One of our deepest needs as human beings is for connection: to feel known, to feel understood, and to feel recognized and valued for who we are. However, in the social distancing culture of Covid-19, our experiences of – and opportunities for – human connection have not only become fragmented but in too many circumstances, they have totally discontinued.
For many educators and students in schools around the world, social distancing has led to unbearable states of disconnection, and thereby, to associated feelings of fear, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. In sum, this amounts to a series of unprecedented, collective, and ongoing experiences of loss and associated feelings of grief.
In an article last month, “Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges,” the New York Times revealed that administrators and other educators at T.M. Landry College Prep colluded in an extensive scheme to get their students admitted to elite colleges. These school officials exploited their students’ racial and economic status for their own financial gain.
“We are responsible for the cultures we create.” I first heard this phrase as a young psychologist working at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, when Dr. Dan Garvey, then Vice President of the American Youth Foundation, spoke to a group of newly-appointed boarding school proctors (student resident assistants) in a leadership training workshop we were leading.
Dan’s message to those high school juniors reflected just one of his efforts to recruit this group rising student dorm leaders to a positive, supportive, and affirming leadership style, one that we hoped they would practice with the younger students in their dormitories the following year.
Due in large part to the ultra-competitive culture that has characterized the current generation of students since preschool, many students are extremely overscheduled, and consequently, feel stressed and pressured to succeed in everything. As a result, they often experience intense feelings of anxiety, frustration, helplessness, and depression.