I hope that, despite the intense conditions of the lock-down, you are all well and are managing the long emergency with a certain serenity and balance.
As we are going to continue the next few weeks of restrictive measures and virtual learning, the theme of psycho-physical well-being increasingly takes on a central role. For this reason we have decided to dedicate this edition of the newsletter to the well-being of all the stakeholders of our school community. We are experiencing unprecedented situations, we are measuring ourselves with new emotions and experiences, we are called to learn and teach in a different way, we are experiencing new rhythms of our days. Everyone – students teachers and parents – are put to the test. Keeping your nerves strong, staying positive and feeling supported and united are of fundamental importance. From my readings on this theme I have extrapolated some food for thought, a series of resources and links for further information which I report in this edition.
My warmest wishes for a peaceful weekend,
Negative feelings and fears – helping our children
A visit to the supermarket, news on television, a phone call received from distant friends … simple actions that can be the source of fears, anxieties and negative feelings during this period. When we become afraid of everything around us, how can we reassure our children?
When we are baffled by the question “Am I safe?” how can we help children describe the feeling of fear?
For many, when the danger is invisible or incalculable – when the enemy or the threat cannot be seen, but the tangible results can – fear can become even more intense to the point of being an experience of terror. Media information leads us to see every cough, sneeze, breath, anything touched by the community with fear and terror.
The underlying suspicion and belief that that danger may be in the vicinity can trigger fear and depressive behaviors. Fear is a dangerous engine and often the spark for a variety of dangerous behaviors and negative feelings. In some cases, fear and suspicion can rise to the level of irrationality.
So what can be done? A clearer understanding of how we adults, as individuals and societies, react when affected by a health crisis can lead to a better understanding of how to take care of ourselves and prevent a biological epidemic from becoming a mental health epidemic. Extrapolated from my recent readings, here are some simple tips to find the balance and strength to face negative feelings.
- Recognize that the tasks of daily life require more energy when carried out against the backdrop of an epidemic. Find out what you can let go or put off some things and spend more time looking after yourself.
- Identify what cannot be under our control. Things that cannot be controlled must be let go.
- Engage in activities that develop our equanimity (calm and being calm, especially in a difficult situation,such as yoga, awareness and meditation).
- Turn off the screens for several hours a day to engage in exercise, reading or other pleasant hobbies.
- Increase the connection with our loved ones by spending time together and expressing affection.
- Find support with a mentor, wise friend, doctor, or mental health professional if you find that concerns about the virus interfere with your ability to engage in the responsibilities of everyday life.
- Seeking opportunities to engage in “random acts of kindness” that will increase our positive feelings and strengthen the social fabric that unites us as a community.
- Listen to the information provided by friends and family and share the information with others with discretion. It’s true? What is the source? Is it useful or does it cause anxiety?
- When spending time inquiring about Coronavirus, be sure to spend more time on official sites that provide reliable risk information and guidance on how to deal with it.
Talk to your child about what’s going on – Adults keep up to date on the coronavirus epidemic from reliable sources, however children may not have access to the same reliable information in a way they can understand. It is important for you as parents to speak to your children, using age-appropriate language, about coronavirus. When children have a greater understanding of what’s going on, their anxiety often decreases. When asked questions that you do not have the answer to, , it is good for us adults to say, “I don’t know, but doctors and researchers from all over the world are trying to find the answers”
Organize life in Lockdown
In Italy and abroad, 3 billion people are in quarantine. It is important for parents to be aware of your child’s emotions and energy levels. They may have low energy, lack of patience, low stress tolerance and difficulty concentrating. These behaviors are normal and there are some things that can help counteract the feeling of being locked up in the house:
- Exercise and do some physical activity when and where possible.
- Maintain normal daily routines and keep healthy eating patterns as much as possible. Routine and familiarity in times of uncertainty provide a sense of security.
- Avoid too much time on the screen or use technology as a distraction to pass the time. Stimulate the minds with board games, crafts , drawing, reading and crossword puzzles. Manual activity helps us feel productive and reduces feelings of isolation and helplessness.
- It is healthy to schedule timeouts from each other. We accept the fact that conflicts and discussions between siblings, parents and children and between adults can arise. It may be necessary to allow time to spend alone, away from family members to relax and reflect.
