“Ask Good Questions. Try Your Best. Be Kind.” It’s a phrase I truly believe in. In fact, when my two children were younger, we used to repeat this phrase so often that it became a bit of a family mantra. Now at Lakefield, I use these three points frequently with our community. After all, don’t we all want our kids to grow up to be curious and kind people?
As I monitor the updates on the coronavirus outbreak, sometimes multiple times per day, I think about how we should handle this situation as a community. First, our priority is to maintain the safety of our students. Last week in chapel, I reminded students of the need for good health, common sense: wash your hands, sneeze into your sleeve, and go to the Health and Wellbeing Centre (The Well) if you have a fever or any concerns. We are surveying our students about their travels and we have implemented a screening tool. For any family that may be concerned about the upcoming holidays, we have a plan for students who cannot travel home because of the virus. I also reminded students that they are here to learn, so they need to pay attention to what is happening in the world, but they also need to focus here, on their studies. My hope is that they enter each and every class with the attitude that today they will try their best.
In chapel this week, we reviewed again all that we are doing to ensure the safety of our community. We also had a moment of silence, for those who are suffering and for those who have passed away.
I wanted to write this blog to highlight the third part of the phrase – be kind – and I would like the support of our entire community. In a school like ours—a small village, really, with 380 students, 155 staff, and roughly 360 living on campus fulltime (including staff and family members, plus pets!)—it’s important that we have the courage to ask good questions about this case and the media coverage. Health officials repeatedly confirm that the risk to the public remains low in Canada.
But what I hope – and expect – is that we are kind to each other, particularly to those who are worried for friends and family. Our students represent many parts of Canada and 45 countries around the world, which means our school is rich with opportunities to learn from each other, share experiences and debate different perspectives. Living and learning in such a diverse community reminds us all that there are multiple viewpoints for every issue and helps us to practice empathy. Empathy is a powerful tool for our students to understand, relate, and connect with other people. It’s crucial for collaboration and true learning and leads to compassion and kindness.
It encourages me to hear our students supporting each other. Especially now, when so many parts of the world are experiencing devasting natural disasters, political and civil unrest and most recently the coronavirus. I was moved by the words of one of our students who said:
“One of the biggest mistakes we make is assuming that other people think the way we think. We need to think about each other and how everything affects everyone in some way. Harper Lee once said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view,’ this is especially true at this school where many of us are away from our parents and far from home. It is extremely difficult to not be able to be there and support our loved ones in a time of need.”
The words of this young woman give me confidence in knowing that our students are supported and encouraged by their teachers, coaches, Heads of House and, most important, each other to use their skills of empathy to ask good questions, be kind and compassionate. We are committed to this ideal.
Only together can we create a caring community.