Welcome to Winter Term 2020

Saturday, November 28, 2020

As we launch into winter term we pause to recognize the unusual stresses and strain of life during a pandemic. We know that parents have carried additional burdens and worries for their children since the pandemic began. Nancy Nebeker, Waterford's MS/US Dean of Students reflects on the significance of our partnership with parents as we care for the health and wellbeing of each student.


Full text:

I want to welcome you and your students back to Winter term.   We marvel at the success and growth we have seen in our students during the first four months of the school year and we know that your support at home has made all the difference.   

Our core value of caring has been and will continue to be front and center during this challenging time.  We are committed to the “care and keeping” of each of our students in this hybrid environment—where a portion of our community is at home 100% of the time.  We recognize that the reduction of face-to-face interactions with students has made our ongoing partnership with you even more vital.

While much is different about this year, much is the same.  Holding to our expectations for students is a way to remind them that we all stand on a firm and familiar foundation.

  • We still expect students to be “in” class either on campus or concurrently from home.  
  • We expect them to be on time, have their camera on, and to engage in their classes.  
  • We also expect them to do the work their teachers have assigned them.  

I am convinced that those time-honored expectations actually give students clarity in this time of uncertainty.

None of us, however, are exempt from the stress - induced by this global pandemic - not you, not your children and not our faculty. We know that you as parents have carried additional supportive responsibilities during this time.  You have also felt and carried the weight of your children’s disappointments and losses in very personal ways.  

As we begin a new term, we want you to know that we are paying close attention to the emotional health and wellbeing of our students. As this pandemic stretches on—feelings of disappointment, isolation, sadness, stress and anxiety are real and deserve our best attention. We know that this work is of primary importance - because a student’s health and wellbeing are what makes it possible for them to experience and achieve all that is good and meaningful and joyful at Waterford.

 In recent months,  you and your children have continued to make good use of the SafeUT app—alerting us to sensitive and important information which we have been able to follow up on.  We are very grateful for that.  In the coming weeks, we are once again partnering with Harvard’s Making Caring Common program to survey our students around the culture and climate they experience at Waterford.  The survey will be administered in early December. 

When my children were quite young we lived next door to a woman who was like a grandmother to the neighborhood children.  She passed out delicious homemade cookies to the kids and heartfelt advice to their young parents.  One sunny afternoon  on my front lawn she said  “Nancy, in time you will realize that you are only as happy as your most unhappy child.”

I thought then that her advice sounded bleak and almost cynical, but over the years I have come to know that in many ways it is true.  As parents we cannot help but internalize our children’s sorrows and disappointments and we are often driven to do whatever we can to ease them.  As my children grew up,  I became quite aware that my own emotional set-point was often tied to one of my children who was struggling.

This is all to say that we understand the concerns and worries you may be carrying and we stand ready to help in any way we can.  This year, hearing about your concerns for the emotional wellbeing of your child -- or even one of their friends -  has never been more essential to the work we do everyday. 

In short, input from you about your child’s wellbeing is incredibly valuable because it often gives us a window on things we cannot see.  Your intuition can guide us to better serve the students in our midst -- including those learning exclusively from home.   Often our work of connecting the dots begins with insights from you.

Please know my door is always open.  And so is my mind and my heart.  The path ahead is always brighter when it is traveled together.

Thank you for listening and for sharing your children with us.

Welcome to Winter term.