As Marlborough transitions to distance learning, students are now able to have Zoom meetings with members of the Peers Are Listening program. In the PALs program, Middle School students can meet with trained Upper School students to talk about any academic or personal problems they are having. Students can schedule a meeting by filling out a Google Form requesting a PAL, as the student members of the program are called. There are also plans to offer scheduled drop-in times, when students can meet with a member of PALs in a group session without an appointment.
PALs meetings give students the opportunity to feel more connected to the Marlborough community at a time when many of them may be feeling isolated, according to Middle School Psychologist Morgan Duggan.
“To see someone’s face really grounds you into that sense of community,” Duggan said. “We are missing out on those moments of connections in the hallway or the classrooms now. By offering group and individual meetings, PALs is hoping to provide connection and restore the feeling of belonging to the Marlborough community.”
PALs is even more important at a time of stress according to PALs member Annie ‘20.
“I hope that people take advantage of PALs in this weird time, particularly because it is such a confusing and anxiety-inducing world,” Annie ‘20 said. “I find it really helpful to talk to someone about what has been happening: how I’ve been dealing with distance learning, overwhelming amounts of news, being in my house with my family at all times. Given that we are all going through these major changes in our everyday lives, I think it is vital to have people, and PALs, to talk to, even though it may be in a different way than we’re used to.”
PALs is planning to continue all of the events and projects that they had been organizing before Marlborough transitioned to distance learning.
“We have some really creative students on our PALs team who are looking at ways to create those events online,” Duggan said.
Shifting to distance learning has created some problems for PALs, according to Director of Educational and Counseling Services Dr. Marisa Crandall.
“I think that there are challenges for all of us adapting,” Crandall said. “I always worry that students who are younger wouldn’t necessarily know who the PALs are, which is why I put pictures of all of the PALs on the request form. It’s harder to read tone or connect emotionally, when you are virtual as opposed to in real life sometimes.”
There are also some upsides to meeting with PALs through Zoom instead of in person.
“It might in some ways feel more private for students who are seeking support or help or just a conversation or someone to make them laugh or someone to look at their TikTok dance,” Crandall said. “Nobody would know if you had a meeting, so it’s more private even than the way we had things set up at school.”