Upper School Counselor David Hotaling hosted his first Counselor Chat of the 2020-2021 academic year in partnership with our Parent Education committee this week. While these sessions are normally held in-person, parents were able to gather via Zoom to connect with Hotaling and each other. “So much of what we’re doing is an experiment,” he said. “The word ‘experimental’ is heard a lot these days.” Just as so many of our Upper School students have experienced this fall, though, it’s possible to connect and build relationships even when distanced. This session had a great mix of new and experienced/connected parents, which led to the generous sharing of parental wisdom.
Hotaling kept the agenda flexible and loose, choosing to go where parents needed him to be. He welcomed new parents to MICDS and encouraged everyone to participate through asking a series of questions about how families are dealing with the pandemic, how back-to-school is going, and whether parents had any questions. He also invited Upper School Nurse Michelle Fox to join the beginning of the call, and she was helpful in answering specific questions around safety and quarantining. She also let parents know that the Magnus Health App is going through an update soon, with new information sent from the Student Health Services team on Thursday. “We need to have 100% compliance with using the app,” she explained, “to make it easier and safer for everyone.” She also reminded parents that the tolerance for illness on campus this year is zero. “I’ll be sending kids home for symptoms I never would have before,” said Fox. “It’s an odd year, and we are following algorithms set forth by Washington University and Dr. Jason Newland.” She also confirmed that Upper School students may fill out the daily form on the app themselves, and reminded parents that there is a lot of helpful information on the resource page of the MICDS website, located at www.micds.org/reopening.
Hotaling spoke about how parent education is a strength of our School and encouraged parents to sign up for informational and reminder emails from the Parent Ed committee. Parent Education events are organized under the Parent Association in close partnership with the division counselors. Programming will be publicized through the Weekly News; however, for an additional email reminder, please subscribe to their reminder service. The mission of the Parent Education committee is to provide our MICDS families with opportunities to learn, share, and grow through educational programs that engage parents in discussion and also provide resources on topics of interest. All MICDS parents are welcome to all events. For those who are interested in having an additional reminder about upcoming Parent Education events, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for the Lower School, email@example.com for the Middle School, and firstname.lastname@example.org for the Upper School. You will remain on the list into the next school year automatically.
Hotaling invited parents to share their own tips and tricks with the group, and then, because it was such a large crowd, divided the audience into smaller breakout rooms for discussion. He seeded the discussion with a few questions:
- What have the past few months been like at your house? What’s worked? What hasn’t?
- What has been challenging for your kids in the learn-from-home environment?
- The schoolwork?
- The isolation?
- Lack of physical activity?
- Mental health?
- Do you do anything together with your child one-on-one, or as a family, that helps you all to cope with the challenges of the pandemic?
- What are your concerns with a return to school?
- Any ideas for how to feel connected with others when we rarely have the option of physical proximity/touch?
Parents on the call encouraged each other to reach out to Connector Families for help, to use the School’s resources by contacting advisors, teachers, and counselors, and to check Weekly News each Friday for all-school and divisional announcements.
Hotaling stressed to parents that it’s important for children to figure things out on their own, to fail, and to learn from that process. “They are more capable than you know, and even than they know,” he said. “It’s important for them to figure things out. Our faculty, by and large, are very supportive and helpful. They will help your kids if they reach out. We expect communication from your kids. We rely on them to let us know what’s going on and to ask for help. Every single student, the top students and the ones who are struggling, must reach out for help. They have to get used to it and practice it. Once they do, they find their experience is successful and it becomes easier.”
He also encouraged parents to stay in touch with MICDS faculty and staff. “Reach out and ask questions,” he said. “Reach out to other parents as you all learn so much from each other. Don’t be isolated. There are a lot of good people in our community who are happy to help.”
Finally, Hotaling shared that feeling stress and anxiety right now is an appropriate response to the situation. “We think we’re supposed to stay positive or feel better, but it’s important to recognize that we are supposed to have uncomfortable moments and times,” he said. “Mental health isn’t about feeling good; it’s about having an appropriate response. We need to be patient with ourselves, and understanding.”
Here are some great resources from Mr. Hotaling: