Being “Social” Has Never Been More Important!
What’s happening? Your instagram feed is full of school news; so is Facebook and so is Twitter. You have received emails from everyone at school, even people you didn’t know existed and ancient Deputy Heads have started writing blogs!
I wonder whether this seems like a good thing to you, or have you sometimes fervently wished we’d go away? Don’t answer that – I’ll tell you why it’s necessary. It’s all about staying connected, it’s about wellbeing, and it’s because we are part of a community.
Parental and family relationships are, of course, central to the well-being of adolescents. It will not surprise any of us that a wealth of research shows that good family relationships create a buffer around young people, contributing to better mental wellbeing, resilience, good health and academic engagement. The same research tells us that schools play an enormous part in this too and that, together, schools and parents can provide the love, security and connectedness that will pay dividends well into adulthood.
When we are at school, all the communal events help us to feel connected. We come together as a community in chapel and in assemblies, as well as in House meetings. The House competitions encourage camaraderie and students belong to many different groups within the larger community. Students see their friends daily face to face and House staff and tutors catch up with everyone most days. In these regular meetings we can pick up when someone is feeling low and we can share in the days when something great has happened. The Medical Centre staff do so much more than sticking plaster, and students know the nurses are there to listen to those things they might feel silly saying to anyone else. This sense of community is a strong protective factor for young people. Every child, whether confident and relatively content or oppositional and angry, feels so much more secure when they know that, aside from family, there is at least one teacher who always holds them, and their wellbeing, in mind.
In thinking long and hard about how to do what a good school does when it’s members cannot be together, we realised that in order to look after each other during this dislocated time, we must strive to maintain both the sense of connection and the security of community; not just for the students, but also for parents and staff.
One way to maintain the community is through House meetings. On Monday morning all the tutors held live Google Meetings with their tutees. Everyone reported great joy at being reunited and we hope that is how it felt at home. On Wednesday and Friday, whole Houses met via the internet and worked on the house spirit. There were quizzes, videos, jokes as well as more serious thoughts and reflections. Wolverton thought about Winnie the Pooh!
Another way to remain connected is by sharing news, puzzles, blogs, challenges, quizzes, the Daily Notice and all the different things we have bombarded you with so far.
First and foremost we want the students to engage, to have fun and to have routines and community in their lives to help them to keep physically and mentally healthy. We want them to enjoy learning and also to enjoy being connected. We want them to know that if they need another adult for support, we are here as usual. But in addition, we would like parents and families to join in and also to reciprocate and send us news and updates from wherever you are.
These are difficult times and everyone is calling on their reserves of resilience. We are sure that having a connected community is a source of strength and comfort.
This is why we make no apology for the volume of contact and – in the spirit of engagement – I will look forward to seeing everyone’s entry to the forthcoming poetry writing competition!
Deputy Head Pastoral
(With thanks to Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, AA Milne and EH Shepard)