Learning happens in every conversation, in every situation and, in the current crisis, our learning has been rapid. 

We are learning as we adapt to the new world of zoom meetings, online discussions, working with colleagues who now exist on a small screen rather than nearby. 

We are learning as we muddle through with the emotional, practical and technological challenges we are all facing. 

Our challenge is now to take all our learning and focus it on positive outcomes.

An educator in the Reshet network shared a poem written by a child she works with:

In case of frighteness, get upset.

In case of get upset, play your favourite game.

In case of play your favourite game, get hungry.

In case of get hungry, eat your favourite food.

In case of eat your favourite food, get hiccups

In case of get hiccups, drink water.

In case of drink water, do exercise.

In case of do exercise, get tired.

In case of get tired, go to bed.

In case of go to bed, brush your teeth.

In case of brush your teeth, try not to have bad dreams.

In case of try not to have bad dreams, sleep well.

This poem reflects a strong, solution-based response to the fear caused by our current situation, as well as tremendous resilience.  

Last month, informal Jewish educators were privileged to spend an evening with Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasi, a Thai psychiatrist who worked with the 12 boys stranded in a Thai cave in 2018. 

Together with Dr Mark Berelowitz, the two psychiatrists spoke about the lessons of resilience we can learn from the boys’ experiences.  The doctors understanding is that resilience isn’t just individual, it is something we build together and what helped the Thai boys was the development of their shared resilience. In order to ferment this, the doctors had some clear ideas of things we might also do:

Never abandon hope – make plans for things you are going to do tomorrow, next week, next month.  Youth organisations are sharing activities for children and young people. Our informal educators continue to reach out, connect and care deeply for the children and young people they serve.  Youth activities have shifted their spaces but not their ambition.

Be mindful and live in the present – give yourself and others time to adjust to this new reality. Talk to children about their fears and the things which they are finding difficult: none of us have all of the answers, but by opening up spaces for conversations, the situation may seem less daunting for us all.  

Put aside blame and self-interest – one of the most profound things the doctors shared was that the Thai sports coach, who led the boys into the cave, was never criticised by the families or the Thai authorities. Instead, he was acknowledged for making an ‘honourable mistake’. Over the coming weeks, we and the people in our houses, will all make lots of mistakes.  Rather than placing blame, try to re-frame a shared mindset and champion the idea of making ‘honourable mistakes’.  

Look after the most vulnerable – the crisis is challenging in so many ways, but we have seen so many young people in our community step up to volunteer and help others.  Reshet has created guidance to enable us all to volunteer safely, when and where we are most needed 

Trust others – there are times when we need to trust others and belief in ourselves, even if we can’t rationalise our thoughts. Janusz Korczak, a doctor, educator and leader of the orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto wrote:

The child is a human being. We should respect the good person, but the bad one too. If you respect a good child, it will help greatly; if you respect a bad child, it won’t hurt. You love the good child; you’ll come to love the worst one too. I don’t know how it happens. It just does. It can’t be explained.

We are all going to be in our own ‘caves’ for the coming months.  The lessons the two doctors have shared may inspire us to learn from our experiences at the moment.  Few of us spend time recognising our own resilience.  Now is a good time to do that, to learn about ourselves.  

  • With thanks to Dr Teerakiat Jareonsettasi,  Dr Mark Berelowitz and the JLC Community Wellbeing Project, along with the Reshet network of educators for their inspiring work.