11 May 2020

Alex Hems: Head's Blog May 11 2020

The saying ‘What can’t be cured must be endured’ seems especially apposite at the moment. The words of the Queen delivered on Friday evening, and those of her father George VI spoken 75 years previously, reminded us of the importance of endurance, a quality that in the 21st Century has perhaps been overtaken by resilience in our estimation of human strengths. Endurance is a matter of learning to live with the things that we cannot change. Our ancestors, accustomed to living without access to modern dentistry, painkillers and medical science, knew all about it. Endurance should not be confused with accepting defeat, being passive or having limited ambition. No marathon is ever completed without endurance, nor any mountain climbed. Endurance is the quality that gets us through the part of any race or task when we cannot yet see the end, and without the capacity to work our way through that tough middle phase when early enthusiasm has passed and the finish line is not yet visible, little that is worthwhile is ever achieved. It feels very much as though that is the phase we are in at the moment, as we complete seven weeks of lockdown as a nation.

Clearly this is not an experience that should be compared to the hardship, weariness and horror of six years of world war, and that is certainly not my intention. The capacity to endure that a previous generation displayed is, however, one that can inspire us now to dig deep and keep going. And, like our predecessors, and all generations before us, we are also showing resilience and the ingenuity borne of adversity by innovating and adapting to overcome the challenges that we currently face. Teachers have reinvented their craft for on-line delivery, which requires quite different kinds of preparation and planning from their normal classroom practice. Organisations across the world are working out how best not only to hold their meetings, but also to stay in touch, to reassure, motivate and inspire their people. We are hearing of collaborations between universities and the pharmaceutical giants, engineering companies and medics and smaller businesses that might usually have been competitors, working together to find vaccines or therapies or to solve local problems thrown up by this current situation. There is much from which we can draw hope and inspiration.

One of our innovations at St George’s is to be running a programme of live, interactive on-line presentations for our Upper Sixth Leavers this term, which will help them to prepare for the competitive graduate recruitment market, and before that for success in applying for highly sought-after internships and summer schools. We are grateful to the alumnae, parents and members of the school’s governing body who are supporting this series, which will launch on 11th May. Over the course of the next few weeks we plan to cover financial services, law, the creative arts and the technology sector, with advice about interview preparation, honing the CV and coping with on-line assessments. I am sure it will be thought-provoking and valuable, as well as refreshing to look ahead to the life that awaits them after school and lockdown. Their resilience, and that of all of our examination years in the face of the disappointments that this situation has brought for them, has made us very proud and will stand them in good stead in the future.

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

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