What are we doing at ISC to support personal well-being? Here are some examples…
We have activated a series of mini-projects for students: through the use of the Arts and Design they offer a non-academic focus and stimulate creativity and collaboration. The moments of virtual assembly in primary and Homeroom time in secondary have an important place in the weekly timetable. Ms. Evans is offering wonderful Mindfulness sessions for teachers every Monday. School psychologist Ms. Ferrari is available for individual consultations. I share with you here the link of some of her videos geared towards the students.
- Ms Ferrari says hello: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1yndqjUP8l9FNZJ0qpOoQKOrOc7taTRQa
- Video for our primary students: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_o2jswzR48-gXrNupialTgPx_dMVCKzC
- Video for our secondary students: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aA9asvDXnCiOpCXkPf5zOnqZ2vyrRANe
I will also find a resource sent by Ms. Ferrari for all of us / you uploaded on the edition of the newsletter: Black Dog Institute Tips To Manage Anxiety During Times Of Uncertainty
The life of the online teacher
I would like to draw attention to the enormous work that our teachers are doing and to the same need for them to feel safe, balanced and positive. Their well-being, as well as that of our students, is our priority. As with most people in smart working, they are online all day for lessons, preparation of materials and homework corrections, and then of course there are meetings. The division between work and life at home is a great challenge. Many are also parents and the care of their children intertwines and complicates their responsibilities. Being away from home, worried about their distant family members, living in isolation without even the comfort of colleagues and friends certainly has a strong impact on their emotional strength. Showing them understanding and empathy is sometimes not even enough and unfortunately we are powerless to be able to offer concrete help.
Despite this, every day they animate the lives of our students, they amaze us with their creativity, they engage in digital teaching that is a new territory for everyone, and they work beyond normal school hours, putting passion into it and accepting the current difficult challenge. Personally, I feel very close to them and grateful for all the effort. I thank those of you who have found a moment to send them a message of appreciation, encouragement or solidarity.
Meetings with parents, class representatives
I would like to thank the parent class representatives who in two separate virtual meetings (Primary and Secondary School) provided the Leadership Team with valuable feedback on the progress of virtual learning. Your feedback helps us to enter “your homes” which are now “classes” of our students and to understand how to refine the effectiveness of digital lessons.
In brief, our common objectives in Primary and Secondary will be:
- increase student / teacher and student / student interactivity;
- consider academically safe environments and strategies for assessing learning
Very shortly, all parents and students will receive a questionnaire prepared by Inspired to collect feedback regarding the digital teaching / learning of the children..
It was emotional to see you all again even if only on a small screen. I can’t wait to resume our coffee mornings.
TIPS taken from the Inspired Virtual Guide
Reducing the impact of screen time during the Virtual School Environment
Screen time solutions to maintaining a Virtual School Environment
Ensure all children have at least one physical activity every day
- Play sport
- Dance to their favourite song
Remove television sets, iPads and other devices from bedrooms
Reduce time spent watching television or playing on games consoles
Ensure that all children get at least 8 hours sleep
Learning environment-based solutions to maintaining a Virtual School Environment
Balance your screen brightness with your workplace
- Do not work in a dimly lit room, with a bright screen.
- Try to be in a mid-lit room, with the computer screen away from a window.
- Use a desk lamp to aid lighting within a room.
- Change your display brightness within your computer’s system settings
Posture is key
- Working at a computer for any period of time should be well planned
- Sit comfortably
- Do not strain your neck
- Ensure that the you stare straight at the computer, to make sure the monitor is at eye level
- Do not sit too close to the computer screen
Take frequent breaks
- As an absolute minimum you should stand up and move around
- Stretch your body
- Preferably get some fresh air and walk around outside
Focus on other things within a room every 20 minutes
- Do not stare at a computer screen too long.
- Ensure that you regularly focus on something else in the room at a greater distance.
- This will ensure your eyes do not get strained
Device based solutions to maintaining a Virtual School Environment
Adjust your monitor refresh rate
- Some monitors have a low refresh rate which makes them flicker, although not always noticeably
- A low refresh rate can cause eye strain
- Set the refresh rate as high as possible in your Display properties
Don’t read font that is too small
- Squinting can cause eye strain and produce headaches
- Enlarge text using the zoom function to ensure that you can read it easily
Use a screen filter
- Either apply a physical screen filter or use the device’s settings to reduce the blue light from the screen.
- Software called Flux is a free download for Windows
Keep your screen clean
Ensure that you clean your screen and make sure it is not covered in dust
Some additional eResources
Some links here:
Some files here: