It’s been a rollercoaster of emotion and a marathon of preparation since we said farewell to our students in March and welcomed them back this month. The Lower School students joined us on campus on September 9th, and any sense of tentative caution on their part quickly gave way to happy skipping through the halls (with the appropriate 6 feet of distance between frolickers!) Our teachers and staff are approaching the challenge of this new year with brave resolve, comforted in knowing that we are well prepared, that we will adjust as new information about COVID-19 is known and that we are a team that supports one another.
This week, Upper School students join us on campus after time spent learning from home. This staggered start was important to ensure a smooth transition back to campus but I know the girls are excited to return to the Castle to see their classmates and teachers in person. As was the case with our youngest learners, our older students will have to learn new routines, be diligent in following rules that are designed to keep everyone safe and manage the frustration we know they will feel as safety protocols thwart the inherent adolescent need to congregate and connect.
Not to be forgotten in our back-to-school celebrations is our small group of international students who find themselves in an unfortunate state of limbo. Excited to start the new school year, they must wait at home while our federal and provincial governments decide when entry to international students will be granted across the country. These students, some of them new to Trafalgar, will be supported through Distance Learning until they can arrive at the Castle, and despite the miles between us, we are going to work diligently to ensure they feel the warmth and support of our Trafalgar community.
We don’t know what this year holds but we know we’re looking at a marathon and not a sprint. Our chances for a successful school year will require everyone to persevere, be resolute in following guidelines and place the collective health of our community above individual wants. I’m confident that we can do it but have no illusion that it will be tough. Social-distancing fatigue is a real thing and it will be hard to keep our resolve strong, particularly as Thanksgiving approaches and the temptation of extended family gatherings looms on the horizon.
In our home, we plan to replace our traditional sit-down dinner with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins with a small get-together in the park, knowing that keeping grandma and grandpa safe is more important than a warm meal. So, we’ll pack thermoses of hot chocolate, a tin of homemade pumpkin tarts and warm blankets (depending on the weather). It won’t taste the same as our traditional roast turkey with fixings but it’s sure to be food for the soul.
I admit that, like many, I experience moments when the surrealism of COVID-infused daily life overwhelms me. Is this really happening, my brain thinks? It’s hard not to feel impatient or frustrated or dragged down by the mental weight of a 2 ounce mask and the emotional chasm of 6 feet. In these moments, I try to practice self-care, reminding myself that this won’t last forever. I count the many blessings I have in my life, giving thanks for the small things that make me smile, challenging myself to dig deep to find the always-present silver lining in the cloud. Sleep, exercise (although not enough, I admit) and a stubborn refusal to abandon humour round out my personal mental health first aid kit.
Throughout this year, I know I’ll be appealing to you and your family to stay the course (and get a flu shot!) I hope my words won’t sound preachy, but if they do please remember that my pleas come from a good place. I care about the health of everyone in our community, and particularly recognize the commitment of our faculty who will be caring for your daughter while worrying about the health of their own families. We’re all in this together so we must keep our collective resolve strong. Let’s support one another with encouraging words, gentle reminders (as required), a bit of cajoling (if necessary) and the kindness that I hope remains ever present across our Trafalgar community.
And finally, please know that if I really must live through a pandemic, I’m glad I’m living through it with all of you!