12 strategies for a successful shelter in place from survivors of SARS and H1N1 (The Postemas!)

March 27, 2020 | Thomas Postema

by Michele and Tom Postema

In the spring 2003, when we were living in Japan but had travelled to China to visit friends, we experienced the SARS epidemic which affected 26 countries. Then in 2009 while we were living in South Korea, we encountered the H1N1 epidemic, which resulted in school closures and societal “shelter in place” for several weeks with many months of additional restrictions and significant changes in daily school procedures, travel, and business.

As we look back at those times through the lens of life today, we realize that it is essential for us to strive to:

  1. Be gentle with yourself and those who are  (literally) closest to you.
  2. Follow the rules: do what your mayor and governor say to do and not to do.
  3. Affirm that less is more: schoolwork, cleaning, work expectations. Set the bar low, and you will clear it!
  4. Step outside as much as possible.
  5. Reach out to others in any way that you can & give thanks for technology!
  6. Mourn the losses … but not in front of the kids.  (We recommend this article from the New York Times.)
  7. Schedule and structure are essential, even if you loathe the sound of the alarm in the morning.
  8. Keep things positive, try to laugh.
  9. Create daily or weekly family challenges: board games, puzzles, Rummikub. Old school is best.
  10. Know that it truly is OK to feel and express that it’s hard and scary.
  11. Realize that life WILL be different after this, and everyone  will be changed in many ways.
  12. Envision the future with hope! Maybe start a “We can’t wait to _____” list.



Tom and Michele Postema when they were living and teaching in Japan

Mr. Postema directing traffic for fever screening during the H1N1 epidemic in Korea

Thomas Postema

Head of School

Mr. Postema was the Head of School from Fall 2011 to Spring 2021, when he retired.

An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema taught math and was a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students!

As Head of School, Mr. Postema successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and continues to be passionate about the mission even in his retirement.

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