dir apr 2020

Dear Academia Cotopaxi Community Members,

The number of families affected by the coronavirus around the world continues to grow. We work closely with our sister schools in Ecuador and around the world, including Guayaquil and feel for them in these difficult times. All other things, grades, jobs, vacations, are secondary to health. I would like to commend all of you, children, parents and colleagues for taking to heart this international effort to safeguard each and everyone of the beautiful people who live on this amazing planet, regardless of race, gender, wealth, religion or age. We are all one family. 

There is no doubt that members of our community are experiencing vastly different levels of stress and anxiety. That includes staff members with family members both here in Ecuador or overseas who have been directly impacted. Our hearts go out to all these families. Enduring such difficult times in isolation adds significantly to the tragedy of our collective experience. Please remember you are not alone. If you need to reach out to anyone from our school, teachers, counselors, administrators or myself we are here for you just as you are here for us.

Semana Santa is a Break

Some of our community may not feel like a break is necessary given all that has happened and is happening. But we need to step back. We need to unplug and focus on what really matters. There is a possibility that the current conditions could continue for weeks, perhaps months. We need to be prepared for the long-haul. Like distance runners, slowing down and catching one’s breath can help us all reach the finish line. 

This is not the vacation any of us planned. No one is going anywhere. But it also affords us a wonderful opportunity to dedicate time to family and to care for one another. A few parents have asked about work for the week of the break. We do not believe this is healthy for students or teachers. The strain our faculty is under and the extra hours they have dedicated have been overwhelming and their response has been amazing. They need a break. Your children need a break. You need a break. Build a puzzle. Read aloud. Plant seeds. Play an instrument. Sing together. Enjoy the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with your children. Bake cookies and watch a series. As a grandfather I can tell you they grow up way too quickly. Years from now there will be elements of this situation that you will sincerely miss. But take a break. You, we, all of us have earned it and all of us will need every reserve and all our strength in the weeks to come. If you need ideas for resources and activities, make use of the resources on the AC Distance Learning website. I would recommend checking out the Additional Learning Resources page for fun and engaging activities for your children. The other day I visited both the San Diego and Chicago zoos’ webcams and enjoyed watching beautiful animals in action, a reminder of all the great experiences with nature and the outdoors we all look forward to experiencing again, hopefully soon. 

All of us here at AC and IMAGINE plan to return, rested and invigorated;  we need your children rested and ready also.

A Personal Story 

Like some of our parents, I grew up before the internet, cable TV and on-demand movies. We lived in the country with two, three if we were lucky, TV channels that often were foggy to watch. I would spend my summers on my grandparents’ farm where we had to go out to a well and hand pump water to drink and use an outhouse. Try that in the Canadian winter! That may give an idea of how quickly life has changed in so much of the world - for the better. 

Without the internet and video games etc. I spent a lot of time with my two grandfathers. They had both lived through the First World War, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression and the Second World War. I listened to their stories, again and again, year after year. I noticed something about their stories and the way they told them. They laughed. They remembered how such hard times brought people together. They remembered having a clear purpose. They remembered supporting others in their families and communities. 

One of my fondest memories was when the two old guys would get together. My Dutch grandpa would always brag about how great Holland was. He left Europe at the end of World War I so he did not experience the devastation of the Nazi invasion firsthand. My other grandpa was one of those brave souls who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day as part of the Canadian forces that liberated Holland. Grandpa van der Eyken would go on and on about how great Holland was. Grandpa Stephens just shook his head, chuckled and said, “I don’t know, it was all shot up to hell when I was there.” They both ended the conversation with smiles and fond memories from their struggles. 

Our grandparents saw difficult times, they fought and struggled and prevailed and to a large measure the rich lives we have all enjoyed is the product of their determination, they chose to come out better at the end.

We all have that power and that choice. The “way things were” is not something we can get back. It is our task to make “where we are” all it can be so that when we tell the tales, we can do so with laughter and memories of caring and support. This is the lesson for each and every one of us. 

What we are experiencing today is the most powerful learning this generation of students, our children, will experience. It is our job to ensure that it is learned well and learned with joy. It is our job that out of this historic period of turmoil and disruption a new foundation can emerge, and a new way of being for and with each other can become a shared reality. Please watch this video for some inspiration.

One other opportunity during this time is to discover our children’s music and sharing our own. Here is a beautiful song by Bob Marley that I share with you today. Please feel welcome to share back any music you draw strength and hope from, in any language or genre. 

It is up to us to prevail.


Robert van der Eyken