We find ourselves in challenging times. On top of the expected pressure of changing government policies, exams, inspections, funding cuts and raised anxiety levels amongst adults and children, we are now also facing the unexpected. The necessity to prepare for an unknown circumstance which changes, not merely daily, but hourly, can feel daunting. Add in the expectation that we as school, college and university professionals will somehow be able to, not only continue to educate the young people in our care, but also inform them of the unknown and explain the inexplicable can seem absolutely impossible. Today’s blog makes no attempt at a reductionist approach; it makes no speculation about possible future developments or political decisions; it makes no suggestions for medical approaches. It merely considers that life-affirming principle upon which all of our school mission statements are ultimately founded: community.
There is nowhere that manages a crisis quite like a school. Our schools support children (and adults) through every possible stage of life - its highs and its lows. Schools around the world are on the front line of managing grief, bereavement and loss. They are leading experts in childhood trauma-management and provide counselling in times of crisis. Teachers, support staff and admin teams regularly manage the outpourings of emotion when a tragedy occurs, and even on occasion find themselves the ones expected to deliver bad news to their charges in an appropriate manner which maintains integrity. Crisis is not new to schools. We know how to manage the unmanageable. We really do.
Our schools are communities, first and foremost. And like all communities, they contain a cross-section of society. All of our school members (including the head, SLT, governors and associated professionals) deserve our support as much as our pupils, parents and carers do. The little kindnesses that we are always promoting are now needed more than ever. Check in with your head teachers - give them a smile, a word of encouragement, a hot cup of tea. Thank your cleaning staff (who are responsible for keeping the school extra-sanitary at this time and will rightly have resulting concerns for their own health and workload). Presume the best in your colleagues and pupils - for every person you consider may be ‘playing the system’ there will be a dozen more fearing for their own health (of which you may be completely unaware) or the health of poorly children or elderly relatives. Cut each other some slack. The vast majority of your school community is just trying to do its best, and some people are far more deeply affected than others.
Above all - look outwards. This time is so pressurised as it is, but you can’t control if your school closes. You can’t control if the exams go ahead and when or in what format. You can’t control who is able to come to work or school and who is not. What you can control is your approach and example. We remain at the front line of character education; children, parents and carers, and colleagues are looking around them to take a cue of how to respond. They are looking to see if we keep in touch with absent colleagues and if we check in with missing pupils. They are looking to see if we respond to worry and panic with patience and compassion. They are looking to see if we are adapting to the changing environment around us. Far from causing extra anxiety, we should be proud of such attention. We are teachers, support staff, administrators, cleaners and leaders. If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s build a community.
You’ve got this.
Fulcrum Learning remains committed to serving its schools and communities. If we can help at all, please do get in contact with us.
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