Over the next weeks and months, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be sharing reflections from our CBF field personnel serving around the world. These are stories of impact and outreach, Gospel-sharing and relationship building, long-term presence and abundant love.
The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Alicia Lee, who serves in Macedonia alongside her husband, Jeff. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/lee.
It has been a difficult six months for most of the world and most of us are learning to live this new reality. For many children, school is one of the anchors in their lives and when schools closed due to COVID-19, their worlds were turned upside down. Families were thrown into a new form of chaos as teachers and schools were left trying to figure out how to educate children in the new reality while dealing with their own family difficulties.
The role of the school counselor has always been important in the life of the school; but when the pandemic hit, it seemed to become even more important. I recently heard it said that “counselors are uniquely trained to respond to adversity” and now, more than ever, the counselor plays a vital role for the school community.
I was asked to serve on the reopening committee at our school, which worked all summer to ensure that the school was ready to welcome students back to school online, in person, or in a hybrid model while adjusting and meeting any and all of the government regulations. Part of my role on the team was to make sure we were considering the social and emotional needs of our students and that no matter what the regulations would be, and that we were upholding our core values. Part of my job was to make sure that whatever decisions were made would not cause further trauma for the kids.
Our school started online and teachers quickly began to inform me of “concerning” situations regarding some of their students. Parents yelling at each other in the background, kids breaking down in tears during classes and kids who were completely disconnected. It wasn’t long before students were contacting me about anxiety and feeling numb—students wanting to talk about how easily they become angry these days or about the yelling happening at home.
Students sat in my office trying to resolve conflict with one another and learn new skills for this unprecedented time. Teachers in tears have sat on my couch, overwhelmed with all the pressures of teaching during a pandemic while trying to manage their own families and their kids’ learning. So many people are emotionally fatigued and exhausted.
While I value academics, I have spent much of the first month of school reminding teachers, students and parents that we need to create space and help students process and recover from their pandemic experience. So many of the new protocols strip away the social aspects of school and, with it, so much of the fun. Wellness Wednesdays allow our online learners to have a Zoom-free day to work independently, have one-to-one sessions with teachers and care for their emotional needs.
Part of my job is to make sure that we celebrate triumphs and are infusing rest and fun into our school experience. We were able to arrange a day at Matka Canyon for time in nature and kayaking with friends. It was wonderful to hear kids say, “I felt like I could take a deep breath” and “it was the best day I’ve had in a long time.”