We can do hard things

Dear Families,

Congratulations! We have completed a full school year without lockdowns, online learning, disruption to planned experiences and activities, camps, productions, concerts, graduations, sport, exhibitions, community gatherings and so much more. We bounced back with enthusiasm, anticipation and hope. While 2020 to 2022 were unprecedented in the challenges we experienced, in 2023 we demonstrated our individual and shared resilience, and that we can do hard things.

The 2023 school year, in and of itself, has been a huge success and reflects a strong and positive mindset moving forward. This is not to suggest that 2023 has been without its challenges or that there won't be bumps in the road ahead that will require moments of tolerance of distress, compassion, and courage. This is life. And there will always be opportunities that facilitate personal growth if we see it with an optimistic lens.

Returning to a full school experience after the past two-year meant that we were not necessarily 'match fit'. The students were largely denied of opportunities to strengthen and develop their social and emotional capabilities, as developmental milestones which are best learned in relation to others, in real-time and space. As parents, the challenge was to let them go, to let them grow.

This reflection, it is also a gentle reminder as to why we are exhausted: students families, and staff.

“No one I know began this year on a full tank. Given the vicious onslaught of the previous two years (let’s just call it what it was) most of us dragged ourselves across the finish line of 2021 … frazzled, spent, running on aged adrenaline fumes …

We crawled into 2022 still carrying shock, trauma, grief, heaviness, disbelief… The memories of a surreal existence…

And then it began… The fastest hurricane year we could ever have imagined. Whether we have consciously processed it or not, this has been a year of more pressure, more stress, and a race to 'catch up' in all departments … Every. Single. One. Work, school, sports, relationships, life …

Though not intentionally aware, perhaps hopeful that the busier we are, the more readily we will forget… the more easily we will undo the emotional tangle… the more permanently we will wipe away the scarring wounds …

We can’t.

And attempts to re-create some semblance of “normal” on steroids while disregarding that for almost two years our sympathetic nervous systems were on full alert, has left our collective mental health in tatters. Our children and teens are not exempt. The natural by-product of fighting a hurricane is complete and utter exhaustion …

So before you begin questioning the absolutely depleted and wrung-dry state you are in- Pause. Breathe. Remind yourself of who you are and what you have endured. And then remind yourself of what you have overcome.

Despite it all, you’re still going. (Even on the days you stumble and find yourself face down in a pile of dirt).

Understanding brings compassion …

Most of the world’s citizens are in need of a little extra TLC at the moment. Most are donning invisible “Handle with care” posters around their necks and “Fragile” tattoos on their bodies …

Instead of racing to the finish line of this year, tread gently. Go slowly.

Amidst the chaos, find small pockets of silence. Find compassion. Allow the healing. And most of all … Be kind. There’s no human being on earth who couldn’t use just a little bit more of the healing salve of kindness."

In closing, I wish to acknowledge all members of the counselling team, Alison, Henry and Aviv, for their efforts and unwavering commitment to supporting the young people in our care. I also want to share, that after almost six years of service at Woodleigh, Henry Bell is moving on to take up a similar role in a school closer to home. Whilst we will miss him, we only have admiration and respect for his contribution to our team, school, and community, and wish him all the very best for the next chapter.

May you all have a restorative, relaxing, and safe break and I look forward to the shape of things to come next year.

In gratitude,

Director of Counselling