Finding Our Way Together
Head of School Blog
Every Tuesday morning, your children line up outside the Front Office to get their COVID test. As they wait their turn, I watch them chat or share a laugh with a friend and I find the sight deeply reassuring. What I see are students who have come through a challenging time, who are still facing anxiety and uncertainty, but are connecting and finding joy in the moment. This, for me, is the definition of resilience.
You may hear us educators refer to “resilience” often when we talk about a child’s school experience. This word captures our ability to overcome hardship, to persevere in the face of obstacles. It’s what drives my own approach to life, from the work I do as your Head of School to my passion for sailing. It’s also one of the touchstones of a Berkeley Hall education, where a student’s social and emotional well-being is as important as their academic achievements.
During the first few months of our school year, we witnessed how your children have been coping with the pandemic and how it continues to shape them. Overall, I’m proud of the way they have been adapting to coming back to in-person school since last Spring and the way they’ve assimilated safety into their daily lives.
Our students have faced momentous changes and are showing resilience in countless ways. Many grades pivoted from remote learning last year to waking up, getting into uniform, focusing in class and engaging with peers and faculty face-to-face – while wearing masks. They’ve gone from social isolation to daily interaction, with many safety precautions built into their routines.
Community: A Lifeline and A Challenge
Educational psychologists stress the benefits of being part of a close-knit, supportive community. This is what defines the Berkeley Hall experience and I believe makes us stand out among the independent schools in Los Angeles.
Our community saw us through the lockdown and the safe return to school last Spring. Through it all, we found creative ways to stay connected, from our online Gala and pizza parties to delivering gifts to the doorsteps of new families and graduates.
While we continue to support our students during this school year, we also recognize that the effects of the lockdown are still there, that relearning to be in community is a process.
What We Are Seeing
As we observe and collect data on the ongoing impact of the pandemic on our students, we see them being adaptive and mindful in all kinds of ways. But, we also recognize the social and academic struggles they are facing. Here is what we are learning:
Academic gaps and decline in performance in grade-level core subjects
A variety of triggers and anxiety levels
Different responses and levels of ability and maturity to social interactions
How Are Students Coping?
As we work with students in and out of the classroom, we see their resilience in action in the following ways:
They are showing up, willing and ready to learn.
They are finding new ways to interact and communicate while wearing masks and keeping in their cohorts.
They are aware of the importance of safety and are open to adjusting their behavior and expectations.
Each age group has an appropriate understanding of the complex challenges we face in the world.
They are talking about emotions and experiences, and are engaging with teachers and administrators.
How We Are Helping
We are putting emotional health first with our team of skilled teachers and administrators who truly understand how to scaffold students. These are professionals who are committed to making space for emotional health. They honor each student’s truth and acknowledge how their responses and coping skills vary based on personal experiences.
Teachers are supporting students in the following ways:
Paying close attention to social and emotional needs
Meeting students where they are
Acknowledging that students have varying triggers and anxiety levels
Talking to students about their feelings
Helping students learn practical skills to manage anxieties
Providing a loving environment in the classroom and beyond
As we move forward in our school year, we continue to listen, be aware of the data, and program forward accordingly. I’m filled with gratitude for the truly resilient and loving community that we are and I’m excited to watch our students laugh and learn – and “grow in grace” together.