Health & Well-Being: Blogging Through COVID Together — Returning to In-Class Learning

May 25, 2020

Last week I wrote about the fact that the world is slowly opening up and that we are all making slightly different decisions and that is okay. This week I am going to talk about what things might look like next week when more students are back in school buildings. I also want to share an important and related piece of self-awareness that I experienced this week.

Like many of you, I have been in my house for over two months now. I work at home, I play at home, I do everything at home. I went out for a couple of walks a day and moved away as I passed my neighbours which felt strange but appropriate. Just like many of you, I went to zoom parties (the dancing one is my favourite) and that was a lot of fun for a while as it opened up my social network to people that I had not connected with in years.

Many of you have been out working some or all of the time and I have felt very grateful to you for that. Like many of you there were definitely some positives about the new way of being, but I was also really ready for the world to open back up again.

As we started to talk about going back into school buildings and our workplaces, our leaders started to assure us about all of the measures being taken to create physical safety from this virus that had rocked our world. I felt very grateful to them as I am not a medical or health and safety person but as a parent, teacher and employee that does matter to me.

As a person that generally believes in the concept of letting the roofer do the roofing, I was interested but not worried about heading back into school buildings because I trust the people making the decisions have my best interest at heart. This is not to say that I wouldn’t ask questions about this if I needed some clarification but, in general, things made sense to me and I was excited about heading back and re-connecting with all of the real humans I was missing. Then something unexpected happened. I was walking by my neighbourhood school and I saw a student waiting at the door to enter and I felt a tightening in my chest and a feeling of stress or worry wash over me. I felt nervous for him but on further reflection I realized that if I was walking into that building, I would be feeling it for me too. What was this all about? I am not a person with a lot of worries or fears, I am not concerned about myself or that child getting the virus. I really wasn’t. What was going on?

What was going on was that while I was at home the world was changing and I was not interacting with it. Now I was going into a system that was going to look different and I didn’t know all of the new social rules and protocols.

That did matter to me.

I felt vulnerable and worried that I didn’t know what to do. I am trained in crisis response and one of the things we always tell people when we are responding to a crisis is that these responses are a natural and reasonable response to a highly unusual event. The difference here is only the length of time this particular crisis has occurred over. This was a worry to do with my feeling of emotional safety and in that area, I am a health and safety person. So, with as much self-compassion as I could muster, I went back to what we always teach the children which was a beautiful reminder that social emotional learning is an important, life-long practice.

The details about these social, emotional skills are in some of the previous blog posts but in short form they often involve all three parts of feeling, thinking and acting. As I had already experienced and named how I was feeling and was able to observe some of my thoughts and reframe them from “I have no idea what I am doing” which wasn’t helpful to “I am heading back into a supportive and safe space”, I was now ready for the action part. We often call this, taking the next brave step.

I called up a principal friend of mine and I asked if I could come and visit. I reminded myself that I was safe and welcome. I read all the protocols signs as I went in and yes, I was a little nervous but that was okay and normal. I signed in, I washed my hands I was greeted warmly by people I knew, and others I didn’t know, and they showed me how it worked. By the time I left I felt much better and I know that each time I go back it will be easier and easier. When the rules change again, which they will, I can deal with that too. I am reminded that we are heading back into a place where people care about our physical, and emotional health.

Your experience may be different than mine. It probably will be. But remember that you and your children are safe and cared about whether they are coming into the building or continuing to learn from home. Whatever is going on for you let’s support and walk each other through these new ways of being together one brave step at a time!