Chin up, smile, stop and chat, reassure and be supportive

Last week I spoke about the unprecedented times we are facing and today I reflect over the last 48 hours which saw a rapid change in the Coronavirus situation. Our government has responded quickly to ensure that all Australians are ready to respond to this pandemic. The situation is real and life, as we have come to enjoy it in our great country, will need to change immediately to ensure that our future is secure. We need to minimise the number of infections and deaths here in Australia considering the tragedy which is unfolding in other countries such as Italy and Britain. Experts say that we are about a few weeks behind in what is happening in Europe, so we need to respond with drastic measures. Our SA borders will close tomorrow afternoon and at midday today restaurants, hotels and cafes closed to stop us from gathering in public places. At this stage, schools will remain open although parents can make a decision to keep their children home.

At Cardijn we are working very hard to make sure that students are safe and looked after. As you know this is now our first priority. Learning is important, but we need to pay closer attention to our children and their wellbeing. They are seeing the news reports and tragic images from overseas – no wonder they feel anxious, uncertain and at a loss. These feelings are no different for many adults as they also try to process the gravity of our situation.

At a time of crisis we need to respond united as a community. We need to recognise that the issues are complex and we need to respond to the advice of our government and medical authorities. I recognise that there are multiple issues such as safety from catching the virus, disruption to our normal routine, concerns about where you can go and what to avoid, financial concerns if work has been impacted, disruption to learning and academic expectations during these times, shortage of food items and uncertainty in the weeks ahead. These are all issues which are foremost in the minds of adults and children. They are certainly on my mind constantly.

Firstly, as a community we totally empathise with everything that is happening and that these feelings and behaviours are normal. We encourage everyone to do their best in what is expected of us in terms of our social responsibility and WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS. We accept that this is happening and we are not going to dwell over it. We work together to look after each other, listen, learn and be open to other people and their concerns. We will be much stronger as a community and a nation when we get through this crisis. We will pick up and be better.

Our job is to be calm and set the example for our children, to try as best as possible to make life positive. We need to spend more family time together to talk this through and be there for each other. Don’t forget to call your family or just message them wherever they are in the world. So for me, that means chin up, smile, stop and chat, listen, reassure and be empathetic, supportive, generous and compassionate.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, a Catholic secondary co-educational school (7-12) in the southern region of Adelaide with a total of 1120 students and 140 staff. Marcellin is a campus of Cardijn College. It provides students in Years 10 to 12 with SACE, training and apprenticeships. It has an enrolment of over 155 students and 30 staff. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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