EXECUTIVE PRINCIPAL'S LETTER
23 April 2020
Good morning Parents of St Mary’s
This week’s newsletter is dedicated to you. We want to acknowledge the hard work you are doing and the support role you are playing for your daughters at this time. When we realised what was coming down the road for us as a school, we workshopped, planned, trained and then established teams to take on the workload and the change process. None of that happened for parents. It was assumed that parents would adapt, figure it out and continue being the loving, supportive role models that parents are supposed to be. So I want to say “Thank you” and also apologise for being one of those who assumed that you would know what to do.
What has become clearer to me over the last week is that we can help you, as parents, more. By encouraging you to form “teams” amongst yourselves, you will also feel empowered and less vulnerable when making choices and as you plan for the future. Our teachers are working harder than ever and are having to evaluate not the pupils, but the process, much more than normal. This is a steep learning curve for everyone. I have included in this newsletter some articles which, instead of posting the link, I have copied into the newsletter so that you can read it all in one place. For that reason and to honour the authors, I have left as much formatting in and the hyperlinks so they still receive the exposure they expected. The first is about the challenges around parenting when fear, grief and depression are present. The original can be found here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/one-truth-that-helps-my-family-likeno-other-fear-wears-disguises The second one is about burnout and what to watch for in yourselves. The original can be found here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-15/signs-you-may-be-burning-outand-what-to-do-about-it Both of these articles like many others being written at the moment point to the issue of our humanness. I use that word instead of humanity because I think it has a better connotation to it; that we should be authentically, humbly, vulnerably and simply, human.
Last week I attended a Harvard Webinar entitled: Socially Distant – and more connected than ever. These are for free and there is a series of webinars taking place each Wednesday at 9pm our time. You can register for them on the Harvard website. The points raised in this particular discussion that I thought were worth sharing included the following:
- We need at least one authentic human connection in times of stress. Quite often this is a parent or relative or partner. We need at least one that we trust and with whom we can be vulnerable.
- “Connection” is made up of many small moments that are scattered through our day, even a few seconds when we make eye contact or share a joke or a sigh. Social distancing has impacted that. We need to re-establish those in our current situation to stay emotionally healthy. It needs to be intentional as our circumstances have made it harder for it to be incidental.
- We have to show grace at this time and temper our expectations of one another. The situation is so different and new, that we need to acknowledge that we are all learning how to cope in this new context. Things don’t have to be perfect to be effective.
- Technology is playing a major role in our lives at the moment. A guiding question for the way we use it should be: “How is the technology/app/activity etc. enriching our relationships.” If it isn’t then it’s time to review how we are using the technology.
- The inequality gap is becoming more evident through the lockdown process. A question we should be asking of our communities and ourselves, is, “How can those who are privileged help those who are not?”. This is more important than we may realise given the exponential growth of the issues within poverty.
- Do not ignore those closest to you: this includes your neighbours.
- We all have something to give.
- Teenagers strive to be autonomous and this lockdown has essentially limited that enormously. Establish routines at home to maintain healthy connections with teenagers. Share something fun, light-hearted or personal at meals or other set times to bring about a predictability to the relationship. It is easier for them to manage in this way.
- At this time, teenagers are learning how adults cope with stress, uncertainty and loss.
- Teachers are learning new ways to connect and support their pupils. A new respect for teachers and teaching is emerging. We need to be sensitive to what teachers are going through at the moment.
- Graeme Codrington, who many of you will know held a webinar on Life after Covid-19, has offered to help businesses plan for beyond this pandemic considering the new normal that will emerge. If you would like to watch it, it is recorded and available here: https://event.webinarjam.com/t/click/340w0fl7h27bzxb3xmskrvi7xc0 The advice for businesses is to take a fresh view of what the market/customers want and need given the new set of circumstances they have and then adapt. In this process, using scenario planning is recommended to help understand the future better. The three scenarios that should be articulated are:1. What is the worst case scenario?2. What is the best case scenario and,3. What is the most likely scenario?
This exercise will help create an understanding of what the breadth of the problem/opportunity could be and where it is best to aim, or where it is best to begin. Taking a personal inventory is also important to identify what we each will need to unlearn and relearn so that we can continue to be effective and successful.
On a more personal note, a lesson I have learned, or understood with deeper clarity, these last few weeks, is to measure what matters in the best possible way. This means that instead of measuring work in terms of the time spent on a task, measure it by looking at the quality of the output. This may sound obvious, but when we are in an environment governed by starting times and ending times, it is easy to stay busy and believe that one is being productive.
We know from research that Parkinson’s Law is true. If you give a task a certain amount of time and resources then usually it will consume all that time and resources, and sometimes a bit more. However, with the more fluid circumstances we find ourselves in, we have to self-manage much more and can, in theory, start and stop whenever we want. We have to decide when it is “good enough” and when it needs more time and effort. Being “busy” is the modern malaise and never having enough time is a component of our dissatisfaction with life. I hope this time of heightened self-management is helping you to find a greater sense of agency and confidence in your ability to make decisions that are truly good for you. We might be able to break free of the treadmill or hamster-wheel lifestyle by doing so and go into life beyond lockdown with a healthier “normal”. Thank you again for the role you are playing. It has never been as important as it is now to work together as partners in educating our girls.
Stay strong and healthy; keep your sense of humour.