By Esther Wendel-Caraher

Principal, Kettle Creek Public School

The sun is shining and so are the spirits of students at Kettle Creek Public School (KCPS).  We continue to be amazed at the resiliency of children, how much they teach us about what is important and how to stay joyful in the moment of each day.

It seems funny to me that as school staff, we are responsible for ‘teaching students’ and yet, the older I get, the more I notice that students often teach us far more than we teach them.  This month, I have been lucky enough to have some pretty important life curriculum taught by some pretty smart students.  I am guessing that these may be great reminders for all of us, as we grapple through the challenge of ‘COVID-19 fatigue.’

The first lesson that comes to mind was delivered by a wonderful, bright-eyed student in Grade 1 who sincerely tells me every time she sees me, that she loves me.  Her kindness stops me dead in my tracks and always puts a smile on my face. This child, in her innocence, offers her affection so generously, although I am not sure what I have done to deserve such a wonderful gift.  Two thoughts hit me. How often am I reluctant to be vulnerable for fear of being hurt or rejected? How often do I avoid or forget to express sincere affection, love and appreciation to the amazing people in my life?

Lesson No. 1 delivered through the wonderful programming of a Grade 1 student is a must learn for me. I’m going to try to take the learning from this lesson and challenge myself to put aside ego and tell those I love that I appreciate them more often.

The second lesson came through a Grade 7 student who was sent to my office for a discipline issue.  As we sat down to discuss the matter, he looked at me and simply said two words, “I’m sorry.”  He immediately owned up to the error of his ways and reflected compassionately on how his actions impacted the teacher and the other students.  I was taken aback because that very morning, instead of using those two words with my son, I went into defense mode and made excuses about my actions. That created a much greater issue between us.  Not a great way to start the day, that is for sure.  I realize that those two simple words, when spoken with sincerity, have the power to help us build beautiful relationships with each other and frees us from the stress that conflict brings to our lives.

Lesson No. 2 delivered by the most unlikely Grade 7 boy, a lesson that I am quite late learning in life, but you know what they say, better late than never.

The last lesson I learned this month came as I was chatting with some intermediate students on the yard.  They were reflecting quite honestly about how much they miss the way we used to have school, how they used to do group work, how ready they are to be rid of masks, and so on.  This conversation really struck me because these students, though they have been extremely positive and optimistic this entire time, are also getting tired and weary of it all.  After recess, I thought about that conversation and realized that I have tried hard to be Polly Positive during this pandemic, but those children demonstrated to me how life-giving it can be when we are real in our relationships and allow others to help us carry our burdens.

Lesson No. 3 delivered by Grade 8 girls: it’s ok to be genuine in our struggles because it creates a space for us to connect more deeply with each other.

To that end, I can say that as a school community, we are all ready to be done with COVID-19 and we are looking forward to a time when we can run around the yard without masks, work collaboratively with hands on learning experiences, and give big hugs to anyone who needs one.

Fingers crossed that day is coming soon!

In terms of the curriculum of life and those important lessons, I am convinced that children are – hands down – the best teachers we have. I have some work to do, but I’m thinking that these life lessons have come at exactly the right time and as I put my new learning into action, I will find the patience, perspective, and hope that I need to carry on through the final stages of this pandemic.