These chats have uplifted my spirits, and huge smiles have greeted me when connecting. The stories of family activities (music video creation, home renovations, parent-child runs, sibling art creation, design challenges, baking, reading together, etc.) are touching. The glimpses into students’ lives, pandemic era, are normalizing. Unanimously they’ve agreed that frequent breaks and outdoor time has been welcome. Seeing their classmates and being a part of a community has been the foundation needed for many students. All agree that they want to be with their friends, and they want this time of social distancing to end and to be back at school.

What will we take away from this? What will we have learned? Will our values and priorities shift because of this experience? With what seems to be more questions than answers these days, one thing for sure, we certainly will have explored, in depth, what patience is and pushed up against our boundaries for compassion and empathy.

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