This week has reaffirmed my belief in the human spirit. It may seem a foolish thing to say when the WHO has just declared a pandemic, but my reaffirmation is not inspired by the pandemic. It is inspired by the human response to that pandemic. It is not the human response from far away that we see everyday pouring out of the internet. Rather, I’m inspired by the human response that we see right here in our own school community. We have some true heroes in our midst and I’m eager to sing their praises.
Who among us with children would say that there is anything more important than the wellbeing, safety, and education of those children? When that was suddenly threatened last week those who stepped in to fill the breach in the system are heroes to me. At ISG Jubail, those heroes are our faculty and staff. Quite literally overnight they changed the location, the time, the manner, and the content of their teaching. They completely revolutionized the way they work in 24 hours. It is hard to find examples of changes of this magnitude taking place in such a short time in other workplaces. The change was not to the virtual school model that we all knew and practiced. Rather, the shift was to a model that we learned from the recent experience of other schools could serve us better for long-term implementation. As we made the shift, the mood was sprinkled with fear but tempered by strong resolve to do what was needed for kids. We all knew that the wellbeing of students was of utmost importance. It was important that they feel supported, cared for, and connected to their own social community throughout the process. Obviously, the delivery of content and the medium of interaction had to completely change. How can you teach PE when four kids have balls at home, two have tennis rackets, three others have jump ropes, and the lesson you originally planned revolved around team sports? The phrase 'a sea change' underestimates the shifts required. One solution involving students making their own equipment astounded me both with its brilliance and its simplicity. The learning inherent in this new virtual lesson goes far beyond the shape standards it is designed to meet. It is also a beautiful illustration of meeting our mission by inspiring innovation and accomplishing our goal of student agency. A student who has experience making their own tools to learn will not be easily stopped by problems in their future. Similar innovations are happening in all disciplines.
As an accomplished professional, when you completely change most aspects of the job you do, you can’t immediately perform at as high a level as you expect of yourself. This can be very frustrating. Every one of our faculty members have 5,280 things about what they did this week that they want to improve. These 5,280 things often keep them from feeling like heroes. Of course you can’t change 5,280 things all at once. They need your constructive feedback to help them know which are the most important, but they also need your grace, patience, and understanding as they make these heroic changes to continue inspiring innovation and compassionate action. To help us, we hope that you will give us your feedback in the survey linked here.
Finally, you and your children are also making heroic sacrifices as your worlds, schedules, and communities are turned upside down. It is insidious that just when we need one another the most, we must be physically distant from one another. We welcome your suggestions about how we might fill this breach in our community by building bridges to one another electronically. Also, be aware that the ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ initiative by our counselors will often contain material useful for all of us in the community not just students. I celebrate the pulling together of our community to meet this challenge, and I truly believe that whenever extended virtual school ends; we will be better teachers, administrators, staff members, and parents than we were before.
Please don’t forget the survey.