January 17th, 2021

Moving into the growth zone

By Submitted Article on May 6, 2020.

My colleagues who have contributed to the “Eye on Education” column following the close of classrooms and movement to learning at home have recognized groups who are to be applauded (parents, teachers, school administrators, students) as well as the positive attributes of people that come to the forefront when presented with a situation characterized by adversity.

Care, compassion for others and hope are driving decisions. I echo the pride in watching educators turn to new pedagogy on a dime and support students in different ways. I also congratulate the parents and students whose homes have turned into places supporting school-based learning. The government of Alberta rolled out a “relaunch strategy” last week that progressively lifts restrictions with attention to health guidelines structured to keep people safe. It was also conveyed by government that school would not resume this school year and that learning will continue to be in the home until the end of June.

Change is difficult and can be exceptionally stressful, especially when health and safety are at risk and livelihoods are jeopardized. I saw a visual a few weeks ago that is helpful in putting a change characterized by fear into context, especially in terms of how we manage our own behaviours and direct positivity externally as much as possible. This visual comes in many forms and can be found by doing a search with, “Who do I want to be during COVID-19?” The continuum begins in the “fear zone” characterized by anger, complaint, hoarding and inability to carefully filter and think about information.

When someone overcomes fear, they move into a “learning zone” characterized by acknowledgement that everyone is trying their best, careful consideration of information, ability to identify personal emotions, and letting go of things that are not in one’s own control. Once embedded in the “learning zone,” it is likely you will move into the “growth zone” where you think of how you can help others, find purpose, show empathy to self and others, show gratefulness, practice calmness, patience, creativity, and focus on relationships. I believe that there are many individuals in Lethbridge and area who are already in the growth zone as evidenced by the incredible support extended to vulnerable individuals and innovative strategies for maintaining the important human element of staying connected and part of a community.

Parents and guardians of children who are learning from home are in a very challenging circumstance. As time goes on the “awesome” novelty of not going to school begins to wear thin, and parents may be experiencing difficulty with behaviours of school work avoidance. I encourage parents to not be hard on themselves and place the priority of supporting fitness, overall well-being, and happiness at the forefront. Children and young adults learn in many ways, and your home can be a rich source of learning and the impetus for growth. Sleep, exercise, calm, and family interaction promote growth. Encouraging curiosity and engaging in discussion promotes critical thinking and increases the important skill of communication. Playing games, exploring outside, and providing materials for creating are healthy. Numeracy is everywhereÉ counting, grouping, finding patterns in real life, measuring, scheduling, filling up for gasÉ paying for groceries. Finally, whenever or wherever possible, read, read, and read some moreÉ encourage the escape and joy that can be found in the magic of story.

There is no doubt we will be back on track in schools in due time. It may look different in a transition period with health protocols, but one thing is for sure – strong bonds of partnership have formed between schools and homes. This bond will support collaboration and help us all move forward with putting things in place that are good for kids.

Cheryl Gilmore is the Superintendent for Lethbridge School Division.

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