National Post Story: Easing Back-to-School Anxiety
The Linden School featured in a piece by the National Post, October 13, 2021.
Linden’s Leaders Share Expertise
Linden’s faculty and leadership are often sought out to share their expertise at local and international workshops and conferences. Recently, Principal Tara Silver and Athletics Director Deidre Macpherson were interviewed by The National Post about easing back to school anxiety following COVID:
By KATHRYN BOOTHBY, National Post, 13 Oct 2021
Returning to the classroom after the challenges and restrictions of COVID-19 has been difficult for many students. To help assuage the nervousness and anxiety that shows itself in many forms, some private schools are adopting new tools and finding new ways to engage and promote connection.
“Although back to school anxiety is not new, this year it has been heightened because of circumstances that led to an extended absence – particularly for those between grades 3 and 8,” says Tara Silver, principal at The Linden School for girls in Toronto. “For the past 18 months at home, students have had a more structured daily routine for learning, with limited access to former school friends. As the time came to move back into the schoolyard and the classroom, there was more concern about who would still be their friend and who their teacher would be.”
That anxiety has manifested differently as the days have progressed: Students were initially reserved; some were pushing back more than usual; and, there were many sleepy students by day’s end as sleep schedules had to change, says Silver.
“For the first week, lunchtimes were much quieter than the norm. Typically, it would be a noisy, giggling environment as friendships were renewed and tales of summer holidays were told,” she says. “This year, perhaps due to more screen time, older students spent more time on their phones during breaks. Teachers also noticed that the social skills of six- and seven-year-olds, in particular, were simply not there. They were clearly out of practice.”
The key was to take things slowly to allow students to reacquaint, and for teachers to model behaviours for students to emulate. “Thinking positively and reframing negative thoughts has been extremely important. As has dialling back the need for students to reach a crucial goal by a specific time,” says Silver.
At Linden, outdoor education, collaborative learning and teamwork have also proven their worth in anxiety management. A recent rain-day adventure had a group of teens climbing aerial obstacles at Treetop Trekking in Stouffville.
“Students developed and strengthened friendships, built skills, confidence and resilience, and surprised themselves at what they were able to accomplish,” says athletics director Deidre Macpherson. “I’m so glad we were able to provide this experience, especially at a time when students have been missing connection with one another so keenly.”