Where the is-ness of us is at

We all love two letter words, hopefully more than four letter options. Something about the simplicity of just two letters joined to represent an impactful meaning offers security. Two letter words tend to be absolutes. We don’t really have superlatives for them: they are ‘it’ (point proven).

As spring brings fresh, pummeling rain to our city, we clock the next cycle of the pandemic wave and brace ourselves for what will be a tense approach to local elections. It may be worth including some reflection on where the is-ness of us is at. Are we emerging changed or different as we bob about in the suspension of time that is 2020/ 2021? Is our purpose altered? Do we yearn for the old ‘normal’ or choose to live in the present? And if so, is that an acceptance or are we defeated?

Who are we? Us. All of us. Our ‘us’ is Bellavista School. It is all of us together.

The power of this community rests in this neat two letter word: us. At Bellavista School there is no ‘them and us’. Read that again. The children are us. Staff across all functions are us. Parents are us.

What is the is-ness of us?

Bellavista School is a hope-filled school. We are so sure of that statement that we made a mural for the walls some years ago, to remind us who we are. To proclaim that we are “A hope-filled school” is not a ‘floaty’ affirmation, it is a strong call to strenuous action. To hope is not a naïve, whimsical wish. Hope doesn’t descend on one mystically or appear in a vision. It is a choice. Hope demands effort – you must hold on to it, drive it and broker it. To be a broker of hope you must take the high road, the more demanding path, the road less traveled. Hope is exacting. It is better associated with grit than toxic positivity. Sometimes, to choose hope seems futile in the face of the current reality. Our faith is our confidence for what we cannot yet see. Hope is our attitude and, in our school, our view of the child.

Hope is the is-ness of us. Is it? It is.

Schools are communities, right? They are part of the village that raises a child. Schools socialize children. In doings so they must develop ethics, life skills, knowledge and skills. What then is the ‘is-ness’ of Bellavista, this hope-filled school? The fundamental premise of our purpose is that we believe in the learning propensity of every child. We value integrity, in terms of our expertise and who we learn from; we raise children with parents in our culture of care; collaboration is key, at every turn; an environment of trust is fostered. Last but not least, the school community is proudly South African.

At a recent catch up with the Grade Seven Class of 2020, one of the alumni shared his transition to high school with me. He balanced the highs and lows and told me his strategies for change. Although it’s been tough for him to adjust to a mainstream environment, he shared that he holds hope that with time and his effort, it will only get better. This young man knows that hope is not a wish. He is choosing it in order to frame his feeling of challenge. He is looking forward with certainty, that with deliberate effort, he will experience the feeling of competence. When I asked what we can do as a school to make it easier, he beamed. “Don’t change a thing, Mrs Scott. At this school, we all had a place where we belonged. Give the kids every minute you can.” It occurred to me that ‘us’ is the objective case of another two letter word, ‘we’. This young man had insight to know that his Bellavista journey was ‘we’. He also knew that ‘if its to be, its up to me’.

2021 is what it is. Where is our is-ness at?

We are riding the storm with our families. Our hope continues – the action and the evidence. We know already that we have no curriculum lag across all grades. There is no scaled ‘learning’ loss. Some children have had a hard time but no more than in any given year living life. Their anxiety is settling as their routines hold steady. We have started annual assessments to measure literacy and numeracy developmental markers. There will be both undulations within a child’s individual profile. In the art and science of remedial intervention, our professional team senses that gains will be noted in the main. If there are little points of variance from this trend for a child, we have buoyed our 2022 staff complement to ensure the ‘just right’ support. In the long view, that being the primary school years, we believe that each child will have had the best possible chance of escaping ‘COVID’ disadvantage in their learning.

The children are robust, enthusiastic and more gritty than they were a year ago. We’ve noticed that the their levels of collaboration have improved. They are aware of their peers and the value of working together. Their ownership of issues like environmental awareness is evidence of them taking ownership of their role in the climate change crises underway. They show good ‘sharing behaviour’. Our children know that at school they are safe. We have worked hard to send cues for safety in terms of rhythm, regulation and relationships. It has was useful to be trauma-informed environment before the lockdowns even began and to deploy the strategies we know to make our school a safe harbour.

Our staff deserve every minute of affirmation that World Teachers Day brings on 5 October. Without them, we’d have no us. Period. I salute them.

What isn’t extinguished in this extraordinary time in history?

Is our purpose altered? It isn’t. Is our hope deferred? It isn’t. Do we long for the old normal? Sometimes, but not always. Our faith and our hope are undeterred. Where is yours at? Can you join us?

It is a choice. Your choice. Join us.

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