Will Newman

Optimism in the face of the Covid-19 Crisis

Dear Parents

We are living through one of the greatest crises of living memory and our response to this challenge will shape us all, but particularly our children. Let me begin by recognising the pain, suffering and hardship that so many of us are facing, especially those working on the very front line of the NHS. I hope that my thoughts on staying positive are not seen as an attempt to trivialise this; they are not.

However, I do think that our role as teachers is to remain upbeat, whilst supporting those children who are really struggling. Strangely, the crisis also offers a genuine opportunity for growth and creativity; we have seen an awful lot of this already on social media. Sedberghians have rallied round, been resilient and made the very best of a bad situation. I have been very proud of the whole community. Proud, but not surprised.

Having never heard the phrase, ‘herd immunity’ a month ago (really, just a month?), I know find myself explaining it to my mother! Stretching this concept to the School, it’s so important to stay positive and act as the antidote to the awful headlines now dominating our news. To protect our children from any possibility of long term damage.

Folk are often referred to as either ‘glass half empty’ or ‘glass half full’, as if we are born this way. As if it is in our DNA. The truth is that not only can optimism be learned, but that our positive ‘self talk’ can directly influence both our mental and physical health.

What is known as our ‘explanatory style’ must stress that problems are temporary, specific and external. In other words, we must:

Keep our eyes on the prize. Discuss all the amazing things we are going to do when this has passed.

Control the controllables. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Blame coronavirus. Households across the land will face pinch points over the coming weeks. It’s nobody’s fault but the virus.

By teaching children to interpret the crisis in this way, not only will we protect them from a more global ‘learned helplessness’, but can actually even improve their optimism on a permanent basis. Managed properly, this generation could emerge better able to deal with anything that may subsequently come their way.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay Sedbergh.

Will

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