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15 May 2020

Outside to Inside

Anita Kleijn, Wellbeing Coordinator, Benjamin Franklin International School
Outside to Inside

Lockdown life in Barcelona Spain began on 15 March 2020. Those students in International schools were confined to their homes but had the privilege of moving into a new virtual learning program.

My personal experience has been in the International education system as Wellbeing Coordinator and 9th/10th Grade Counselor. My focus has been on pastoral care and the wellbeing of our students and staff during tough lockdown conditions. The initial days of lockdown brought with it a roller coaster of emotions for many. Some students were excited by the thought of no school and time in pyjamas with endless netflix and instagram. Others were concerned about loved ones. Some were dreading the prospect of being stuck at home. As students and teachers navigated their way through Google Meets, Google Classroom, Seesaw and other online platforms and learning resources a new routine became established.

This routine provided us and our students with some sense of stability during an uncertain time. It gave us focus and encouraged our students to develop self directedness. During the first few weeks of lockdown attention was given to those students with learning support needs. Some students thrive from working independently without distraction from their peers. Others find it overwhelming. Some have lost motivation. Others procrastinate. When students don’t understand a concept or teacher instructions it can be a genuine challenge and frustration for them. We continually do our best to provide support and adaptations to all of our individual student needs. It’s a challenge doing this virtually. But we are doing what we can with compassion and this is all we can do right now.

Teachers have struggled with finding a balance between live contact time with students and setting realistic assignments and projects. In the first few weeks expectations were sometimes confusing for students. It helps to send out parent, teacher and students surveys to meet regularly so that we can continually adapt our Virtual Learning Program to strike a healthy balance.

My work is primarily in the Secondary School sector and so my focus has been on checking in with as many students individually and providing weekly wellbeing messages and resources for both students and teachers.

Wellbeing Wednesdays (Students):
Each Wednesday the students receive a Wellbeing video message from me. The focus of these messages include the following examples:

Anxiety: A healthy reaction to an uncertain time.

Learning to manage anxiety. To nourish and re nurture the anxiety centre of our brain.

The 3 M’s: Incorporating the following three activities daily:

M ove it (physical exercise)

M ind (meditations and mindfulness)

M ore than me (acts of kindness)

Name it to tame it : Recognising negative thoughts and asking yourself ‘ Is this thought helpful? Is there another way to look at this? Changing a negative thought to a positive thought.

Regular breaks: Take regular breaks from screen and sitting. Encourage blood flow to the brain is important (dancing, singing, exercising, meditating, being creative etc…)

Explore your passion: Encourage trying new things : Cooking, arts/crafts, playing music, recording a podcast etc…

Connect, connect, connect: Connect with friends and family. Remember voice is better than text. Face is better than voice. Use platforms that encourage seeing the faces of friends and family.

Sleep well: Encourage good sleep. Avoid screen use before bed. Lavender oil. Relaxation Practice. Avoid too much sugar and caffeine in diet etc...

Following the video message students receive a slide presentation that includes a variety of resources. Our students have Wellbeing lessons within their curriculum and so have the privilege of learning about the body & brain during times of growth. Most have completed the bmindfulness course and so have a tool box of useful life skills. Therefore I incorporate some of the practices and activities we have done in class and then add some new ones that are relevant for the situation we are in. Students take a look at the slide presentation and choose at least one of the activities (or more) that they would like to do that day. At the end of the activity they fill in their name, chosen activity and reflection comment in the Wellbeing exit ticket form.

Here are some examples of what is in the Wellbeing resource pack:

‘If you have a worry’ meditation
‘Feel good with the elements’ meditation
‘Ground & balance’ meditation
14 mins deep relaxation
7min Yoga to ground & strengthen
7min Yoga for posture
Tick tock dance: Give it a go
Strengthen your core: Get that 6 pack
Let it out: Kick it out!
Random acts of kindness activities

Infused into the students learning we are incorporating relatable inspirations: Nelson Mandela and his 27 years of confinement. Look what he did in the world. Life on a submarine. How does that compare to lockdown? Look at the environment. Positive changes… wowl!

Wellbeing for teachers:

In a couple of days teachers had to completely change their way of working. Not only did they face new work challenges but also learning to deal with strict quarantine conditions. Working parents struggle with full time parenting, teaching and lockdown. Those living alone struggle sitting with their thoughts and missing human contact. Life in Barcelona is very much an outside existence. Suddenly the outside world was being brutally narrowed down to four walls. Many live in the city with no garden or terrace. Six weeks is a significant time to live in strict confinement.

Connecting with each other is key. Every week we create a staff video with images and clips from life in lockdown. The intention is to see each other, remind us that we are all in this together and put a smile on our faces. Within our virtual staff meetings time is given to wellbeing. Similarly to that of students I provide a wellbeing message acknowledging how we feel, emphasising that this will pass and providing teachers with a wellbeing resource pack. This includes meditations, exercises, yoga, useful websites, etc… In addition to this we offer a Friday happy hour after school and meet online. Teachers with small children formed a support group, those living alone formed a support group. I also teach live online relaxation sessions to all staff.

26th April 202 was a significant day. We saw children under 14 years old, finally allowed out for the first time in 6 weeks. On Saturday 2nd May we were permitted to go outside to exercise.

Slow, steady steps to outside living.

Many students are fed up of being stuck inside. These students have sometimes been described as the ‘snowflake’ generation. But now, they are forced to build inner resilience. Our students are materially privileged and have certainly learnt the value of simple things like going outside to walk. They tell me they have learnt humility. They tell me they have learnt what the word gratitude means. We speak about this time being a time to press that reset button to life. A chance to rest, refresh and restart. To learn the skills of adapting, adjusting and accommodating to life’s challenges.

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