“Fenced In” during COVID-19 Lockdown

Lockdown in the city.  Although social distancing could have been the answer to the dramatic effort to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, stronger government measures have been required to enforce common sense measures like social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.  As a result, most of us are in our homes for most of the day in Vancouver and many other places throughout the world.  Only Taiwan used the SARS experience to prepare adequately to manage this recent global pandemic.  For people in Taiwan, life includes travel restrictions, regular temperature checks, masks, and strictly enforced isolation for people who have travelled or feel sick.  It also includes going to work, restaurants, and the gym.  For the rest of us, we’re inside.  No socializing.  No yoga.  No gym. No eating out at restaurants.  No visits to the local coffee shop to sit, work or socialize.  Even the logs at the popular Vancouver beaches have been gathered and fenced in to prevent people from gathering and socializing in groups.  The quest to cope is daunting for many who feel like they have exchanged control of their lives for abject boredom.  However we continue to have control of how we perceive our situation and how we spend our time.

I am grateful that we our two week Spring break that pushed the card on self isolating and government enforcement of Health and Safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while my family, friends and my school community are still healthy.  Prior to the break, our school did a good job of reminding kids to wash hands properly, cough into their elbows, and maintain clean spaces and surfaces.  We are now in a better position to teach and reinforce the importance of social distancing.

My Grandma Derksen kept four young kids together and alive through-out World War II in Germany.  She lived to be 100 years old,  Her stories of rats nibbling on toes in emergency shelters and other horrific conditions framed her later life.  She demonstrated a fastidious attention to cleanliness.  For her joy came with a clean and organized household.  When I was newly married, I’d take a toothbrush to crevices when she came to visit and shove piles of stuff into closets.  The family joke has always been that the clean gene skipped my genetic make-up.  I prefer to go out and do something.  If I’m at home, I’d prefer to read or write rather than clean the house.

I was gifted with the collector gene of my Grandma Keenan.  Books, rocks, shells, tea cups, photos, letters and other treasures carry stories and possibilities.  My recent obsession with clean surfaces have brought the realization that the clutter also brings dust and presents a cleaning challenge.  I will require more than a two week lock-down to meet the Grandma Derksen standard, but I am well on my way.

My recent painting, organizing, and cleaning obsession has been made enjoyable with audio-books and the Netflix binge watch.  I have discovered that weekly featured audiobooks are available for under $10.00 and some great classics are even cheaper.  Nothing like a hard boiled detective with Tourettes to entertain you while you paint a bedroom.  Multiple seasons of a series on Netflix with well developed characters has kept me shuffling papers and sorting “stuff” well into the night.

Social media has the merits of checking in on people and statistics, but like binge watching television or the news can become a black hole.  It has the same capacity as empty grocery store shelves to fill me with anxiety and apprehension.  My mother was the ultimate worry wart.  The worst things that happened in her life were the things she never saw coming.  The worry just made her more nervous and less able to experience joy.  I have found the need to just turn it off.   Daily technology and television breaks are mandatory.

Reading is how I cope with life.  It allows me to shift gears.  It provides the front-end loading that feeds my curiosity and helps me process life.  It allows me to do big picture thinking and make sense of things in the past and yet to come.  It’s not an “add on” to a busy schedule but part of my life.  The additional time at home has diversified my reading.  I am even listening to a grisly book called Still Lives that would make my older sister proud – the ultimate consumer of scary books and movies.  I just finished a book called Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang that has reframed my thinking around work/ life balance.

Daily outdoor exercise is part of the mix.  It provides a welcome addition to the day.  There is something to be said for the positive addition of having time with nature to calm our nervous system and experience joy in its beauty.  There is time for long walks and bike rides.  My preference is for long bike rides because it gives me a better way to work out.  Spring is a great time of year.  As new growth emerges, so do the possibilities for learning, considering things in a new light and creativity.  With this new learning and inspiration comes the desire to write and to cook.  Olive’s bran muffins from when my cousin and I worked on 4th Avenue at The Computer Tax Service, Nanny Keenan’s oatcakes, along with homemade croutons have become staples.

By the end of the day, I still find I have more to do.   Today I will venture out into the rain.  Then the promise of a pot of tea and a good book.  Tonight I have decided that it will be date night.  I will put on nice clothes and perhaps even make-up and make a fancy dinner.   Something to change things up.  I may even let my husband teach me a new card game.  My husband will be delighted not to be co-opted into another organizational venture!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Drills

cars city fire truck firefighter
Photo by Kính on Pexels.com

School drills are the way we ensure that staff and students know and understand the processes required in the event of an unanticipated emergency.  I remember the day that the fire bell went off at recess and many of the students entered the school to line up at their classroom doors.  Since that day, I have always done at least one fire drill at recess or lunch to ensure children know where to line up.  The biggest take away for teachers, parents and students is that drills are opportunities to pause and consider how we could keep ourselves safe in an emergency.  The most reassuring information I can pass on is that I have been doing fire drills at school since I was five years and I have never had a big school fire.  Those of my students who consider me ancient, are VERY reassured.  All schools have regular schedules for mandatory safety drills.

Fire drills in VSB schools happen a minimum of five times at each school.  All parent and students in the school have grown accustomed to this practice.  The necessity is rarely questioned and parents are comfortable with having the conversation about the necessity of this drill with their child.

Earthquake drills have been scheduled once a year at most schools  during The Great British Columbia Shake Out drill in October.  Another Evacuation drill, happens in May in the Vancouver School District .  A school evacuation could involve a situation which could include but is not limited to fires, earthquakes and hazardous spills, or as required following a Lockdown or Drop-Cover-Hold (ie. during an earthquake or an explosion)*.   The reunification of families in the event of an evacuation is given extra care and attention.  This drill usually involves lots of “what if” conversations and problem solving.  It is supported by information on websites, radio, and social media, the Police, the Fire Department, the Ambulance service, the school district, and from the provincial government.   It is still an uncomfortable conversation, but lots of people are participating in it together.

The drill that often doesn’t evoke a lot of parent conversation is the Lockdown drill.  Lockdown is used to protect school occupants from a dangerous person within the school, for example a person armed with a knife, firearm or other weapon and who is threatening or in the process of harming people*.   At my PAC meeting, the recent lockdown drill precipitated a lot of conversation by the parents, PAC executive and the DPAC rep at the meeting.  I was surprised because lockdown drills have been mandatory for many years, but have never been discussed by my parent group to this degree or with so many opinions about how it should unfold.  Initially I just wasn’t sure what to make of it.

The obvious finally occurred to me.  Many parents don’t want to consider the possibility of needing a lockdown, let alone having the conversation with their own children about why we practice  this drill.  As the person in charge of ensuring school community safety, I understand the feeling.  However I am also of the mind that if we know what to do in any given situation, we are in the best position to staff safe.

That being said, here are a few suggestions to talk to your child about a lockdown drill:

  • Be calm and matter of fact. Nothing bad has happened or is expected to happen.
  • We practice drills at school to keep children safe if anything unexpected
  • In any situation, a plan helps us to stay safe. It makes sure we know what to do.
  • If you have questions or concerns about the drill, talk to the teacher, your parents, or another adult.
  • Television shows, movies, and video games are intended to sell things not reflect reality at most schools.

If your child is particularly anxious about any of the drills at school, it is always a good idea to talk to the teacher.  This will help the teacher prepare for her conversations with his/her/their students and any alternate arrangement that may need to be made in the event of a child’s special need or extreme anxiety.

*Sentence from the Vancouver Board of Education:  Staff Emergency Procedures flipbook available in every classroom.