Our Korus Connect School Chaplains have navigated new challenges in 2020, with schools oscillating between face-to-face and remote classes, learning and pastoral care.
However, the reality is our Chaplains continue to serve communities in much the same way – journeying with others, listening, empathising, encouraging and referring as need be.
For metropolitan School Chaplain Derick, he has encountered increased stress amongst staff, students and parents that make up his local community.
For some, the stress is anxiety triggered directly by the pandemic; for others, it has been the indirect but abrupt shift to home schooling demands, and adopting new technologies, which has caused an additional strain.
Collectively, the enduring second Victorian lockdown has also been ‘trying’ for those in the school community.
Derick said everyone experienced social barriers due to physical isolation throughout the pandemic. This has manifested as school students missing friends and teaching staff being physically isolated from their peers due to physical distancing requirements while schools remained open.
The Korus Connect Chaplain said forging and maintaining social connections was paramount in such times. “You need to fight for connection and conversation at the moment,” Derick said, “with our most important connection being conversation with God, and then others.”
And he highlighted the word “fight” because people are experiencing Zoom fatigue and apathy staying at home for long periods and lacking the former set structure of place, people and traditional accountabilities. Therefore, at this time, Derick encourages people to be intentional and “disciplined” in ensuring they keep conversations going with key people in their life, and neighbourhoods.
The Korus Connect Chaplain also flagged grief and loss as prominent issues that people are facing in the lockdown – as they grieve the past, the present and even future. For each person their loss has been unique – but nonetheless heartfelt – such as relinquished holidays and travel, job security, restaurant dine-ins, sport participation, social celebrations, religious services, school camps, theatre, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools and access to beaches and nature reserves. Notably, the ambiguity of life at present has also caused grief, loss and anxiety, as people have had to relinquish the capacity to plan positive life transitions, hopes and dreams with certainty.
Derick also reaffirmed the importance of promoting a positive work-life balance to all members of the school community. He reinforced the importance of structured routine, which also factors in relaxation, essential to achieve positive wellbeing. In some cases, Derick advised people to disengage with technology on the weekends if this helped them to alleviate stress and feel more relaxed, composed and connected with their families and households.