A seven year old's spectacles, an old lady, Coronavirus...and schools!
Updated: May 26, 2020
When our little girl was seven years old she got glasses.
How exciting! She chose frames that she loved (teddy bears?) and when friends and family first saw her they all made sure to pull the exaggerated happy-face that we show young children and declared, “You look FABULOUS!”
That is, until we crossed the road. We went to see Vera, our delightful elderly neighbour. Upon opening the door her face fell, she looked crestfallen and said, “Oh you POOR thing, I’m SO sorry!”
That’s not to criticise a lady in her eighties-she just hadn’t kept up with the latest child psychology.
At school we despair when we see parents at the school gate on a child’s first day refusing to let them go, and saying, “Don’t worry…it will all be ok…I love you…I’ll just wait and watch. Shall we have one more hug? I’ll just look through the window.”
“Leave NOW!” we want to say. “They’ll be fine. You’re making it worse-all this anxiety is transmissible.” We don’t (usually) say this, but it’s true!
Call me harsh, but my children got ushered into school with a quick, “You’re gonna love this. Tell me about it later. Byyyeeeee!” Part of me wanted them to cry out for me, but a bigger part knew better.
All of this is to say that as educators we know how resilient children are, and we know that the frame we put around their experiences shapes their feelings about events.
Which leads me to Coronavirus.
Let me be quick to acknowledge that there are many vulnerable children and families who need as much support as possible, and many others who may find the current situation unsettling.
But that is all the more reason why the framing of events can make a positive contribution. My spidey-sense tingles when I see some teachers online doing videos for pupils saying things such as, “I know this is a really hard time…you’ll need to stay strong now…we are all missing school…it won’t last forever…you can get through this…stay strong!”
As many children gradually return to school, we need to be mindful that we don't presume to frame their experiences through a negative lens. Of course we need to look out for symptoms of distress, but let's keep in mind how many pupils may focus on the lead given school staff. I’m not advocating denying reality, or ignoring those in need, but for many people there are positives in this situation too.
Time to be a bit less…Vera?