Physically, but NOT Socially, Distant

As you know we’ve been doing a lot of planning in preparation for an eventual return of students to our building.  The vast majority of that planning has been logistics – hallway traffic flow, room setup, cafeteria capacity, parent drop off, etc.  One of the goals with each of these logistical topics is to do our best to maintain a safe amount of space between people.  A term that has become rather popular to describe the process of creating a safe amount of space is “social distancing”.  It is a term I’ve come to despise, mostly because when taken literally is it the exact opposite of what we should be doing right now! 

The space that we need to be creating between humans is not “social” in nature but rather “physical”.  We should be (and I will be) calling the process of ensuring a safe amount of actual, physical space between people “physical distancing”.  We need the opposite of “social distancing” right now, we need to be “social connecting”.

COVID-19 has led many people to feel isolated and, in some terrible cases, actually be isolated from other humans.  If I had to guess, and if one could somehow quantify it, these past 10 months have been devastating for the overall mental health of the world.  We have all been isolated and kept from our normal social interactions in some way, shape, or form.  I’m sure we could all share stories, either our own or of friends and family, about the emotional struggles suffered during these times of stay-at-home orders, remote schooling, and reduced or even canceled family gatherings.  The last thing we need right now is to further socially distance ourselves!

As we move forward you’ll hear/read the phrase “physically distance” with regard to our efforts to maintain safe amounts of space between each other here at Gifford.  I would also like that phrase to remind you that we need to be working hard, for ourselves and our students, to connect socially (while remaining physically distanced of course).  Many of you have been working hard to create a remotely-social environment for you and your students.  I’ve seen a lot of opportunities for students to hang out remotely at lunch time, during office hours, before school, and after school.  I love joining in on the wide variety of morning meeting rituals that create valuable opportunities for students to share and connect with you and their classmates.  All of these examples help create a socially-connected school community; that is who we are and who we will continue to be once we move beyond the need to be a physically distant community. 

This week we can return to the building for the first time since Thanksgiving and I’ve never been more mindful of the need for social connection.  Working remotely has been very challenging for me and I can only imagine the same is true for many of you.  While we will continue to observe safe physical distancing measures, I want to encourage you to create opportunities to engage socially with your colleagues.  Wear your masks, stay safely distanced, but connect with others.  While we work to physically distance, I’d like us to also work to socially connect (safely, of course!)  Gifford is strong because we are a community, a tightly knit community…we must work to persist as such despite the importance of physical distancing.

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