Routine whilst at home

Wednesday, 25 Mar 2020

Again, I take this opportunity to thank you all for your understanding and patience. I would like our community to know and appreciate that our Board has been very proactive on every front and are a wonderful force of leadership throughout this time. Leadership will always be tested in tough times and there is evidence of this in the Board and staff every day.

I know it is not always easy to have kids at home as we move to this mode of learning, however, as the government has decreed, children should be at home where they can be and we need to be ready and open for essential care workers and for parents who have no other choice. This may evolve further as the requirements around home schooling become more stringent, but we will keep a watch on this. We are guided in our decision making by a rational Board of Management, the Association of Independent Schools and networks of mutual connections to other schools and leaders in our Jewish community. 

My sincere thanks to the staff. I can’t begin to describe the colossal effort that has gone into preparing for home learning. They have arrived every morning, ever cheerful and ready to do whatever we have required in the circumstances. I could not thank and praise them enough. I also want to thank our Director of IT and Innovation David Colville who has beavered away relentlessly to assist staff and parents. Without his leadership we would never have been able to be so well-prepared. 

Our College Psychologist, Elana Jacobs, reminded us as we gathered at our staff meeting that the term ‘social distancing’ is a classic misnomer and would be better described as ‘physical distancing’. Never before has it been so important for us to connect socially even if it means we have physical distance. It was a great point to note at a time when this word is almost guaranteed to be Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year! (Elana has described this well on her video on Skoolbag). 

In my Update 5 to parents this week you will notice that I made mention of how important it will be to instil routines and habits at home that encourage children to adapt to the new (and hopefully not too prolonged) ways of learning from home. I would truly encourage parents to take part in the routines such as sharing the prayers (on Stile) and if you are working from home, getting the kids to work at the same time. You won’t always need to assist them as this is being managed by us. 

Kids need a routine to provide structure and discipline in their lives and in these uncertain times routines gives them sense of normality and stability.

Skilled at Life suggest 18 reasons why routines are important all of which are explained in full here . Some are far more relevant than others but essentially it suggests routines helps:

1. Makes Us More Efficient
2. Reduces Our Need to Plan
3. Creates Structure in Our Lives
4. Saves Time, Our Most Valuable Resource
5. Instils Good Habits
6. Breaks Bad Habits
7. Helps Us Become More Proficient
8. Helps Us Get the Most Important Tasks Done
9. Prioritization
10. Reduces the Need for Determination and Willpower
11. Reduces Procrastination
12. Builds Momentum
13. Builds Self Confidence
14. Saves Us Money
15. Helps Reduce Stress and Facilitate Relaxation
16. Frees Up Our Time
17. Helps Us Achieve Our Goals
18. Keeping Track of Our Success

In what some researchers have described as an ‘epidemic of anxiety’, the predictability and familiarity that comes with routine offers the perfect ‘safe space’ that kids need. A consistent routine in the home will have far fewer variables compared to school, so your kids can relax in knowing what to expect as they use the iPad each morning and work through the day’s timetable of learning.

Not only are routines helpful in making your kids feel safe, they are fundamental in the development of good habits. Some parts of your family routine will already be there – such as mealtimes and sleep times. “And one of the easiest ways to make new habits stick is by pairing them with other rituals that are already in place”, says Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before, a book that looks at the science of habit creation.

Good routines only work when they are ‘habituative’ and done so frequently that it becomes second nature – a habit. It won’t be wise to start the routine of getting up at the same time and adhering to a disciplined structure only to loosen it after one week. Unfortunately, we don’t know how long this is likely to last so let’s aim to instil the good routines which turn into habits as a matter of course.

I have always been interested in the fact that whenever we are confronted with catastrophes (mass shootings, natural disasters etc) politicians and/or people who have been dealt a blow always respond by ascribing to their communities virtuous, heroic qualities. It happens every time. For example, locals will say that we are strong, resilient people (from whatever place they are from) and we will get through this (the cyclone, mass shooting whatever). The sense I get whenever I hear these things said is that the spokesperson is convincing themselves as much as anything, however, it serves a purpose. It helps people to unite in a time of grief and at a time when building community around self-definition becomes a critical component in recovery. 

In what ways will we define the Australian community after this? I note Gerry Harvey from Harvey Norman fame saying on the weekend that sales of freezers have ‘gone through the roof’. Does this say something about our level of food insecurity even though our nation can feed 70 million people let alone 26 million? After this has subsided, and after we have hopefully binned the term ‘social distancing’, how will we define the way we have responded? Generously and compassionately? Selfishly? If we were describing our eulogy virtues at our national funeral what would we say of the nation? Time will tell. As much as the media has focussed on the worst aspects of human nature, I feel uplifted when I read each week of the number of good deeds being done by individuals to support others. Media outlets can’t monetise these stories as easily but it is heartening to know it is happening.

Irrespective of what end of the political spectrum one comes from I do feel the level of criticism aimed at our leaders unjustified. There are always so many backseat drivers who know how to do it better! I hope we won’t describe ourselves as armchair critics.  One observation is that the government is now functioning as a government should. Perhaps it has taken a crisis for us to realise that this is what we expect of government. Government is being guided by experts in the fields of science, medicine and economics. This advice is being absorbed and translated into social policy. (I wonder why there isn’t the same approach to solving the crisis of climate change?)

And Remember………

My apologies for last week’s Newsletter being removed, however, there was incorrect medical information which was given to me and whilst I had all good intentions, I will henceforth never supply medical info again!!! (particularly when there is no unanimity around so much).  

Thankfully we have many parents who are medical practitioners who are able to detect false emails circulating around the world. Here are some simple tips from one: 

There are many important things people can do, and these should be widely circulated and include:

- Avoiding public gatherings/crowds as much as possible

- Limit close contact with others in public

- Avoid touching "high touch" surfaces in public places (eg stair rails, counter tops etc) and consider cleaning high touch surfaces before use (eg shopping trolley handles)

- Avoid touching the face, nose, mouth and eyes

- Practice regular hand hygiene - after touching "high touch" surfaces, before meals, after being in public etc. Soap and water and hand sanitiser (provided it has an alcohol content of at least 60%) are equally effective.

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