Cathy Price, Director of Student Health and Support Services
With our team, we have the privilege of being able to work with everyone. Every level, classroom, and program — from one-on-one meetings with students to consultations with teachers and parents. If something is happening with students, classroom dynamics, or the parent community — we are ready to help.
During this past school year, and during the pandemic overall, we did whatever we could to help people get through. We held space. We did a lot of sitting with people in their emotions, providing social connection and talking through challenges. And we had to do it for everyone because it was just such a big year for all of us.
Kathleen Hill, our school counselor, and I were constantly meeting with students, families, and teachers where they were at. If a parent needed a call at 10pm at night — ok, let’s meet at 10pm. It was all so personal how everyone was experiencing the pandemic.
Kathleen and I sat through many webinars on how to navigate the social-emotional challenges of parenting during a pandemic, bringing this learning back into our work with parents, students, and families. We offered opportunities for social gatherings for students (such as lunch bunch), we led social skills and emotional regulation groups, we met with individual students, we met with families to help them better communicate and problem-solve, and we offered space for parents to come together to connect and talk about challenges or their own emotions.
A lot of our work was virtual because we needed to protect our cohorts. Our beloved Peace Room wasn’t open to students in person until after our return from Spring Break. But we got creative along with the rest of the NNM community. Kathleen and I created “Bringing the Peace Room Home’’ videos to help children make some of the material and tools that they have come to rely on in the Peace Room for comfort and support. Both Nate Lyons and Dana Christry offered to be additional resources to the Wellness Team since their roles changed as a result of the pandemic. Nate led groups to give students space to process their emotions through drawing or games while also connecting with individual students who were struggling. Dana Christy offered virtual yoga and mindfulness lessons in addition to individual support. Then when we returned to the building, she would stand in the doorway of classrooms and lead those lessons in person. Caitlin Glassey, our Learning Support Coordinator, would jump in with students however she could help and immediately developed trusted connections with so many. When we would learn about students struggling, we would think about the adults that the students already had connections with in the school and those trusted adults would reach out to the students to offer social interaction, support, and guidance.
There was a tangible shift for our team and the school after the return from spring break, with all levels fully in-person. We quickly discovered that kids needed to relearn how to be back together in shared space. The unstructured times seemed to be the most challenging. They had to practice their social skills again after over a year of remote and hybrid interactions. We also observed an increase in anxiety, sadness, and withdrawal. There were just so many layers that all students were having to navigate.
Through the challenges, what stood out the most was the students’ resilience and their joy in being a community. They would light up when they saw their friends or their teachers. Whether virtual or in-person, you could still hear laughter and connection happening no matter how challenging the time. And from the moment the Peace Room was officially open, the students came to process all they had been through and to receive guidance on how best to move forward.
The pandemic was the first time we as a community were all in crisis together. Not one classroom or one family, but all of us dealing with our emotions together. All of our anxiety, worry, and fear were bumping up against each other. So for our team, getting back together at the end of the year was so good. We were checking in together, and we found ways to keep laughing through all of the stress. All of it was hard, but we were energized by every opportunity we had to be able to help this amazing and resilient community.