Life in the Red Zone


So, here we are… 6 weeks into school. Almost everything about the way we do school has changed, but in many ways it hasn’t. The students still come through the doors, many with smiles on their faces (under their masks), and others looking as if they just rolled out of bed. There’s still homework, socializing safely at lunch, and extracurricular activities (mostly online).


We have changed many aspects of our lives as we try to be more careful and keep the virus out.  As we do so, we must remember that we are asking a lot of our children. This is a new and challenging reality for them. 


As numbers in our city and province go up, we must remind ourselves that the pandemic is still here and must be taken seriously. 


The other day in class, a student asked me if I thought we were going back into a lockdown and if school would go back online. This is a common question that I now get asked on a daily basis. Pre-pandemic, I never would have contemplated having this kind of discussion. My answer was that I hoped not. I hope that we all continue to do what we need to do in order to keep ourselves and others safe.


I’m sure that students wouldn’t mind a sleep in every now and then and a chance to spend the day in pajamas, but I do not want to go back to online school and I know that they want to be in school too. 


As we watch the news, we are flooded with images of younger people out at parties, not practicing physical distancing measures, or taking the virus seriously. Again, students want to know why there are so many others that don’t seem to care and why their friends in other schools think it’s alright not to wear a mask.


These are the hard hitting questions that spark great conversation and debate, but at the end of the day, we do not have clear answers. I hope that these discussions encourage our students to make good choices, exercise proper judgement, and curb the virus. 


There are many things that adults can do to help adolescents navigate these unchartered waters. Even though it sounds cliché, we really are in this together and we must model good behaviour too. We cannot say one thing and do another as students and children watch us and follow our lead.


Encouraging and practicing healthy behaviours such as thorough hand washing upon arriving home, staying 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household or homeroom, and staying home when we are under the weather, will yield productive results. 


Other things to do include getting a good night’s sleep. This can help with many things including protecting our immune system, helping our mood, brain activity, and much more. On average, teens do not get enough sleep and now it’s more important than ever. 


As adults, we need to understand that these are strange times we are living in and we need to validate the feelings of our adolescents. It is important to recognize and justify their frustration over not attending parties, getting together with friends, or just living life the way it used to be. 


Adolescents may be fearful of the virus and the unknown, so we should explain how it works without feeding into their fears. We need to ensure that they are informed as we share important facts. They are old enough to know and should be part of the conversation. 


We all have a role to play and teens need to understand that they are connected to a broader community. They should be encouraged to make a gift of self to others. This will help them make good decisions as they realize that actions have consequences. 


We must all continue to stay safe and in doing so, we should continue to praise those around us who are practicing safe behaviours. 


Life goes on and as we learn to adapt to our new reality, we must keep in mind that life in the red zone has its challenges, and in a school like ours the learning, laughter, and fun still continues- safely of course!


Erika Rath, Director of Student Services


Find our Back to School Plan for 2020 and our Emergency Protocol here.