With the news of lockdown being extended, many of us are running low – low on energy, low on enthusiasm and feeling low more broadly. Whilst it is really important that we allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling, and that we give permission to our young people to do the same, it is even more important to seek and enjoy moments of recharge and light. Working together to find our way through what feels like a COVID-quagmire is so important.
It was with this in mind that a small group of staff worked across the first weekend of this latest lockdown to build an Online Olympics Festival – both in acknowledgement of this world event, but also to allow our students the opportunity to connect, to collaborate, to be silly and to have some fun. Our day opened with Michael Nelson welcoming students, some Olympics-themed Morning Movement from Jack Joslin – his dry-land free-style was a sight to behold! – and continued with a live interview with two of our own alumni-Olympians, Hana Basic and Jess Hansen. These young women were so impressive as they openly and articulately shared with us their disappointments and their processes for working through these. There were some important messages for our students about allowing yourself to feel what you need to, reaching out to your support networks, and resetting your expectations and your goals.
Students could then choose from a range of ‘Individual Events’ which included making Olympic Rings, creating a Pet Olympics, or designing the most epic ‘the Floor is Lava’ course possible. It was both hilarious and uplifting to see what students shared on their House pages. Students then worked within their Mentor Groups on assigned roles, such as representing the IOC, being a Sports Scientist or an Olympic Designer. Heads of House reported back that there was some hefty competition within their groups, and it was heartening to see and read some of the groups’ contributions. Students could also reflect on moments they found to be the most inspiring over the course of the Olympics – from Simone Biles and her decision to put her mental health ahead of competition, Nicola McDermott breaking her own PB and the Australian record for high-jump or Cedric Dubler sacrificing his own performance to shout encouragement in Ash Maloney’s ear – and it is these moments that I encourage you to remind yourselves and your young person of as we face further uncertainty and further angst about what the future holds.
We are once again in a world where our broad connections, and thus confirmation of our ‘place’ in our world has become a bit fuzzy. It is important therefore, that we seek to find connection outside of our bubbles – whether that be intentionally connecting with nature, connecting online or through being active outside with a friend. Despite the fact that staying inside or being alone in our bedrooms might be the easier options, we have to encourage one another to keep on keeping on – make a walking date or a bike-riding date or a virtual lunch date so that we are engaging with other people in our broader community, having conversations, sharing our feelings and connecting. Make time to sit and watch something on TV as a family where devices are not allowed – watch Survivor, The Block, The Voice or the Paralympics when they start. What is important is that we are feeling connected, finding some joy and being able to laugh and be silly. Making time and space for these small but intentional moments will absolutely help us get to other side of this latest lockdown (and through the next, should there be one).
All parents/carers will have received an email from Middle School containing a link to a Wellbeing Check-in for them to complete about their child/children. If you have not yet done so, please take the time to fill this in so that we can ensure we are working in partnership with you to do what we can to support your young person. You may also consider signing up to one of the Black Dog Institute’s mental health webinars over the next couple of weeks to learn more about how to support your young people and yourself.
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Wellbeing