I write from my home office, but very much miss my view of the Bosque Quad. My five-year-old son is banging away on toys in the living room (and begging to watch “shows” every 20 minutes); my 16-year-old stepdaughter is glued to her phone—her only social connection to her friends—and any efforts to try and hold her to standard limited screen time are highly challenged with no school or daily structure; my 19-year-old stepson, filled with adolescent invincibility, is bucking the inconvenient reality of social distancing as it applies to disrupting his daily routine of hanging out with friends. My husband and I, who are usually weekday ships passing in the night with the chaos of two busy careers and the logistics of three children, are now taking turns between the living room role of being the point person trying to “work” while managing our five-year-old and the bedroom/office role of trying to get more focused work done. We have cancelled all of our upcoming trips. We are worried about older family members far away. With all regular routines gone, I keep losing track of what day of the week it is. As I write, our Instacart shopper is texting constantly that most of the items on our grocery list are no longer available. I keep tearing up thinking about the elderly and the immune-compromised who are terrified to leave their homes and wondering how they are managing their groceries and how can I help? And how long could this go on? Is any of this sounding familiar?
This has been a week I could never have imagined. When I attended the National Association of Independent Schools New Heads Institute this summer we talked a lot about leadership and governance, marketing and communications, development and admissions, teaching and learning, and how to balance the demands of this role. We did not talk about how to prepare for a global pandemic; how to support our teachers and students as they shift to an online learning platform; how to keep our communities connected when scattered across the city; how to hold the emotional needs and fears of both students, staffulty, and families; and how to manage our own needs and anxieties in light of our entire worlds turning upside down.
My 14 years of crisis management experience and my foundation in running outdoor education programs have been critically important in recent weeks. These roles gave me a lot of practice in flexibility, adaptability, and relinquishing control to circumstances outside my power. I am trying to logically approach each new challenge and do what I can to guide our community in thoughtful and data-driven decision making. Consider us all on a rugged wilderness expedition right now…we are submitting a high mountain pass, the clouds have rolled in, the ground is unsteady, we can’t see each other through the fog. We need to lean on each other more than ever and we have to know and trust we are all there together, putting one foot in front of the other, and believing in our strength and capacity. One Team. One Family. We will make it. Together.
In the midst of all the challenges, there have also been so many joys this week. Staffulty, students, and parents have been sending lovely and thoughtful emails and reaching out with words of support and encouragement. They are sharing little anecdotes about how they are weathering this storm, how they are adapting to what may slowly become our new normal, and how they are maintaining their connections within our communities. I am so proud of our staffulty. They have bravely risen to the challenge of shifting to online learning and are coming up with dynamic and creative ways to engage their students and advisees. We are putting together samples of the incredible online learning happening that I will share with you next week. Our whole community is also asking how they can help. Bosque’s commitment to service learning does not end with our closure; we have a staffulty task force, led by Service Learning Director Anna Rutins, reaching out to our community partners asking how we can continue to connect and support. As one service partner responded, “I very much appreciate your email. We have had all volunteer groups cancel. This type of outreach means more than you will ever know.” I will send an email to our parents and guardians next week and to our students through an E-Morning Meetings with ideas for how to help from home.
As a way to keep our community together and to maintain a favorite daily ritual, I have been sending our students and staffulty a daily E-Morning Meeting at 8:00 am. Staffulty have been sharing great resources to connect to our traditions of Musical Mondays and Wacky Wednesdays. My 16-year-old is teaching me some new social media skills as I prepare to launch a new weekly student challenge in tomorrow’s “meeting.” If you are interested in following along, I will post the daily E-Morning Meeting content here. Feel free to join in the challenges!
Finally, I want to share my favorite connection tool. It is a video messaging app called Marco Polo that one of my best college friends, who now lives in England, begged me to start using a couple of years ago. I was initially skeptical, but it has completely transformed my feeling of connection to my friends spread around the world, and I am now using it to connect with local friends as we socially distance. Let me know what you think of it.
I am beyond grateful to be a part of this community. Thank you for believing in Bosque, for being brave, and for doing your part to help stop the spread. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.
Stay healthy. Stay Connected.
All the best,
Jessie Barrie, PhD
Head of School