Ever since January I’ve been keeping a close eye on this whole pandemic craziness. As you likely know by now, I lived and worked overseas for 10 years. During that time I spent three years in Italy and four years in China, coincidentally two of the hardest hit countries early on in the Covid-19 outbreak. Additionally, during my time overseas I built a pretty wide-spanning network of colleagues and friends who also worked in international schools. I share all of that to help give context to the idea of why I’ve been watching this so closely for so long.
A couple months ago, before Gifford and before our baby was born (back when I had time to do things like this), I got in touch with one of my most trusted international friends to talk about how her school handled re-entry. My friend works in Munich, Germany at a very good international school. At the end of last spring, the pandemic had subsided enough in Germany that their school decided to bring students back to the building for the last few weeks of the school year. That is what we talked a lot about when we connected via FaceTime this summer, what it was like coming back.
My friend had three pieces of advice that she said were the keys to successfully coming back to school. I’m going to share the first two with you briefly but then go a little deeper into the third because I see it as the most important for our current context.
First off, and forgive me if you’ve heard this before, people need to wear their masks correctly at all times while maintaining physical distance from others. Second, you’ve heard this one too, wash your hands. For a successful re-entry, we need to have a safe re-entry! These two pieces of advice can’t be stressed enough but the third piece of advice was the one that has had me thinking ever since.
While the first two pieces of advice are easy to accomplish with little effort, this third piece takes a concerted effort and won’t come naturally for some. Normally, at the beginning of the school year this isn’t something I would feel the need to share as everyone is typically very excited for a fresh start, new students, and an organized classroom. However, with all of the craziness, it’s easy to get caught up sometimes.
Her third piece of advice: Always, always, maintain a positive attitude…especially for our students! It would be a lot easier to just join the crowd, voice your displeasures, and sound off about how terrible everything is right now, right? Well, yes it would be easier, a lot easier. In fact, it’s a lot of people’s natural tendency to start with the negative. However, it’s significantly harder to move from a negative mindset to a positive one…so why not start at the positive in the first place?!
I’m, generally speaking, a pretty positive person. However, during this pandemic, I’ve found that it is really easy to slip from a positive perspective to complaining and being negative very quickly. I recently went back and watched one of my favorite TedTalks. It’s not the most popular TEdTalk in history (it does have over 5m views though) but I think it is really valuable and I come back to it occasionally because I love the message and strategies she shares (especially in the last few minutes). I find this video valuable for helping me center myself and start in a positive mindset each day, I’m sharing it with you today because I hope you’ll find it valuable too. The more positive we remain as a community the further we will go together! (I like how her husband holds her accountable, perhaps this is something you can do with your teammates as needed.)
Alison Ledgerwood shared her research and one “simple trick to improve positive thinking” in her TedTalk at UC Davis. If you can find 10 minutes today, definitely watch this. If you don’t have 10 minutes, try watching it at 1.5x speed and it will only take you 7 minutes or so 🙂 It’s WELL worth your time, I promise. We can all use a reminder of the importance of positivity and it doesn’t come easily, as Alison reminds us “you have to work to see the upside!”
Oh, and keep smiling, even under your mask…people can still tell!!!