BRAVE, Not Perfect

Kalee Barbis, Head of School Nashville

There has been so much written in the last year about the effects of COVID-19 classroom shutdowns on the mental health of Students. At Templeton Academy we saw those impacts firsthand, as Students told us studying from home was lonely and parents shared their fears about and daily experiences with digital learning. As we’re finishing the Summer of 2021, we are both grateful to be back to in-person learning safely and aware of how much our Students have experienced, both collectively and individually, in the past year. 

One of the pillars of learning that makes Templeton Academy so unique is our commitment to Core Advisory – putting the development of life-long learners and engaged and empathetic community members first. One of the ways we consistently focus on Core Advisory principles is in our many affinity groups, who meet weekly on campus (and virtually as was needed last year and continues now for some of our Student body).

The affinity group I lead is named BRAVE, Not Perfect. Together, we’ve built a 12-member weekly support group over the past year, with a focus on celebrating success. While the group is open to all, our current makeup is twelve girls from 5th to 10th grade. Over the past year, we’ve talked a lot together about anxiety, loneliness, and the impact of the pandemic on our mental health. We’ve shared high-tech and low-tech tools to help, from mindfulness apps (Headspace is one of our favorites) to making face masks together and joining a virtual baking event that ended in sweet success (and some thorough kitchen cleaning).

Together, we’ve shared strategies to meet mental health challenges head-on. From self-reflection to managing homework and assignment deadlines – it’s all on the table. Here are just a few that the girls shared with the group this year:

– Make a list of what you have to do and figure out how to do it over time.
– Treat exams like any other test…because they are.
– Find hobbies like reading or making jewelry.

Treat exams like any other test… because they are. Find hobbies like reading or making jewelry.

Watching our older members mentor younger ones has definitely been a highlight over the past year for me. For the group members, baking together (from home) was one of the highlights. One thing we’ve tackled is a tendency, especially in girls, to focus on the negative. We’ve worked together on understanding and experiencing the important, positive impact of taking time and energy to think about what makes you proud. By focusing on what we do well – with weekly Student-led group discussions and sharing sessions – we’re giving ourselves the time and space to add a bit more grace into our daily lives and celebrate what we’re proud of, especially when times are hard.

At home, we hope our Students are continuing these discussions with our parents, family members, and friends. Having real conversations about mental health outside of school is important. While we’re creating a safe space at Templeton Academy with BRAVE, Not Perfect, and our many other affinity groups, it’s important to build safe spaces off-campus and have timely conversations with friends and family members, too. If you have questions on how to start the conversation, our team is here to help!