By: Louise North – Principal and Head of the Senior School

These are unprecedented times. No one in this community has seen anything like it in their lifetime. And no one ever thought that they would – a situation where the country and indeed the world is facing complete lockdown. That is something more suited to a screenplay than real life. It is hard to comprehend whether or not you have seen the films Contagion or Outbreak.

But there is no off button here, this isn’t Netflix, it isn’t made up. It is absolutely real and this for me – and for many of us – is the hardest and most unsettling thing of all.

But, as with any challenging situation, any experience beyond our comfort zone, it is how we react that matters.

The headlines this morning suggest that our politicians have decided not to react in a particularly helpful way and to fall into the trap of getting cross with one another. Instead of helping, they are currently throwing insults. The Government isn’t doing enough, the government is confusing everyone, the government should fall into line with other countries etc. Using this situation as a political football isn’t going to help anyone.

The situation we face at the moment is one that we have seen building over the last few months, and dare I say it, that we have watched unfold at a safe distance away.

But now, it is here, the situation is not one that we as a community or a country can avoid. It is with us and how we react when there is uncertainty and worry all around us, when social media – and all media in fact – seem to enjoy emphasising the scare stories, how we react is very important.

I would advise you to be calm, measured and sensible.

The danger with this of course is that if we remain calm, measured and sensible, we run the risk of being criticised for not taking the situation seriously enough. Because surely if we took it seriously, we would be panicking. But, that serves no purpose and leads to slightly extreme forms of behaviour like bulk buying toilet paper.page1image3221585568

As someone wise once said, losing your head in a crisis is a good way to become the crisis.

You have all been tremendously accommodating so far: you have tried hard to get to grips with Teams, you have been sensitive and kind towards those from overseas who have been separated for lengthy periods of time from their families, and you have adapted to the changes in timetable that we have had to impose, in spite of feelings of frustration and disappointment.

If we are told to close, that is what we will do. On one level, we are very prepared with our Learning Policy and our community is upskilled to enable us to keep learning. On another level, I don’t think we are yet fully aware of the potential impact of separation. I will miss you enormously if we have to close, I will miss your collective laughter, your mischief, your smiles, your chatter, your liveliness, your energy and your fun. I suspect that you will miss this too and if we only learn one thing from this whole experience, it needs to be to value our friends, our families and our communities.

I have been reflecting this weekend on how we can remain the mutually supportive and caring community that defines us, if we are forced to close. And beyond that how can we help others, the more elderly, who according to the headlines, might be forced to self-isolate for months.

How can we look after one another when we are not together? We must stay in touch with each other, keep the chat going, make sure we tell each other that we care, and we are missing each other. Human beings need social contact and without it, we will struggle. This applies to your friends here, your family spread out across the country and possibly the world, and your neighbours. Kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity and empathy will go a very long way and will be much needed over the next few weeks and months.

So, as we prepare for the possibility of being told that we have to go home and stay there, let’s be grateful for the people around us, the systems that we are fortunate enough to have, which will allow us to carry on communicating and learning even when we are at home and for this community that so obviously cares for us.

“In every crisis, doubt or confusion, let’s try and take the higher path and be a good human being – take the path of compassion, courage, understanding and love.”

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