Education is far more than books and tests in a classroom. There is an irreplaceable social aspect to school that prepares students for the world and allows them to make important interpersonal connections. The social side of school is something many students regard as the most important to them, this pandemic has taken away so much from so many, including the social-emotional connections within the school. Encouraging students to work beyond academia is quite powerful for their growth, not only as a student but as a person. Which ultimately should be the goal of the school systems. We don’t want to create one-dimensional robot students, we want creative, socially-intelligent, kind students and so much of that comes from outside the curriculum of the school. It comes from classmates, teammates, teachers, and more; diminishing this side of their education is detrimental to their success as a human.
The schools are controlling the pandemic in every way they can, using pods or “families” is one of the main tools boarding schools are utilizing for containment and contact tracing. This means that many students are eating, living, and going to class with the same group of people. Even with your best friends in the world, this can be draining, and the lack of choice in the matter makes it all the more tedious. They are unable to have unlimited social access to people at their school in the way they are used to, and the fact that there we have been in some sort of shut down for the last eight months makes it all the more difficult. Humans are inherently social creatures and to deprive students of this for so long is detrimental to their health. While being in small groups is better than nothing, it seems to be confining in a different way as well. This necessary structure put in place for safety comes at the expense of other aspects of their life. That is not to downplay the necessity and success of these type of structures, it is imperative to keep them in place for the safety of students and staff. While they are necessary, that is not to say that they are not harmful in other ways. And this is not unique to students, everyone across the country has felt this in one form or another, and those who are continuing to respect and follow guidelines put in place are still suffering from it.
Those who may not be following the guidelines may have a new sense of guilt if you are breaking the rules put in place by the state and the schools. As students may or may not be gathering outside of the set boundaries there could also be a feeling of guilt within the desire for social interaction that they have been deprived of for so long. Even if they are seeing friends there is a layer of obligation from society in doing what you can to stop the pandemic. Seeing people and friends may trigger a sense of guilt which can weigh heavy on small shoulders. Many students, or humans in general, have been starved socially for such a long period of time that it is absolutely normal to crave a sense of companionship in whatever form they can get. However, within that companionship could come this guilt and in that a lack of authentic human interaction.
The schools have been doing the very best they can to allow for whatever social access they can give the students. There is an important value of having non-academic groups on campus and allowing for a social experience outside your pod/family. Some sports have been competing in inter-squad games which is valuable for every person on the team. Being able to work with clubs and teams outside your class or assigned group of people can be fulfilling socially. It allows for a foundational part of boarding schools to continue. If done safely, this aspect of schools makes for a unique social experience that they are not receiving from the rest of the new form of the school. Permitting clubs and sports to continue in whatever form they can truly impacts a student’s social-emotional well-being. In allowing them to succeed in this aspect of their life, they are also able to achieve academic success as well. Boarding schools, and schools in general, are a holistic experience and the students deserve however much of it they can acquire during these scary times. The students are being shaped by every part of their life and it is important to continue to nurture the sides that cannot appear over a computer screen or within a socially distant classroom.
Thank you for reading and please leave any thoughts below!