Kia ora koutou,
I spent two days last week at a cluster retreat for the principals of all the local schools in our Kāhui Ako, our Northern Cluster Community of Learning. The first day was with all of the principals, looking ahead to the different areas our schools will explore together. On the second day, the deputy principals and Across School Leaders of the Kāhui Ako joined the group for a workshop day led by Mark Sweeney, an education facilitator.
It was a really productive process and there were some good outcomes. One of the aspects that really resonated with me is an area Mark Sweeney talked about around how our brain copes with uncertainty and the unknown. Mark talked about it in the context of beginning work as a Kāhui Ako - building something new and working together in new ways. However, he also linked it to the year we have all had, and all of the worry and uncertainty that this has brought. Our brains are built to protect us, and in unknown situations they search constantly to make connections and meaning, to help us to make sense of the unknown. This can cause hypervigilance and also considerable tiredness and strain. Prolonged uncertainty can cause worry and anxiety, because there is no clear answer and therefore we have less sense of control.
This made me think about the staff, students, parents and whānau I interact with each day. As we head into a very busy time of year, with lots of pressure to finish things off well, get everything sorted, prepare for a long summer break and a holiday period with family, it is worth bearing in mind how we all may be feeling, with all of the many pressures this year has brought. Some suggestions for coping with uncertainty and the anxiety this brings include: identifying and acknowledging how you (and others) may be feeling; spending time doing things that get yourself into the present moment, rather than worrying about the future; making an effort to spend time doing things you enjoy, such as spending time with family and friends; practice mindfulness, meditation or any ways that help you to slow down and be present.
It is also worth being mindful of the effect of the hard year we have all had when we interact with others. In our search for certainty and answers, our brain can sometimes cause us to make assumptions or leap to conclusions that may not be accurate. Given everything the year has thrown at us, proceeding cautiously and going into situations with curiosity rather than certainty, may help when interacting with others.
Just some food for thought!
Have a great week.
Ngā mihi nui,
Urs Cunningham (Acting Principal)