Posted on June 2, 2020 / From our Principal
Change and Continuity
My father had two sayings that I heard many times over the course of his lifetime. One was “mens sana in corpore sano” (Latin for “a healthy mind in a healthy body”), which was rolled out with increasing frequency after the end of rowing or football seasons when I started to sleep ever later, or watch too much television! It took me while to understand why he thought this was so important, but it instilled in me a respect and appreciation for the broader positive effects of regular activity – never a bad thing when it is in balance with everything else!
The second was “ca change plus c’est la meme chose” (French for “the more things change, the more they stay the same”). As a child who had grown up in through the Second World War, I think he used it as a catchall for security and continuity, and I suspect it was actually a life raft of reassurance for him. Growing up as a child in the Australian 1970s and 80s, I look back and see that it was largely true then. Despite the Vietnam War, world-wide and Australian recessions and financial excesses, unemployment, and global terrorism, things balanced out again after each stress and life continued, largely as before. However, I am no longer sure it can be said to be as true any longer, and possibly not true at all.
This century has seen change that has not swung back to previous. For instance, when considering the impact of 9/11, ISIS and world-wide terrorism, there is no impression that like the Red Brigade or the Bader-Meinhof groups, this will disappear. Similarly, the effects of technology on our lives at home and work are here to stay and have permanently altered our habits and patterns. We see through the world’s response to COVID-19, that we are clearly walking towards some “Minority Report”-style changes of facial recognition, artificial intelligence at work and home, and oversights by governments and institutions that are far greater than anything of the 20th century. Our current and future students and children are going to live lives that will be very different, and COVID-19 has also hastened some of that.
So, what will we as a school take out of our COVID-19-driven period of online learning?
Some students really enjoyed this period and would happily keep doing it. Some students found it very isolating and difficult. I suspect that mix would be in adults too. What is unequivocal, though, is that many aspects of this experience have been very good training and preparation for students.
Development of independence, self-regulation, and self-assessment – these attributes are prominent in successful learners, both adults and younger people. This online period has fast-tracked this in many of our students and they will be better learners as a result, quite possibly independent of face to face or online learning modes.
Fostering of self-discipline and planning – more prominent in older students, but according to a number of parents, they have reported signs of these emerging that they had not previously seen.
Preparation for further study – as a father of a 1st Year university student, some online learning experience would have been invaluable in preparing her for the modern university experience – not just during COVID-19, but as an ongoing experience.
Preparation for later life – working from home is now realistic for far more people and will be a feature of the workplace for greater numbers from now on.
So, I see the educational changes that COVID-19 forced on students (and staff) as largely positive and I believe that some will be permanent and should be permanent. As a learning community, we have grown an enormous amount through this time and that learning needs to be maintained, and built on to continue to improve the education of our young people in the preparation for a world that will not return to what it was. At Tintern we will be doing just that as we review the period of online delivery to see which elements will add to the face to face teaching experience for students and staff.
Perhaps in 2020 my father might be saying instead, “the more things change, the more they do not stay the same”?
Factis non verbis