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Creating togetherness in isolation – virtual Spirit Week

By Middle School counselors Kara Haines and Maureen VanderKlippe

School spirit is not easy to define, because it consists of a vast number of things.

Typically at ISB, our connection to each other at this point in the school year is strong because we have shared so many moments together. Students enjoy taking on the task of planning events and social activities that help them to build a sense of community and those activities are strategically placed to support the student body at stressful times in the year, or help us through the dark and cold months of Beijing winter.

With everything we are facing right now, the question becomes how do you boost spirits at a time of fear and uncertainty? How do you bring people together when the student body is spread across multiple continents and time zones?

Over the course of last week (April 6 to 10), a group of spirited Middle School students and teachers came up with answers to those questions in the shape of a virtual Spirit Week – they found new ways to bridge the distances that have come between us.

We now depend on technology to help us do everyday things, like attend meetings and classes and as we move into an extended period of eLearning, the need for school spirit remains. All the current advice from psychologists and school counselors suggests that shared experiences help to normalize the storm of emotions that young people may be feeling. The students who planned virtual Spirit Week decided that sharing photos would be a way for students and teachers to connect and share a lighter side to what we are all going through.

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Middle School students used DX, our virtual classroom, to share their school spirit. Students and teachers posted pictures and comments on the daily announcements. Theme days included Pajama Day, Get Outside Day, Share Your Favourite eLearning Snack Day, and Dress up in ISB Clothing and Colors Day.

Through pictures and posts, we had a chance to meet each other’s pets, drool over the snacks our friends were eating, laugh and connect. The selected themes are important because they are essentially highlighting the coping mechanisms that we are using to manage the unique learning environment that we are now in, and we are able to share how we are getting through this strange and difficult time apart. 

We have learned over the last 11 weeks that a computer screen is no substitute for time spent together, and the number of students that posted photos or comments was heartening. There was a conversation happening about those silly photos that continued through the day and will help keep things light as we continue with eLearning. Those who didn’t participate were able to have a laugh and a light moment by commenting or simply looking at the photos shared.

It takes courage to share a photo of yourself on a school website, particularly a photo of yourself being silly and vulnerable. Middle School students and teachers really came together to help maintain community well-being.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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