I am sure that you would agree with me that it is refreshing to see the restrictions that have been in place during the COVID-19 pandemic slowly easing. And while charting the course of a pandemic is no exact science, as I write this, I admit to feeling cautiously optimistic about the future once more. In reflecting back over the last few months I have realised that this has been perhaps the most uncertain and tumultuous event that has occurred in Australia during my lifetime and it would be naïve to think that our lives will completely return to what they were prior to the pandemic.
For me, one of the hallmarks of this season has been the fact that it has represented a time of tremendous learning. This statement might seem a little out of place in an environment where most schools have been operating remotely and face to face teaching has been minimal. Yet, while traditional classroom learning may have taken a back step for a while each one of us; students, teachers and parents alike have been forced into a situation where incidental learning opportunities abound. Living day by day during the uncertainty of the pandemic has allowed us to develop new knowledge and skills as well as characteristics like patience, empathy and a much deeper appreciation for others in our community. In short, I can see that each of us has learned a lot more than we would have, had this crisis never occurred.
Consider our students, many of whom have adapted brilliantly to learning online from home. Having to adjust to a new learning environment relied on developing skills of time management and self-discipline at new levels. Educational researcher John Hattie agrees that the development of self-regulation amongst students during this time has been noticeable adding; “It’s the ability to know what to do when you don’t know what to do. It’s the ability to seek and ask for help and not just sit there and let the river go over you,” he says, “we’re finding quite positive things have happened during COVID with kids who have that skill.”
For us as a wider community, there has been a recognition that there is a level of flexibility in what we do and how we work that perhaps we would never have discovered. Being able to work productively from home, implementing staggered start and finish times for workplaces and participating in online meetings are now options that we have proved can work for us should we choose to hang on to these things.
Perhaps the biggest lesson for me has been in recognising the value of approaching life at a slower pace. I for one am not keen to rush headlong back into some of my pre-COVID habits.
Now that most of us are back at work I am making a conscious effort not to rush around unnecessarily and cram more things into my day than I can comfortably manage. I am committed to taking the time to make more thoughtful and deliberate decisions about what I spend my time doing. Living through a pandemic has also taught me to appreciate and value each day and to look out for and be thankful for the blessings that it brings.
In five or perhaps even ten years’ time I hope we can all reflect back on this period as a time of tremendous growth and learning which has positioned us in a place where we can flourish as individuals and as a school community. In my reflections I am reminded about what the Bible tells us about how we approach life; in his letter to the Thessalonian church Paul writes;
“Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks..”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (TPT)