The End is in Sight By Rosalind Clayson, Reception teacher at Burgess Hill Girls

22 Jul 2021

The term ‘lockdown’ for so many of us triggers an instant emotional response, no one has been left unaffected by the consequences of the Covid-19 virus. We all changed the way we lived our lives, made drastic adaptations, and followed the governmental guidelines and thankfully many of us have survived. There the story should end, and the process of healing should begin. As an Early Years, Reception class teacher at Burgess Hill Girls, I returned to school at the beginning of June and luckily really did not feel any prolonged effects of the pandemic, other than knowing that I did not wish to teach remotely again. I felt confidence in the government’s assertions that we would not face another lockdown in the Prep School, so when at the beginning of January, the second school closure was announced, I felt the wave of nausea and blind panic sweep through me, as my window of tolerance narrowed and my ability to rationally deal with what was in front of me collapsed.

Full time, daily online lessons, whilst home-schooling three school-aged children, working in isolation, and feeling suffocated by my own home, I knew that I had to do something to save my own deteriorating mental health. January was depressingly, cold, and dark. Lessons had to be planned, delivered, and marked. My own children needed to be helped and fed and the parents of the children in my class needed to be reassured that the well-being of their daughters was at the heart of the curriculum that I was providing. The laptop, iPad, and phone were constantly at hand whilst I managed all the different tasks, not unlocking the front door for days at a time and I was not alone in this, many of my colleagues were trying to reach out, as they felt the same way.

Thanks to the Great Run Solo virtual events, a school ‘running club’ was created. Through WhatsApp, I organised a few of the teachers to join me in working towards the February running challenge, logging 14 runs in 28 days. This got us out, got us talking about what we were doing, laughing at our selfies, and sharing experiences.

However, at the end of February the challenge ended, leaving us still in lockdown, yet again on our own. So, I devised a new challenge, where we could run, walk and cycle virtually as a Prep School team from John O’Groats to Land’s End as the crow flies. I pitched it to the staff and 9 people joined me, logging our distances throughout March. It created connections and gave me purpose to go out. We all did so well, that towards the end of the challenge we changed the goal posts and added the additional 436 kilometres to follow the road route from Scotland down to Cornwall. Amazingly, we completed the challenge and of course returned to school. All was to be well.

Coming out of lockdown has not been that easy though. Bubbles within school must be maintained, coffee is no longer shared in school staff rooms and there are still many members of staff that I have not seen or renewed connections with.

So, I wanted to create another challenge, one which would touch all staff in all departments of the school, simply to promote good mental health and well-being. To share a common goal, which would not cost anything, but would bring the school community back together. I challenged us to walk, run and cycle the 9,609km to Tokyo for the Opening Ceremony of the postponed 2020 Olympic Games. Remarkably, 50 staff members have signed up, and as I write this, we have travelled virtually 3638km, on my virtual map we are in Sochi, Russia! Already, the community spirit and warmth has touched me and others, not through anything complicated or difficult to manage, but by going outside and enjoying the benefits of being outdoors and in natural light, together as one school team.

There is much advice available on self-care and well-being, but for me, it is the healing power of human interaction that has been so absent in my life since last March, emotionally touching people and the strength that can be taken from being together. Lockdown fragmented us all and left us in isolation, alone, but these challenges have enabled me to reconnect and begin to heal. I just now need to conceive the next challenge!