Weekly All School Bulletin
May, the most frenetic month of school, is here and certainly living up to its billing. The calendar is jammed with AP testing, senior exams, Prom, the Athletic Banquet, various field trips, health and wellness programs, and special daily schedules to accommodate things like year book distribution, Pre-ACT for the sophomores, the spring music concert, the senior breakfast, and students visiting from a local elementary school.
I found myself feeling the pressure when two different faculty members asked if they could have a few minutes to address the entire US about their professional growth projects, and I told them they should have asked in March or April because there is absolutely no time left on the calendar. As the second teacher left my office disappointed in the fact that they may not get to share their work with students and colleagues, I realized my anxiety was building around the calendar and all the upcoming events so I took a moment to practice a mindfulness technique that I have used in the past. I sat upright in my chair, placed my hands on my thighs, closed my eyes and began to focus on my breathing. I inhaled through my nose, being sure to take a full breath and out through my mouth making sure the entire breath cycle lasted at least 5-7 seconds. I let go of my thoughts of the calendar and focused solely on my breathing, visualizing the oxygen entering my nose, moving down into my lungs and finally exiting through my mouth. I continued this for about a minute. When I was done, I turned toward the calendar and wrote out a short priority list in regards to immediate and long-term tasks that needed to get done; I then got up from my desk and went out into the hall to greet students and check-in with faculty. The reason I write about this moment is with all that is happening in the next month, it is important that as adults we maintain a level of clarity and calmness, as our students take their cues from us. These times can be stressful for both parent and student alike, but if we acknowledge the stress and use techniques like mindfulness and prioritizing exercises to reorient and process that stress, we can help our kids deal with theirs.
When I walked out of my office and into the hall to greet students, I asked my usual questions: "How is it going?", "All good today?", "Anything you need?" Their responses were generic: "It's going well", "Everything's good", "I am all set; thanks for asking." I walked back to my office knowing that some of those students who responded in a positive way were actually feeling the breakneck pace of the year and were a bit overwhelmed. My questions were not asked with the intention of a student bearing their soul in the middle of the hallway, but instead they are asked as a way of building a bridge and letting students know that I am here if they need me. As parents, we need to dive a bit deeper with our dinner table questions with the intention of taking the temperate of our kids' stress level and then helping them navigate ways to relieve that stress and deal with those things that loom large in their minds. Be sure and ask those questions at the dinner table that don't merit a monosyllabic one-word answer, but require them to talk a bit. Some possible questions are: "What was the best part of your day?", "What was challenging for you today?", "What is something you did today that made you proud?", "Tell me about a contribution or comment you made in class?". My son is an expert at turning an open-ended question into a one-word answer so I will follow up with: "What makes you say that?" as a way extend the conversation and dive deeper. Finally, as students share with you both the good and the bad of the day, look to find a place to say: "Well, what's your plan? What are next steps?" and speak with them about strategies to deal with stressful situations and remind them of the resources they have in their teachers and advisors here at Chase.
~ Mr. Palmgren
Head of Upper School