The Social-Emotional Road Map at YCDS

By Mrs. Elizabeth Trump
Coordinator of Mental Health and Wellness

Shared today during the Opening Day Assembly for all students:

I am Elizabeth Trump, Coordinator of Mental Health and Wellness for 6th through 12th grades.

In the simplest terms, my job is to support each of you, along with your families, teachers and communities, to continue growing into the best students and people you can be.  Growing up can be challenging, and some of the things that make it a little easier are not things we know naturally.  Just as we have to learn how to read and do math, we also have to learn how to take good care of ourselves mentally and emotionally.  Throughout the year, we will be talking about a variety of topics that will help you in those areas.  We will discuss these topics in large and small groups.  In September, we will explore what it looks like to identify values and goals, and how each can motivate us to achieve positive outcomes.

When obstacles get in the way of your mental or emotional health or get in the way of your school success, I am here to help figure out a way to work through those difficulties as well.

I find that we work best when we know each other well.  In the next few weeks, I will be working with your advisors to establish meeting times for the Middle and Upper School students so we can meet individually.  I also want to know the Lower School students, who will one day be Middle School students.

Activity:

Let’s play a simple game, and see if I can find something in common with each of you.  Raise your hand if you agree with any of the statements that are true about me.

  1. I was born in York, Pennsylvania.
  2. I have lived in North Carolina.
  3. I have a pet, mine is a chocolate lab named Abbey.
  4. My favorite food group is cookies.
  5. I went swimming this summer.
  6. I love to learn new things.
  7. I read a book this summer.
  8. Today is my first day in school at York Country Day.
  9. Final truth: I am a little nervous about this first day.

Challenge:

Beginnings are exciting, full of possibilities.  Possibilities is also code for “unknown.”  The truth is, I suspect even for those people who did not raise their hands with the last statement, there are nerves among the excitement.  There are a lot of things we don’t know about this year.  We don’t know what it will be like to meet new people, what it will be like to talk to old friends after the summer, what our classes will be like, how much work we will have to do, what will be fun, what will be challenging.  Many of these unknowns are also unknowns to me about the year ahead.  As humans, our brains do an interesting thing.  Our brains have a tendency to create stories to fill in the missing pieces.  Imagine how I will feel, if the story my brain has created about this year is one based on fear, a story about things being stressful or even a story where I assume I know the ending.  Now imagine how differently I might approach today if I notice my brain trying to write that story, and I say instead, “let’s just see how this is going to go” or “I wonder what might be exciting about this.”

I offer this challenge to you, today, on the first day of the year.  Every time you have an unknown or new experience, rather than approaching it with fear or trying to guess how it will turn out, my encouragement is to approach the situation with curiosity and wonder.  Be curious about what is going to unfold and what your experience can be.  Curiosity can be defined as “a strong desire to know something.”

How much different would it be to approach a new class, assignment, or subject with a strong desire to understand or figure it out?  Curiosity writes a much better story in my mind than fear every time.  Stephen Hawking, a brilliant scientist said it like this, “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.  Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.”  In the company of Stephen Hawking, let’s approach this school year, looking at the world around us with wonder and remaining curious.