By Annabelle Foz, South Bay Work, Integrate, Learn, Live (W.I.L.L.) Training Program Manager
The pandemic has taught us a lot of lessons and insights on the way we look at adversities. Every misfortune has a lesson to teach depending on one’s perspective of life. Throughout this journey, I have been wondering about what kind of experiences will be along the way and how they could shape me. I cannot make it through the years without dealing head-on with the bad and hard times.
Maintaining the Day Program and making sure it delivers meaningful lessons and experience to our students was the main challenge. FCSN has a promise to fulfill in ensuring that all clients receive and enjoy the benefits of ongoing activities by using both virtual and in-person instructions. Getting ready for the different reopening phases was a tall order that required compliance to both internal and external demands. Armed with passion and dedication, all staff came together in preparing for a smooth and safe reopening by participating in different training programs and team meetings, while keeping parent’s well informed and updated through regular “All Clients and Parents” meetings.
As soon as health and safety permitted, the first all-staff in-person training was held on how to adapt to a new norm and prepare clients in their transition back to the classroom. Simultaneously, our staff experienced benefits disguised as challenges in transitioning their expectations towards the new normal, such as learning how to maintain the operations of virtual and in-person classes, while remaining focused on making sure all clients are benefiting from ongoing activities.
As the first reopening date came to near, staff members worked persistently to create an atmosphere filled with happiness by decorating each room with colorful designs and encouraging quotes to help clients to feel safe and welcome into a new home upon their return. It was also an opportunity for everyone to rekindle bonding by putting efforts together to make the center feel like one whole family again. As the spirit of normalcy completes its comeback in gradual steps for the return to in-person interaction, the spirit of every participant has not dampened in our learning environment during a pandemic. Instead, it altered the mindset of every individual to focus on safety, stability and connection. All the standard safety procedures were observed as clients entered the center premise: passing through a disinfection barrier, a thermal screening, and sanitizing their hands. This was not done solely for the purpose of hygienic protection, but also to demonstrate clients’ awareness about COVID-19. After the many weeks of distance learning, which was challenging for clients, parents, and staff alike, the willingness to go back to normal learning processes is now demonstrably high; everyone displays a readiness to comply with the new safety regulations set by the government.
The first day back in the classroom was unusual and emotional for both students and staff. Wearing a mask, which is mandatory for everyone, covers people’s expressions, requiring both clients and staff to focus harder to equally understand what is being conveyed.
Everyone is happy to be back and do not wish to have another interrupted routine of attendance. It emphasizes how important it is to be physically present to interact with friends, share opinions, engage in long anticipated conversations and participate in activities together.
The readiness and enthusiasm of the parents, clients, and staff to adapt to the new set of rules made safety management possible during this shared COVID-19 reality. Seeing our clients bravely confront difficulties from the unexpected pandemic by taking small steps to enter a new normal has brought smiles back to our faces and in our hearts.