“I’m already a bit tired, but I’m loving it. There’s so much to do and so many things going on.”
This was the response of one of our new Year 7 students when I asked her how things were going. It is not an isolated comment. At the parent information session for Year 7, several families offered a similar remark. I also heard similar things from Year 10 families at their equivalent session last week. Even a young man in Year 12 said the same thing this afternoon.
It prompts me to encourage us all to “pace” ourselves. The school year and the school experience is a long distance event, not a sprint to an imminent finish line. It will take time to get up to speed. Patience is a virtue and, in education, also a strength.
This is only the end of week two and we are still settling in to new routines, new friendship groups, and new systems. Don’t be too worried if they are taking time to “get the hang” of 2020. Depending on the year group, they are being asked to find their way around the campus, to meet new teachers and learn new routines. It’s challenging at any age, but especially for children and young people. Inevitably, this makes the students tired, and tiredness can reduce our coping strategies at times. Some of them love the stimulus of the new things in a new year. Others can become nervous and uncertain, even anxious until they find their new rhythm. This is absolutely normal.
Read the signs
There are few things about which to be watchful to tell if the students are “pacing themselves”. Let me offer you six thoughts that might help to read the signs that they are thriving. They cannot sprint all the way to the HSC and Year 12 (unless they are in Year 12, which really requires a different race tactic now – more about that another time). Settling in to a steady pace and routine is an important early objective.
As our Deputy Head, Matt Macoustra often says, parents are the world experts on their children, so use your knowledge of your child. Consider these six things:
i. Check that their reaction to change is what you’d expect from them. You will know.
ii. Watch for anything “abnormal”; but don’t react too quickly. Watch for patterns over days and weeks, not hours.
iii. Changes and challenges are normal in life. Be empathetic and optimistic about their capacity to manage. Positive messages about their capacity gives strength to their capacity. Highlight the good things they have always been able to do.
iv. Avoid too many open-ended questions such as “what did you do at school today?” These questions are often exhausting for young people because it requires them to interpret your meaning. Similarly, “yes”/”no” questions are often fruitless. Without interrogating them too much, be specific. Eg “How do they teach Maths now? ” Or “What’s it like to work with a device in class?”
v. Assume they are making friends successfully. Avoid excessive questioning. Normalise things and get them into a conversation about what all members of the family did at lunchtime? Include yourself in this.
vi. Listen carefully to their answers. Their words often carry enormous potency. But don’t react. They want to know you love them unconditionally and might say things to provoke a reaction. You’ll know the difference.
Intervene if or when you feel your child needs additional support. Contact the class teacher, the Head of House or Dean, especially if you want to talk things over.
For adults, planning is normal and expected. For a young person, planning means they are thinking about the weekend, or even closer. Don’t worry that this means they will be an irresponsible person as an adult. We are in this for the full race, not just the first laps.
A brilliant start
It has been a brilliant start almost always for almost everyone. I thank the community of the School for making it so. I continue to be concerned for those in their final days of their quarantine period and I thank those families for your patience and consideration during this period. I also thank parents for attending so many events. Please stay connected to one another and enjoy the journey together.