20 Apr 2020

Alex Hems: Head's Blog April 20 2020

Alex HemsWelcome back to everyone in the St George’s Community. The last few weeks have forced us all to confront our strengths and weaknesses in a stark and not always welcome fashion. How good are we at living with uncertainty? How adaptable are we? How patient are we able to be with our loved ones when we spend such unusual amounts of time with them? How well do we cope when we have to go without ingredients and domestic items that we have taken for granted? Living with lockdown is teaching us all sorts of things – making us acutely aware of how much our bodies need to be active, how finely tuned our sleep cycles are, and certainly of the quirks and characteristics of our family members.

The fast pace of our pre-lockdown lives, the rapid responses and constant expectation of short bursts of information and entertainment that we are used to through social media, 24 hour news and next day delivery services etc, have meant that patience and the capacity to live with uncertainty have perhaps become rather underrated virtues in modern life. In my assemblies and reflections this term I am going to try to focus on what we can learn from this new experience. I know that it is a deeply worrying, frightening and sad time for many, and I certainly would not seek to downplay any of the very real suffering, or the lasting damage that this time may do to many millions of lives around the world. We should seek to learn, however, from anything that life throws at us, and to find hope even in the worst of it.

Living in lockdown, without a definite end point in sight, is demoralising and difficult, there is no doubt. I find the resilience and versatility of human beings infinitely inspiring though. It is good to see how many of us are turning to activities that by their nature take time to offer their rewards. Gardening and baking with real sourdough (if you can lay your hands on flour of course) for example, have definitely seen a resurgence. We have become inventive about ways to socialise and stay in touch – Skype drinks and FaceTime coffee mornings, hymn-singing by Zoom, Brownie meetings on-line, have all helped us to maintain a sense of normality in the midst of so much that is strange. I find that, with a little more time on my hands over the holiday period, I have started to make telephone calls again to my friends, rather than simply sending a text or a WhatsApp, and have loved hearing a voice and enjoying the ebb and flow of a conversation that develops and deepens, rather than waiting for the staccato distractions of a text exchange that may simply trail away when the person at the other end finds something better to do.

We have all been inspired I am sure, by the courage and stamina of medical professionals and healthcare workers, putting themselves at risk for all of us. Perhaps our perception of heroism or celebrity status may be permanently changed by all of this; surely there is something far more laudable and worthy of notice in their daily efforts, or in the determination of Captain Tom Moore to do his bit for the NHS, than in anything we might see on Love Island? I do hope so.

We are conscious of the intensity of homeworking, and the need that we all feel for breaks and a chance to stand up and get away from the screen. We have made some adaptations to the school day for girls in Remove upwards, to try to build in more frequent short breaks for them and their teachers, so that they can get up from their desks and stretch, move around a bit and have a change of scene before refocusing on the next lesson or piece of work. I hope that they will all find this helpful.

We hope that we will see the girls back in school in person before this term ends; we miss them very much! In the meantime, please stay well and stay in touch with us.

Mrs Alex Hems MA Oxon
Head, St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

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