To prevent the spread of coronavirus, schools across the country are rushing to go online and struggling to assemble and deliver academic content. This is all happening at a moment of crisis, when young people and adults alike are feeling anxious and dislocated – at best. To get through this crisis, and for learning to happen, we need to address these feelings and needs. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.
Fortunately, it is possible to create a supportive space online that allows us (both staff and students) to reconnect, share, and get support from one another. Here, our senior trainer Marieke van Woerkom offers a way to begin this process, drawing on online gatherings facilitated by Morningside Center’s Daniel Coles.
The online gathering below is intended for school staff and other adults, using whatever online meeting platform (ideally with audio and visual) you have selected. If your platform allows it, you can share your screen so all members of the gathering can watch the video together. See this parallel activity designed for young people.
Note to the facilitator
Prepare yourself to facilitate the virtual meeting described below in the following ways.
Make sure you are as familiar as you can be with the online platform you’re using, or work collaboratively with someone who is. If possible, run a test with participants before beginning the activity to deal with technical issues in advance of the gathering.
No matter your preparation, you’re likely to have people joining the meeting who are less familiar with technology or have technical issues. Talking them through how to use the online platform in the moment in a calm and friendly fashion is important. You don't want to add to the anxiety that will inevitably be brought into the space. Be aware that, even in the face of technical adversity, you can model the steadiness, patience, and warmth we hope to offer our students.
Pick one of the poems below to share with staff/colleagues.
As people convene in the virtual space, welcome them warmly. When you’ve assembled, welcome everyone again. You might acknowledge that it has been a stressful time, and we are all carrying worries and anxieties. Today, we’ll slow things down a bit.
Invite people to take a few deep breaths before you begin. You might guide them in three deep breaths, in for four seconds; hold for four seconds; and out for four seconds.
Next, share your screen and this activity. Bring up one of the poems below for participants to read. If you like, you can also play the video of the poem being read by Morningside Center’s Daniel Coles.
by William Stafford
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out–no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
Morningside Center's Daniel Coles recites Yes by William Stafford. Shared with permission.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
Morningside Center's Daniel Coles recites Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye. Shared with permission.
Sharing our reflections
Give people some time to reflect on the poem in silence.
Invite people to pick a line that resonates with them in some way as they consider how they’re doing, how they’re feeling and what they might be thinking at this time.
Allow another moment of silence before giving people a chance to share out their thoughts and feelings. This might be done by having each person who shares call on another person who hasn’t yet spoken. (In Zoom and other platforms, participants can see a list of everyone who is participating.)
Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings in the virtual space, as you invite any additions, reflections, or connections on what people just heard from one another (if time allows).
Wrap up the gathering by reading out loud this proverb shared by different cultures across the globe:
“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”
It is why coming together at times like this, even in a virtual space, is important. Let people know that you’re looking to provide such a space again as we enter this challenging new time and space together.
Remind people that the goal of “social distancing” is to keep all of us safe – it is a way of taking of care ourselves and each other. There is nothing to stop us, though, from reaching out to one another, supporting one another, and even widening our circles of concern at this time of physical separation.
Before signing off, ask people if they have any needs that might be met by colleagues or others in their extended community.