Returning to school has been a joy. How wonderful it is to sit in my office or walk through the campus and hear the sounds of vigorous handball negotiations, games of tip, and (best of all) the sound of children's laughter! After our long winter in lockdown, with most of us having very restricted contact with friends and family, watching the children rediscovering each other is fascinating and beautiful.
Returning to school and life after lockdown has also been an enormous shift. There is no doubt that finding 'normal' again can be challenging as well as wonderful. At school, we initially saw some homesickness in a few younger children while our older students are learning again how to manage their energy within the rhythms of their regular timetables.
There are many excellent resources available to support families at times of change such as this.
This term, Our Parent Education series focuses on the theme "Out of Home and into the World" https://glo.glenaeon.nsw.edu.au/homepage/1397 . And Student Wellbeing Coordinator Emily Fam has compiled strategies and ideas which parents and students can find on the GLO Health and Wellbeing page https://glo.glenaeon.nsw.edu.au/homepage/919.
Sometimes though, I look a little closer to home when I'm managing a significant shift. Juliette Najar was my paternal grandmother, and when I was a child, she represented a place of calm in a sometimes uncertain world. She was born the third of five children in Tripoli, Lebanon, in about 1917 (she was always pretty hazy about her birth date). I was her first grandchild and, of course, the favourite (just ask my brother and our six cousins)! We called her Sittee, which is Arabic for Grandma, and she was, in short, magnificent! Elegant, composed, and with much to teach about making a child feel safe and secure.
Here's a little of what I learned from her:
Sit and listen
Sittee would sometimes sit right next to me, put her hand on my hand and say, "Yes, darling?".
I mostly didn't have much to say, but I knew I could if I did – and that made all the difference.
I know now that children and young people need our unguarded presence – someone who is still and undistracted for just long enough.
Time moved slowly at Sittee and Jiddy's (Grandpa's) house. In a Steiner school, it's what we call rhythm. Slow and steady, predictable, calming. If your children need it, let them take time coming back into the world – see what works and what doesn't – the old 'normal' might fit, and it might not. Take time to relish the extraordinary inside the ordinary. Sittee could make a bus ride to Bondi Junction seem like an adventure in a way that made us appreciate every little step of the journey.
Above all, be kind
In her 80s, Sittee had her handbag ripped from her arm in a random bag snatching. Being elderly, she fell and sustained injuries. We were shocked, upset and angry, but somehow, Sittee reacted with empathy and kindness. "What a terrible life that young man must have to take a handbag from an old lady", she said. In a time of uncertainty, change and division, we are called on to find a fraction of my grandmother's kindness and empathy.
Change can be wonderful, and it can feel uncertain. Sometimes, it can make me think that we could all do with a Lebanese grandmother! I hope Glenaeon families may enjoy a little of Sittee's wisdom as we readjust to the joy of life after lockdown!
Deputy Head of School (K-6)