This was not how it was supposed to go... yet here we are. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re already doing it better than we did last week. We don’t know how to stay connected and apart, but we have so many more opportunities and inspirations than we did just a few days ago. We are getting better at talking to our kids. Each day we tolerate feeling uncertain and afraid. We are doing the things we thought we could not do.
We generally go through life with predictable routines and familiar expectations as our default version of reality. We work hard to hold on to the familiar and generally succeed. But at some point or another, we are thrust out of this comfortable place and life as we know it drastically changes. When this happens, we feel groundless, unanchored. It can feel terrifying, but it can also create spaces for wisdom, for new ways of looking at the world unburdened by the ways in which we have previously interpreted it.
This last week has certainly changed the way we live our lives, and it is natural to have mixed feelings about the chaos that swirls around us and the lightening-speed alterations we have made to our natural rhythms. For many, anxiety, fear, and resentment predominate—but we can find hope, joy, and meaning in this crisis if we choose to look.
If we, as adults, are feeling a bit inundated by the swiftly changing influx of information related to COVID-19, certainly our children are also picking up on the news. Children are perceptive. Younger children may not be privy to details, yet when they see upset parents, they nonetheless pick up on general feelings of concern. Older children who do understand what they hear on the news are likely discussing this with each other as a way of processing. And while adults have the wisdom and experience to filter the news for importance and accuracy, our children are still learning these skills, so may be more susceptible to feeling fear or repeating inaccuracies.
Caring for vulnerable people (and make no mistake: we are all vulnerable) is the ultimate act of kindness, and it can serve as a model for our ethics and our politics, if we will let it. People loved Kobe because he cared. And I have seen proof of this around campus this week—students of all ages wearing their Bryant jerseys, the #24 sketched carefully in notebooks and folders, conversations on the field during recess, and in the incredibly touching memorial our Middle School students organized last Friday. We need more sources of cohesion, in our culture and our communities, that stitch us together across fractured lines of disagreement.
Last week, Turning Point teachers and staff were fortunate to enjoy a valuable day of professional growth as we set aside time to explore best practices in preschool-8 education. As an independent school, we firmly believe that teachers remain relevant only when they continue learning, and this year’s workshops and roundtables focused on themes we have identified as being important for student learning, well-being, and motivation.
Throughout my personal and professional life—my dissertation research, my high school and undergraduate teaching, my experience leading P-8 educational programs, and my counseling work with adolescent girls—I have seen firsthand hundreds of girls and young women wrestle with the challenge to thrive in a male-dominated society. Through their struggles, these young women continue to impress me with their resilience and fortitude.
Lately, I have been on an Adam Grant binge. Dr. Grant, an organizational psychology professor at the Wharton School of Business, is an expert on how we can channel motivation and meaning to live more generous and creative lives—a perfect perspective to explore as we reflect on 2019 and direct our intentions for the year ahead. If you have 15 minutes (or less!) to spare amid the busyness of the season, check out these quick links to keep your holiday spirits centered.
Our admiration for teachers at Turning Point often lingers in the abstract, so it was powerful for me to see firsthand how our teachers skillfully use reliable routines and expectations to maintain a positive, consistent learning environment. Teachers prepare for as much as they can, but lesson planning does not translate into cruise control in the classroom. Children’s moods are mercurial, so the real skill kicks in when teachers leave room for the inevitable micro-adjustments that need to be made all day long.
I am always struck by the irony of feeling frustrated and resentful at the demands surrounding holidays that are about love and appreciation. The truth is, as humans, we are really good at making flawed assumptions about our futures and are really bad at predicting what will actually make us happy. Therefore, we often don't consider opportunities that will inspire true contentment and fulfillment, like spending time with loved ones, and instead invest in things that look appealing at first but won’t move our happiness needle in an enduring way.