In navigating the constantly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been reflecting on the research by Dr Virginia Satir who, over a long period of time, explored family responses to the challenge of sudden change. Dr Satir’s findings indicate a common pattern of behaviour that each family experienced as they responded to sudden change. As can be seen on the image below, her study found a staged response to change.

 

Dr Emma Burgess
Dr Emma Burgess

I believe that in many ways, these staged responses resonate with what we have experienced as a learning community as we responded to COVID-19. We can recognise:

  • The initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic as we considered the potential impacts on our personal lives and our learning community.
  • A wonderful collegial and community rejoinder as we all sprung into action towards the end of Term 1. Staff, families and students actively engaged in the herculean task of shifting from face-to-face learning to a distance-learning mode. Families partnered with the School in support of the girls’ learning. We all prepared for a period of lockdown, purchasing items and preparing for a time of isolation and potentially learning from home.
  • Next we found ourselves in the place of navigating ambiguity and uncertainty, as things continually changed, and were unpredictable and uncertain.
  • Gradually, as time is moving forward, we are beginning to gain a sense of clarity, understanding, control and confidence.
  • Thankfully, we are moving towards hope and new beginnings; growth and strength.

As a school, we courageously embraced these changes and challenges with the wellbeing and safety of our girls, staff and community in mind. We have continued high-quality teaching, learning and care.

Benefit-finding and the silver linings

One of the key findings from Dr Savir’s research is that people coped and progressed through the stages towards a place of hope and new beginnings by actively engaging in the process of “benefit finding”.

As a staff, we’ve called these benefits the “silver linings” at Danebank. Last term and this term, staff have shared our “silver lining” experiences together. These have included:

  • Quality time with family
  • Being proud of our achievements as a staff
  • The experience of active collaboration and problem solving with peers
  • Walks
  • Learning a new skill such as baking bread
  • Developing pedagogies that we will use in the future for the benefit of our girls’ learning

We’ve also begun to actively express and engage in the act of gratitude. We know that the expression of gratitude helps improve our mental, physical and relational wellbeing. Several studies have indicated that expressing gratitude influences our sense of happiness, unshackles us from toxic emotions and has lasting effects on the brain. I encourage you to do the same with your families, express your gratitude and find the potential benefits too.

Our staff members have been deeply encouraged by the personal acts of gratitude expressed by our community at this time. Our students wrote and delivered songs of thanks to all staff.

We have received many notes of gratitude from families and friends as well. These notes have uplifted us and spurred us on towards better things.

  • “Thanks for all your efforts to make the distance learning as normal and fun for Student A and her classmates. I think all non-teacher parents have a renewed respect and even awe for what teachers do after the last little while. It’s a very challenging job, to say the least, keeping the younger children engaged.”
  • “I just wanted to say thank you so much to you and the rest of the Danebank staff for all you are doing for our girls in this tough time. The professionalism, love, care and hard work being demonstrated is very much appreciated. I know this cannot be easy for any of you - especially you Dr Burgess as you have just started at the school. I’d also like to give a special “thank you” to Teacher A and Teacher B who have just been amazing to me and my girls. It is wonderful to know that we have the love and support of such gorgeous women and brilliant role models. You are all in my prayers - look after yourselves.”
Our heartfelt thanks to you

As a staff, we would like to also express our deepest gratitude to you, our dear families. Your encouragement, ongoing support and partnership through these times have been remarkable.

As Paul said: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (Philippians 1: 3).