Laughter in the Time of COVID 19
First the students were gone. And then the teachers. I was quickly navigating this new dystopian reality unfolding around me and what my role as a BPL principal looked like without students or teachers in the building. My focus has always been on building relationships, but quite suddenly the school was emptied of its life force. Clearly my role continues to be supporting staff, students and families however I can, so I asked the staff what they needed from me during this rapid time of transition to online learning.
They wanted a laugh.
They wanted something to boost staff and student morale and to keep spirits up. I in turn wanted to express my gratitude towards them as they all expertly and hastily adjusted to becoming online teachers, virtually overnight. As a school built on a foundation of face-to-face relationships, this was no easy task. With just Angela (secretary), Sebastian (custodian), and I holding down the fort, we thought we might be able to bring some levity to an unfathomable situation. Already a ‘fun loving’ staff that likes to have a good laugh, this wasn’t totally out of left field (check out our first pick-me-up of the year, like chicken poop bingo, for example). So, relying on the old adage, laughter is the best medicine, we decided to take on a #COVIDchallenge – the lip sync competition. I’m pretty sure we got the laugh we were after. I think we put a smile on people’s faces. And hopefully, even if just for a few minutes, people were not thinking about the fact that we are in the midst of a global f*%@ing pandemic.
There are many proven medical benefits attributed to the power of laughter and humour, and for many, it’s a classic coping mechanism for dealing with stress. Our unofficial motto here at the Seven Oaks Met School is Work Hard/Play Hard. We know how dedicated our students are to pursuing their interests and passions and, as a result, having fun and building community is also an important part of what we do to reward their hard work. Not wanting to lose the strong sense of community we’ve fostered over the years as we were going to be forced apart for quite some time, we’ve implemented some online fun and games these past couple of weeks - like spirit week - through zoom advisory meetings, and a weekly SOMet trivia night through Instagram. With staff, students, families, and alumni playing along and having a laugh, it feels like the virus is actually bringing us closer together and strengthening our sense of community, in spite of our need to self-isolate and stay physically apart.
With a strong focus on relationships in our school, like all Met schools, we wanted to find ways to help keep the mental health of our staff and students as positive as possible during this unprecedented and potentially traumatic time. We know there is strength to be found in laughter and humour, but also in physical activity and self-care, so our wellness advisor, Kevin, has focused on getting students and families active at home through a number of online wellness challenges, like ‘planking the curve’ and the ‘toilet paper workout.’ As a staff we have also tried to model that wellness can be fun by having Just Dance competitions and Zumba/Bollywood dance-offs. We hope that this has been inspiring and motivating to our students and families to do the same while self-isolating at home so that their mental health is strong enough to weather this COVID storm.
To bring joy, laughter, and a feeling of togetherness (while physically distancing) during these scary times is just one of the little things we can do. Like Love in the Time of Cholera, Laughter in the Time of COVID 19 doesn’t cost us a thing. I’m an optimist by nature. Some might call me a ‘glass half full’ kinda gal, so I often try to find the positives in tough situations. By using laughter at a time like this, it helps us continue to foster relationships and keep our community together. Hopefully, we will come away from this with a better understanding of what is really important in our lives (friends, family, community), and that we won’t take so much for granted anymore (hugs, fist bumps, high fives, laughing together in person). Laughter allows us to temporarily forget the surreal crisis we are in and celebrate the little things in life. An enormous thank you to all the health care and frontline workers diligently keeping our communities safe. Your efforts are appreciated beyond what words say. A huge thank you and tremendous gratitude to all the incredible teachers and students out there who are adapting to this new reality with speed, resilience, and grace. Please love each other deeply (but from 2 meters apart), look in on your neighbours, laugh until it makes you cry, and we will get through this separately ~ together!
Need a laugh or just a creative idea to keep things going? Follow Seven Oaks Met on Instagram.