Learning in a Time of Coronavirus

Renewing a Sense of Ownership

So here we are, after the decision to go with another three weeks of school closures, at least. It’s a sensible option – why take unnecessary chances now that we have the light of a vaccine at the end of the tunnel? This week, I’ve seen feelings of extreme relief at the news that vulnerable family members will be receiving the vaccine, along with feelings of extreme anxiety from a relative working in childcare who was terrified to go back to work on Monday. Heightened emotions that are the new normal now.

Amidst those highs and lows, Wicklow Sudbury School is somewhere in the middle. There will be students and staff who will be gutted we’re not back, and others more circumspect.

For me, it’s always worth looking for the opportunities in these situations, and having a bit more time this month affords us a big chance to get ahead of the game on a lot of things, some of which I’ll discuss below.

Play is the glue that binds us

It’s been a unique year for us, with more student turnover than in any other year by far. A half dozen students who had grown into very important roles holding the culture in the school and helping newer students all graduated last Summer. Nine more have joined, and while that may not seem like a big transition in a world where thirty plus students per classroom is par for the course, a democratic school is very different in its culture and its norms compared to the rest of our society. When community members have been immersed in a culture of hierarchy and competition and continue to live in a culture outside school that is defined by those ideas, there is a real balancing act to be had in growing and maintaining a culture of empathy, trust and safety together. When students graduate, they take with them three or four years of conversations about the workings of the school, trust-building experiences, and so on.