Huffman Update 11/9

November 9, 2020

The Huffman Commitment

We will work with every student, staff member, and family to develop and maintain a safe, welcoming, and inclusive learning community. We are committed to continuously improving our professional practices and take responsibility for the academic, social, and emotional growth of every student. We believe all people can grow in a positive direction.

Principal's Note

Dear Huffman Families,

With the announcement to postpone the return of students, a few parents asked that I share some ideas to help students and families process this information. I thought it might be helpful to provide some background and talking points for you to help students understand these decisions. Teachers also led class meetings with students to provide an outlet to process feelings today.

You know your children best. Please take this with a grain of salt and trust your judgment as a parent and guardian.

First, communicate that feelings of uncertainty are normal and healthy. We all struggle with sudden changes and how to handle the emotions that go along with the roller coaster we are all experiencing.

  • Acknowledge these feelings. Feeling unsure, frustrated, sad, or relieved are normal and healthy. Everyone in our community and world is struggling with these difficult decisions and the feelings of uncertainty are normal.
  • When we feel frustrated, scared, or confused, it is our body and mind working to keep us safe and to help us process information. Luckily, we have strategies that will help us make sense of all this information in healthy ways.
  • Teach students to name their feelings and the vocabulary to express themselves. Being able to name feelings provides a sense of control and provides a healthy outlet of expression.

Second, communicate WHY these decisions are being made. It is important to be straight forward and honest with our kids using language kids can understand.

  • More and more people are getting sick in Anchorage and more people are using our hospitals to help them get better.
  • Almost everyone gets better when they get Covid, but our hospitals must be ready and able to help people when they do get sick.
  • We want to make sure our doctors and nurses can help people when they are sick and if too many people get sick all at once, it makes it hard for our hospitals to help people.
  • ASD will be symptom free when we return to school. That means even if teachers or students have a cough or other symptoms or have been a close contact, they are not allowed to come to work and school. If too many people aren't able to come to work, we won't be able to keep classes open. We do this to be extra safe

Third, reassure students they are ok.

  • Provide students a place to share their feelings without becoming overwhelmed. We want to provide enough information to help kids understand, but we don't want to dwell on the topic to a degree that causes fear and anxiety.
  • Remind students they are strong and resilient and they can handle things that are hard.
  • Let them know they can talk with you if they have questions.
  • Communicate that almost everyone recovers from Covid and is ok

Share and teach strategies for handling stress and anxiety.

  • Deep breathing exercises are helpful when we feel overwhelmed. Teach and practice this strategy. Many of our teachers already practice this.
  • Exercising and getting fresh air is great for the mind and body.
  • Eating well and getting a good night's sleep is important.
  • Take a moment to share gratitude. Taking a moment to think about what we are grateful for has a calming and grounding impact on all of us.
  • Noticing the good around us and practicing small gestures of kindness helps us feel connected to our neighbors and community. It provides a sense of well-being.
  • Practice Positive Self Talk. Help kids manage their thinking and teach them to push back on irrational thoughts. For example, when a child says, "I will never be able to see my friends at school", help them reframe their mindset. Instead, teach them to say, "I am bummed I can't see my friends at school, but I know I'll be able to see them again soon."
  • Practice saying, "This is really hard and I know it will get better."
  • Remind kids they are strong and healthy and even if someone does get Covid, almost everyone gets better.
  • Prepare for more change. Help students understand that information is constantly changing and there will be unexpected twists and announcements. We can preemptively prepare our minds for this.
  • Remind students they have overcome difficult things before. Reflect on a difficult situation in the past and remind them they overcame it. It might not feel like it right now, but it will get better.
  • Much is out of our control right now and this can be incredibly frustrating. Practice letting go of things we cannot control. Use self talk to say, "This is out of my control and that's ok". Easier said than done, but a worthwhile practice.

Finally, as parents and guardians, you may be struggling with concerns and anxiety about your child's academic and social progress. Our children will look to us as models throughout all of this. Many of you may be struggling to balance school, home, and work. You are not alone. In the middle of a global pandemic, we as adults wonder if we are doing enough, doing the right things, supporting our kids in the right way, and more. As this goes on, we are concerned about our kids falling behind. We are concerned they are not experiencing the social interactions they need for their development. There are days when we feel like we blew it, made mistakes, and screwed up. Your kids might get angry with you when you say no or set limits. Please hear me loud and clear, you are not alone. Kids are incredibly resilient. In the long run, the skills and habits we build as we navigate this difficult time may become our strengths as we look back on this one day. Trust yourself. Give yourself grace. You are doing what you believe is right given the circumstances we have. Having observed classes online, I can say our staff and families are making the most of a difficult situation and I am incredibly proud of our Huffman community.

I hope these talking points may be helpful as you support your children. Of course, these are simply some ideas and samples. You know your children best and what they need. I am confident in our students, I am confident in our families, and I am confident in our staff. If you need resources or we can support your student or family, please don't hesitate to reach out.

In addition, here are some wonderful book resources from Mrs. Schroeder.

We will get through this.

All the best, Chris