The Trauma of Social Distancing

By: Jason McCauley, South Carolina Middle School Principal

As an incredibly extroverted third year principal I have really taken inventory of my thoughts and feelings about this new reality that we are all attempting to adjust to.  I always knew that I drew my energy from people and depended heavily upon my daily interactions with hundreds of people, but I had no idea just how much.  So, as I am racking my brain to figure out new and creative ways to interact safely with my people while practicing “social distancing,” I can’t help but wonder how the isolation is impacting our students and their families.  Whether we draw our energy from interactions with others or if those same interactions take all of our energy from us, we ALL still benefit from being in community and actively participating in face-to-face interactions. 

I am not a psychologist or sociologist and have really no research for my thoughts, other than observations of others and limited interactions with others.  The word that seems to be coming up over and over is frustration.  

Everyone just seems to be frustrated!  

The teachers are working overtime to meet the needs of all students by creating countless video lessons, trouble-shooting technology issues, ensuring that their students basic needs are being met, while also following up with parents of students that have not checked in or completed an assignment in a while.  The parents are frustrated. Not only are they dealing with the stress and uncertainty that this virus has added to their work-life and financial future, but they are also adapting to the new reality that they are now a full time, home-based teacher and were given less than 24 hours notice to make the necessary preparations to accept this new role.  School and district level administrators are attempting to be in constant communication with everyone to ensure that we are heading to a point of equilibrium and sustainability as we are all starting to understand that this could be our reality for the foreseeable future.  

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

I have no doubt that we will adapt.  Human beings have been adapting to new situations since the beginning of time.  I guess my concern is what if we actually do adapt?  What if our new reality is one without handshakes, high fives, and fist bumps?  What if “social distancing” is our new reality?  It is my fear that social and personal interaction will go down and that technology consumption will go way up.  

One thing that is very important to me, as a middle school principal, is that we are constantly embedding those very important social emotional skills.  We teach the students how to make good eye contact while delivering a strong and confident handshake.  We teach our students how to take a welcoming and non-threatening posture while involved in a conversation.  We understand there are still plenty of opportunities to practice good social skills while social distancing but the prospect of this new reality is really hard to think about. 

About the Author

Jason McCauley is the Principal of Palmetto Middle School. He is wrapping up his fifteenth year in education. Jason served as a Spanish teacher for five years, assistant principal for seven years, and just finished his third year as principal at Palmetto Middle School. During his time as an educator, Jason coached baseball and football. He has
been married to his wife, Amanda, for fifteen years and they have two sons; Wyatt and Briggs.

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