It’s interesting how life has turned upside down, but I feel like it’s all very peaceful. In these early stages, I am transported back to the two years I spent teaching in a rural boarding school in Southern Africa. Life was very much about living the school as a community – life amongst pupils, staff and their families, no other towns or shops for a three hour back of van ride away… appreciating time outdoors, sunsets, meaningful communication with others and time to just be. No social media competition with other schools, no constant extra initiatives that were pushed, no constant communication, no constant racing of the mind and body… I already feel healthier in so many ways – surely I can make changes for the better in my life.
Of course I miss interacting with people in the moment and in person – the instant curtailing of time with friends and family is still an inconceivable notion and we grasp at virtual platforms with a keenness that confirms the love we have for each other. In a working capacity, I absolutely miss having the children around – the people are what make a school. Although there is technology, the nuances of human interaction are often lost in it and there’s only so much time I want to be staring at a screen. How can we learn from and with each other at a distance? Fast realisation here that I chose a job and hobbies in amongst people for a reason.
So many conversations have already included the phrase “how are we going to go back?” in all aspects of my life – school, theatre group, travel with friends etc. Some are desperate to go back to their normality and others are beginning to question it. There’s a will to rescue life as we know it and yet my feeling is that it’s not going back. Like life itself, it has to move forward and we need to hold onto what this has made us realise as individuals, as a society and as citizens of the earth. Finding the balance between the social norms and the social excesses will be difficult. Similarly, balancing educational norms and excesses. I look forward to working, not remotely, but alongside people again – not to rebuild what already seems so far in the past but to consider what really matters and go forth in better ways.
Transformational change is happening and we have just proved we are capable of it as an entire country – surely time to escape the perceived shackles of current schooling and embrace the experiences of CfE, skills based learning and beyond? Thinking through different stages of education and how they affect each other. Will the SQA exam cancellation and teachers’ professional judgement and assessments counting for so much more change the way primary and secondary colleagues think of and work with each other? What would have happened if this hadn’t started well through the academic year – I can’t even fathom teaching children I hadn’t met, interacted with, got to know as individuals.
Therefore let’s give time to working out what is important. How has giving more time to ourselves and our families impacted? Do we want to lose that again or are there aspects we want to hold onto? Do the barriers to autonomy and creativity in practice still exist? Were they ever there? The virtual staff and social meetings can face these questions whilst we have enforced time and space to consider what’s important to us as teachers and importantly what matters to us as humans.
How do we go back? Why would we? An opportunity has arisen.