Since my last blog post in February, two extraordinary months have passed. In this short period of time, the trees have burst into leaf, birdsong has returned, the clocks have moved forward. But alongside these signs of normality, the world has been paralysed by Covid19, silently and swiftly spreading across the globe, a sea of devastation in its wake.
How many of us imagined what the lockdown would be like? Our world shrunk to the perimeter of our homes, families cut off from each other, electronic connections providing our link to the outside world. Family life, school life, working life, leisure time, all completely and utterly different. This alone has brought its challenges, but these pale into insignificance when compared with the challenges facing key workers and the tragic outcomes for so many.
In Belgium, our lockdown has fallen at a fortuitous time: three weeks of remote learning, a two week break and now back to remote learning, for at least a few weeks. And back in February, as the coronavirus gathered pace across the globe, we also had time to prepare ourselves as a school: infrastructure in place, training sessions for staff, Herculean levels of ingenuity from our teachers and lesson plans adapted. We never imagined that remote learning would be a walk in the park, but our staff have well and truly risen to the challenge and it has been incredible to see the agility, creativity and ingenuity of our teachers. Learning continues apace.
Today was a rather special day – the final day of lessons for our seniors. We concluded their years of school teaching with a slightly different ceremony to our traditional Rose Ceremony in the theatre – this time, we beamed in from home and came together remotely to hear reflections and musical contributions from Dr Castillo, Mr Jones, Mr Vanderkelen, myself and Mr Diedrich. It was wonderful to feel the sense of togetherness even though we were all in separate locations. In the absence of roses, there were many beautiful words – Mr Jones, I am sure, brought a tear to many parents’ eyes with his eloquent allusion to those days when our children are learning to ride a bicycle. It was hard to find the right words for this exceptional year group, but he and the others did so with aplomb. For my part, I couldn’t offer a rose, but offered a humble daisy chain which was made with a flower for every senior. It was a very long chain! I hope that the Class of 2020 all know and feel how strongly they are connected. Firstly, they are linked by their shared experience as most probably the only class in history to have their final school exams cancelled at the 11th hour. Believe me, exam boards will have provision in place to avoid this happening again! But importantly, they are connected by all the wonderful experiences throughout their time at St John’s, as well as the companionship, values and friendship they take forward with them as they pedal off, stabilisers well and truly cast away, into the future. We wish them well.