The magnitude of loss

This isn’t the week for facetious comments from me or mildly amusing jokes from aged British comedians. This isn’t a week which has been more tragic than others recently, it’s just that we have passed a significant milestone, in respect of the people / individuals lost to COVID. I think sometimes that when we hear the absolute numbers of people who have died we can forget that there are individual lives / people who have been lost and that there are families and loved ones who have been significantly affected by each and every one of those lives lost. As many commentators, news outlets and individuals will have expressed this week it is nothing short of an utter tragedy. Many of us will know and have loved lost lives. My thoughts are with you all.

I thought it best this week to concentrate on things that we can control and for us to be reminded of the significantly important role that we play in supporting children and young people during this crisis.

We know that many of our children and young people are suffering with high levels of vulnerability at this time; particularly those with social, emotional and mental health needs. Despite our best efforts there are some children or young people who were previously positive about school or college but now may be at risk of becoming disengaged. As a nation, we forget at our peril the value of education, of schools and schooling. That’s not just about ensuring that children and young people achieve the grades they want to achieve in exams – although, for the avoidance of doubt, academic achievement is important and can and should be a vehicle for opening up opportunities. But more widely we remember and reflect upon the fact that our children may be struggling because:

  • They may not be able to see their friends – which triggers a feeling of loneliness or rejection.
  • They’ve lost that safe place that being in school or college offers them – connectivity is lost possibly triggering feelings of rejection or loss.
  • They may be struggling with the home / school or remote / blended learning experience – triggering disengagement or feelings of personal shame and negativity.
  • The media reporting of the tragic loss of life could trigger anxiety – children and young people then don’t have somewhere to go to discuss how they’re feeling
  • They will be seeing people breaking social distancing guidelines – causing feelings of anger and threat.
  • They may just not be receiving the attention that they need at home during these difficult and busy times.

Which allows us to reflect upon what schools and the college offer our children and young people. The school / college environment itself is warm and welcoming. We offer, within that environment, safe spaces for our pupils and students. We know that we are constantly fighting the impact of poverty; that is poverty in absolute terms and poverty of input, expectations, aspirations, access and opportunity.

So what? So what do we do? We know the child and the young person. You get to know them; as human beings, as individuals. We offer personal welfare and consider their individual well-being. We ensure that our blended learning / remote learning experience is as personal as it possibly can be. We talk to children and young people. We find opportunities to allow them to share their thinking and how they are feeling.

In short, we do what we ought to do and we do it day in and day out. We see the child and young person as that individual, as that human being. We offer them what they need to ensure that they can at least cope with this crisis, if not flourish.

‘Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself’.  Walter Anderson

We will get through this. And we will get through this with and for our children and young people. However dark the clouds may look, there is some brightness on the horizon. Keep your eyes focused on that and continue to do what you are doing with and for our children and young people.