Notes from the Lighthouse: Director's Letter to Students
I last wrote to you directly on March 13th, just as we were getting used to our DLP, our “new normal” and our key mind-set that our school is open, only the campus is closed. I read a report in the Harvard School of Education this week from UNICEF’s latest figures that shows 90% of students around the globe, 1.6 billion children, have their schools closed and are in lockdown situations in their countries. This is extraordinary by any standards. On the 19th April I was asked to be the opening speaker at an online global education conference with educators, academics and policy makers from India and across Asia, as they wanted to hear about the Heritage model and what we had contributed to our national education community in the development of real and applicable solutions to communities around Moldova, many who do not have our similar digital capabilities and experience.
Two of the most positive developments to come from this crisis have been our solidarity and our collaboration. As global citizens, collaborating with our world education community is as natural as the partnerships we have with our local and national communities. It is a core part of our school’s ethos and culture as an international school. I shared these messages in the conference as I heard stories of hope, resilience, leadership, innovation and community from all parts of the world. I came across a quote recently, from Senator William Fulbright, of the prestigious US scholarship fame, amongst many achievements, that I had used in London last year at a conference before I came to join Heritage and the words seem to have even more meaning in the world we live in now and the world we want to live in after this crisis:
“The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy; the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately”.
All of us will see the world differently after this experience. The way we live, the way we learn, the way we discuss, the way we solve problems, the way we look after our planet and the way we look after one another. Our empathy and our humanity have come to the fore in these very difficult times and as young people, you have shown all of us your resilience, your adaptability, your collaboration, your creativity, your leadership, your compassion and your care. You have shown the energy and youth needed to get us through this and I am very grateful to you for continuing to learn, to be challenged, to support at home and to support your teachers and support staff all working hard together to ensure we have routines, meaningful learning, daily interactions in the physical isolation and we have strengthened our community with so many beautiful and innovative ideas.
When we come back on Monday 27th April, we have five more learning weeks to get to the end of this extraordinary academic year, one we will never forget, and one where we forged our cohesion and mission as a school community. I need you to find the resilience to get to the finish line, together with your school and home, to complete this journey. In the final week of the academic year we are going to celebrate our school year and our international communities with lots of fun activities, we can go into the summer looking ahead hopefully to seeing restrictions eased. We are planning our Summer School, the new Lyceum, the schedules for September, school calendar, all the things we need to do as we end one academic year, take a well-deserved break but make sure we have planned for the next one.
As my old mentor in the US, Bill Bixby, told me a long time ago, good leaders see around corners and the best ones are both historians and futurologists. He also told me to drink less tea with milk, I did ignore that piece of advice and my first lock down treat is tea and cake from a local café. I think all of us now have found the patterns that make us learn effectively on the DLP, balancing screen time, routines at home and when we are online learning. But we need to keep what has worked for us and what we have been able to manage in ourselves in terms of being an effective student, balancing our school/home lives in a lockdown and all of us cannot wait to see one another in school, where we are going to have a wonderful celebration as the amazing school community we are.
I arrived to take my post as director a year ago in May. I left an incredible school community on the Welsh/English borders, in JK Rowling’s old school of Wyedean. The Forest of Dean is a beautiful part of the world and I can see why she was inspired at school to be a writer as a student. The Forest of Dean has produced a number of writers including Dennis Potter, who my old teacher, Les Jones, was a contemporary with at Oxford University. Potter called the Forest of Dean a heart-shaped place, and my old blog there took this title. He also said this about those Forest communities:
“A strange and beautiful place, with a people as warm as anywhere else, but they seemed warmer to me”.
I have known many warm and incredible school communities over the years in my career and it is a privilege to be a part of our school community right now. I have nothing but pride for what you as students, our school families, our teachers and support staff are all enduring now to get to the other side of this crisis and we can all be back together again. And we will.
Stay safe, stay hopeful, stay home and take care. As the old Irish Celtic prayer says, “May the wind be always at your back and the sun on your face. May the road rise to meet you and ‘til we see each other again may God hold you in the palm of his hand”.