“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

It has been more than 100 years since Roosevelt made this speech. But his thoughts and words echoed and found a resonance throughout the tumultuousness of 2020, and whenever it felt that we had our back against the wall, these words reminded us, yet again, that self-restraint, adaptability, empathy, compassion, and resilience were at the core of human nature, and contrary to common belief, our greatest strength emerges from embracing our vulnerabilities.

Much has been written about the metamorphosis witnessed in the education sector. How educators became one of most significant frontline defense systems in humanity’s fight against Covid-19, and how their resilient and sustained efforts provided an impressionable generation of youngsters the vital sense of purpose, connectivity, and motivation to navigate through an otherwise physically and emotionally stagnant and isolated world.

This is when the impassioned need to connect, to heal, and to ‘give’, took precedence over all of our other fears. This is when we truly embraced our vulnerabilities, came face to face with our limitations, and decided to stay in the arena, nevertheless. Did this come easily? No. Administrators, school leadership, and educators would recount the tremendous challenges that all of us faced in building a virtual fortress that had to seamlessly replicate the social and emotional experiences that underpin the academic journey of students.

Victor Frankl said, “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” And we found purpose and meaning in the forced pause brought in by the pandemic. The STOP button gave us time to reflect, introspect, and truly learn how to ‘live in the now’ and make it worthwhile for all our stakeholders.

‘Wellness,’ ‘mindfulness,’ ‘emotional health, and ‘self-care’ became the foundational topics in our SEL sessions as CHIREC administration took cognizance of their students and staff’s welfare and initiated the Cognita wellbeing charter, that put its people’s wellbeing at center stage, and injected the spirit of social connection through various wellness initiatives.

 In our weekly SEL sessions, we heard stories of personal victories as well as shared disappointments, collaborated for constructive solutions, and built a bond that went beyond curricular transactions and lesson plan strategizing.

How do you assess the efficacy of a program on wellness? Well, I guess the transformation was evident when I noticed that teachers started their conversion by empathizing with colleagues and took time to highlight and appreciate another colleague’s perspective, were eager to give a compliment to a fellow participant on a job well done, instead of staying mechanically focused on the tabulated agenda for the day.

As “Oh, you are asking me” was slowly getting replaced by “Sumita, I want to share something”, it was heartening to see teachers move from a place of cautious judgment to daringly sharing their vulnerable and authentic self and inspiring others with their grit and commitment.

This year has taught me the most important lesson of my life – about letting life ‘happen’ without planned deliberations and reactive decisions. By going with the flow and learning to appreciate the pause, and enriching it with logic, creativity, empathy, and love. I realized that life should be touched, not strangled. We have got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others, move forward with it.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Michelangelo

We move forward, evolved, wisened by our experiences, softened by our challenges, and humbled with gratitude for what we have received in our journey of weathering the storm.

Thank you, everyone, for being part of this beautiful journey. I wish you all the best of health and years filled with contentment and purpose.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Sumita Gowdety

Head of Social & Emotional Learning

I am an articulate communicator, empathetic listener, and passionate learner who has dedicated more than a decade’s research into building collaborative and transformative learning spaces for students that optimize their social and emotional skills for academic success, empower them to become conscientious and accountable decision makers, and create a roadmap for a thriving and fulfilling life. As Head of SEL Initiatives at CHIREC, my vision is to help build a culture of ethical mindfulness, purpose driven actions, empathetic relationships, resilience, and critical thinking in the fabric of the school climate and culture.