I hope after this crisis passes that I never underestimate the value of connecting with others in person. Over the last week I have loved the opportunity to connect with students, staff and parents through virtual information sessions, book club, meetings and student lunches. Times may have changed but the importance of continuity and connection have not. Reaching out from our little bubbles of isolation has been a real positive, and while we are not face to face it is connection, and that is what matters.
The School itself is largely empty at the moment. I work from School one day a week currently, and I must admit, I live for that day. The energy of the girls in our supervision programme in the Junior School building and the happy sounds of children in Early Learning brings hope and joy to those of us on campus.
It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed currently; there are so many decisions to be made and so much uncertainty, and everything takes mores steps to achieve, as we all strive for the best outcomes for our families and our community. Life is exhausting for staff, students and parents.
This sense of being overwhelmed reminds me of counsellor and author Lisa Damour’s glitter jar, used to calm teenage girls. If you haven’t yet witnessed one, teenager girls emotional melt downs can be extremely intense. Enter the glitter jar; a jar of water with a hefty dose of glitter and a water tight seal. She tells girls this is their brain right now, and they are going to sit and ‘settle your glitter’, as she shakes the jar and places it on the table. As they watch the glitter settle, it buys time, calming both the adult and the teenager. Sometimes it settles the problem and sometimes it enables the time to discuss the problem. It reminds us that emotions can override the ability to reason.
Believe me, there has been more than a few moments recently when I have had to ‘settle my glitter’, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Damour acknowledges meltdowns are not specific to teenagers, and provides a handy step by step guide on how to manage them. It has been displayed on the fridge in our home, and I have been shown it more than once in recent weeks.
This week Brené Brown reminded us that when we hit the wall, courage can look like scaling it, breaking through it, or building a fort against the wall and taking a nap. Brown notes the importance of modelling to our children what it takes to recognise the invisible wall we all run into hundreds of times in our lives. And how tough it is to choose the right strategy; to scale, to reach for a lift, or to rest. Because this is our current reality, and it is a real struggle for parents and educators as we can’t simply fix it. Our honesty in sharing our experiences and feelings, along with admitting we don’t have all the answers is how we help children to face their own walls. Admitting our vulnerability supports them in being brave.
Last Friday, for various reasons, I had hit the wall, but this changed after a ‘virtual lunch’ with some of our Year 12 girls. Hearing their enthusiastic and positive chatter and their sincere care for others, was the pick me up and the settling of my brain I needed. These girls were more worried about the younger girls and their missed experiences than the uncertainty they face in their own final year. They were truly thankful for spending time with their families but clearly missing friends and extended family. They had the maturity to realise they can’t fix this uncertainty. Their optimism, kindness, gratitude and hope re-centred and re-energised me. Our girls provided a timely reminder to me; you might be a leader, but those you lead often inspire you the most.
Ruyton Girls' School