While the nation confronts infinite questions about the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, Middle and Upper School Counselor Sazshy Kane-West gives the St. Christopher’s community high marks for maintaining stability, structure, rigor and safety.
She notes that most student character traits evident before the pandemic remain intact. “Of course, there have been setbacks,” she says. “We are dealing with a wide spectrum of personalities.”
Kane-West concedes that students who need the classroom experience to stay motivated could have plateaued. “Some learners soak up information by physical presence,” she says. “And an extrovert may be hungry for entertainment and stimulation.” For students in this category, she recommends doubling-down on practices of compassion and gratitude: “Doing for others packs a powerful punch.”
At the same time, the quiet and introverted may show signs of thriving. “This could be heaven for them because they're living their lives as they wish,” Kane-West says.
Distance learning represents an escape from speaking up or standing out in class, but challenges may resurface when transitioning back to the classroom. She says this can be a good time to make constructive changes and hone interpersonal skills. She believes much personal growth will likely come out of the pandemic.
Still, she remains concerned that natural, face-to-face socialization has taken a hit. The loss of connectivity with friends creates a particular hardship. “We do such a good job at St. Christopher's with integration, personalization and relationship building,” Kane-West says. “Students seek rapport with teachers and coaches, adults who nudge citizenship, decision-making and personal growth with consistent feedback.”
She believes it’s important to give teens opportunities to make their own decisions and to try on different social roles, separate from their families. Being stuck at home, providing space to think or just to spread out and loaf is critical, she says, with “no wrong button in privacy.”
Kane-West also suggests that parents take the back seat on talking. “When your teenager does come out of his hole and wants to be around you, it's really exciting, and you probably want to jump right in enthusiastically, which may smother the child. It works best to be more validating and less dismissive.”
Kane-West points out that the end-of-the school year is significant for all grade levels in providing closure. Seniors and their families long to cross this milestone with a celebration. Graduation provides an identifiable meaningful moment years in the making. That will look different this year. She expects natural responses will shift into more reflective thoughts, such as “I had it so good,” and “I won’t take things I have for granted.”