I want to take this opportunity to share some reflections on what has been an incredibly daunting yet very rewarding 2020-21 school year for all of us. We have learned so much over the past 18 months during this global pandemic. Beyond the sharing of common experiences and hardships, we have seen how truly interdependent we are as global citizens of this planet earth we call home.
As a send off into the summer, I wanted to offer key reflections I shared with our students, faculty, and staff at our last Senior School assembly. Perhaps some of these pandemic-related lessons will resonate with you as well.
Family Matters More Than We Realized
“Family. We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.” unknown.
We may have at times been tired of self-isolating with our immediate family, but many of us felt the deep sadness that came when unable to be with our loved ones such as our parents and grandparents. Some who had family members living in care homes where visits were not possible, felt the pain of not being able to see, and care for their loved ones. We worried when family members and friends became ill and the common experience of grief and loss was one felt throughout the world. Above all else, we’ve learned that family matters even more than we realized.
Science has Unleashed a Revolution in Medicine
“One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from COVID is that the scientific community working together can do some pretty amazing things.” John Cooke, M.D.
Typically, “breakthroughs” come after years and years of research. It is interesting to note that supporting the development of the COVID-19 vaccines took more than a decade of research into mRNA vaccines which teach human cells how to make a protein that triggers a specific immune response. In the future, mRNA therapies may help regenerate muscles in failing hearts and target the unique genetics of individual cancers with personalized cancer vaccines. Such mRNA vaccines will also prepare us for future pandemics. A collective scientific community can be very powerful and is indeed necessary.
Self Care Is Not Self-Indulgence
“Not only does self-care have positive outcomes for us, it also is something to establish and maintain in our lives.”
Self-care is vital to well-being — for yourself and for those around you. Activities that once felt indulgent became essential to our health and equilibrium, and that self-care mindset is likely to endure well beyond the pandemic. Whether it is permission to take long bubble baths, developing a new hobby or passion, enjoying herbal tea, or seeing noon come while still in your jammies, “being good to yourself” offers a necessary reprieve from whatever difficulties life brings us.
Loneliness Hurts Health More Than We Thought
“What we’ve learned from COVID is that isolation is everyone’s problem. It doesn’t just happen to older adults; it happens to us all.”
There was such a sense of gratitude when our Yorkies returned to school. We truly missed our Yorkies and that feeling of loneliness was quickly replaced with joy and hopeful optimism as our vibrant Yorkies’ laughter and bustling energy reverberated loudly throughout classrooms, in the hallways, outside on the field and on the playground. Our hearts filled with joy to hear the noise in the hallways and feel the boundless energy that filled classrooms, gymnasiums and playing fields once again. Our students were so grateful for any and all of the modified activities and events because it meant they were together learning and having fun.
We are at our best when we are giving back to others and caring for each other.
The pandemic has highlighted the inequities that exist in the world and as such has given rise to many social justice issues. This is a good thing. This allows us to think beyond ourselves, to seek to understand issues from various perspectives and it invites us to reflect and question our beliefs and to educate ourselves on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have seen this in so many ways from members of our community and we look forward to continuing this important work.
“Consistency of effort over the long run is everything.” Angela Duckwork
There is no doubt that this past year has stretched our collective elastics and has seen us dig deep and be resilient. This is true for our students, our families. Finally, I want to thank our incredible staff, faculty and administration team who have, throughout this entire pandemic, kept a focus on making sure our students were at the center of all of our decisions. Through it all, we kept focused on what was best for our Yorkies including their physical and mental well-being and of course making sure that their learning was as meaningful and engaging as possible. I am so grateful for the unbelievable amount of work our employees put into redesigning events and activities still maintaining our valued traditions, but also finding ways to stay connected within the health and safety restrictions. What a year!!
I want to thank our amazing teachers for their profound care, their resilience in the face of their own struggles, and their perseverance in never giving up on their students and making sure they experienced success.
I also wish to express my deepest gratitude for all of our parents, alumnae, and YHS friends who have played such an important role as Health Care providers and Essential Service Workers. We are truly grateful for your unwavering dedication and tenacity in the face of incredible hardships. I also wish to acknowledge what an incredible role model our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry has been in the face of unrelenting challenges and pressures. I am truly inspired by her caring, strong and steadfast leadership.
Finally, I want to thank our Yorkies, for their heart, their resilience, for caring for one another, for their service to others, for getting back up after you they’d fallen, for accepting tough circumstances, for putting up with so many rules…rules at school, rules at home, rules in society. I am so incredibly proud of all our Yorkies and wish our Grads of 2021 the best of success in their future endeavours.
We wish all our York House families a restorative and joyful summer ahead with family and loved ones.