Responsible decision-making skills, aligned with closely-related executive functioning skills, help us stay grounded in our core values and beliefs as we move through times of uncertainty. For many, many people all around the world, 2020 has been an historic, unprecedented anxious time, filled with disruption and uncertainty.
Rooting Down, Staying Connected
When our department first met to discuss our response and responsibilities around the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Angela Ward, administrative supervisor of AISD’s cultural proficiency and inclusiveness team, suggested that we use “spatial distancing” instead of “social distancing” when we talk about the critical practice of staying physically away from other people during this time. In a time when we might find ourselves feeling quite physically isolated from our friends, families, loved ones, colleagues, and neighbors, meaningful social connection across the safe distances becomes more important than ever. Our human mammal brains are wired to be social, and a forced loss of “togetherness” can result in unique discomfort – indeed, in an interview with the Harvard Business Review, grief expert David Kessler says:
The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.
Responsible decision-making for us as individuals and for our community leaders in the current context compels us to practice spatial distancing from one another in order to slow the spread and damage of the novel coronavirus. As we collectively grieve the loss of our regular routines and movement through life for awhile, another responsible decision we can make for ourselves is to find creative ways to stay socially connected and practice radical self-care.
Luckily, humans – especially educators! – are a scrappy, innovative bunch, and already there are myriad tools and resources available out there to help us maintain crucial social connection while we’re spatially distanced!
- First of all, your very own Austin ISD Social and Emotional Learning team has a home-grown resource site specifically geared toward growing and nurturing connections among Austin families and online educational communities: come check out SEL at Home!
- The S.P.A.R.K. Community Card Game was founded by Rachel Rosen as a simple, game-ified way to connect people through storytelling and shared experience. She and her team are actively exploring ways to leverage this powerful tool in an online format, as well as offering their robust sample decks in one place for free download and play. They have started a dedicated Facebook group, and this Friday they will host a “pop-up S.P.A.R.K. Happy Hour” for a fun, engaging way to learn about and experience virtual S.P.A.R.K. “See” you there!
- Before delving into the content of any kind of organized collective learning experience or meeting, welcoming rituals invite connection and trust building. This can happen online in virtual classrooms and ZOOM meetings too! Check out this Smore full of welcoming rituals to foster meaningful connections across cyberspace.
- Lynn Lyons, a psychotherapist and Licensed, Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), specializes in helping families and children with anxiety. She posted this 22-minute Facebook Video with lots of concrete ideas around managing the worry and anxiety families and young people may be experiencing as a result of COVID-19.
- Our Austin ISD Mindfulness Specialist, James Butler, has once again published a timely and engaging newsletter with lots of ways to employ self-care and mindful activities, specifically for observing and coping with our experiences and feelings during this uncertain moment.
What resources and tools have helped you as a person and a professional educator lately? How have you used your responsible decision-making skills to navigate this unprecedented situation? Your experience and expertise are particularly useful to your colleagues and fellow humans during a period that can feel strange and stressful. Let us know in the comments, and tag us on social media @austinisdsel! We are here for you, we are all here for each other. Social connection in a time of spatial distancing grows hope for all of us.