Flattening the curve has brought out the best in people, and the worst. Some have found social distancing incredibly challenging and testing, while others have appreciated and enjoyed the slower pace. Most of us have changed our habits or behaviours in some way, either to cope with distress or boredom, or to revel in the slower pace isolation brings. Regardless of the motivation, many of our new lifestyle choices have proven beneficial. We have enjoyed having more time available, increased flexibility, a sense of calmness, or improved strength and resilience. Therefore, before social distancing ends, it can be helpful to reflect on what we have discovered about ourselves, our families and our lives, and consider what has been the silver lining in the flattening of the curve?
While each doing our bit to flatten the curve, many of us have learned a plethora of new skills while developing insights and understandings we otherwise might not have. For some, these include the etiquette (and potential disaster, depending on the camera angle) of Zooming, how to attend church services, book-clubs and board meetings from our lounge room, skills in DIY home grooming, or perhaps how to perfect ‘profess-leisure’ wear—the art of pairing a blazer with yoga pants and thongs, the perfect attire for the working-from-home professional.
As a society, we have revealed that in times of a pandemic we react by home baking, shopping at Bunnings and hoarding toilet paper. One can only imagine what future historians will make of this. Our children, perhaps first delighted to be permitted extra time on their devices, have learned that technology cannot in fact replace face-to-face contact with teachers, family or friends. Further, many children have dusted off long forgotten bicycles, roller skates, and tennis balls, to justify ‘exercising’ while spending time with a friend in the local park. Others, driven by boredom or overexposure to screens, have engaged in jigsaw puzzles or board games, activities resonating with parents and grandparents, reminding them of how they spent their youth before Steve Jobs invented Apple. Ironically, while permitted to stay indoors dependent on technology for almost everything, flattening the curve has invited our children to put down their screens and seek entertainment in creative, playful and novel ways.
This is not to suggest that our girls have not struggled. Some have struggled considerably and they will already be pressing their blazers and packing their lunchboxes in anticipation of returning to the Main Campus. Yet other girls have thrived at home and will be less keen to return. We recently surveyed girls about their experience of remote learning and social distancing. Of the 950 girls who responded, half indicated they were ‘thriving’ in the remote learning experience and 60 per cent felt they had adjusted very well to the situation. Positive aspects endorsed by girls included spending more time at home (53 per cent), being able to engage in other passions (58 per cent) and having more quality time with family (40 per cent). Perhaps of most benefit, was that almost half of the students indicated they were getting better sleep. Given the wealth of negative outcomes associated with a lack of sleep, this benefit may prove to be lined not just with silver, but gold. In the modern world where ‘busy is the new black’, it is common to hear girls describe being over-committed, stressed and exhausted. While devastating to many, the absence of co-curricular activities, hobbies and part-time jobs has provided the opportunity to hit pause on this frenetic lifestyle, and many girls have reaped the benefits of slowing down. The fact that everyone is doing the same, means there are minimal feelings of FOMO. Thus, it has given those who need it, a sense of permission to be still, to sit, to be unproductive, perhaps at times even lazy or bored. For some girls, this will be their very first dose of this, and as such, can prove quite traumatic. Paradoxically, these are the very girls who will actually benefit the most by having the opportunity to experience this stillness, to bear it and to learn about themselves from it.
There is little doubt that the start of 2020 has been less than ideal. However, as Principal, Ms Euler, has reminded us, we are only one third of the way through the year. We are all hopeful that the best is yet to come. If you are yet to be convinced of the silver lining in your flattening of the curve, then consider the question: ‘What type of adult you would like your daughter to become?’. If you have mentioned independent, resilient, happy, successful, confident, strong, flexible, creative, adaptable, courageous or able to cope with disappointment, then rest assured that the past six weeks has provided the experience for these dispositions to develop like nothing that could be orchestrated at school. While 2020 has so far proved unpredictable, frustrating and disappointing, it also may turn out to be the year that shapes the character and builds the resiliency of your daughter like no other.
Director of Counselling
Mrs Jody Forbes