FROM THE PREPARATORY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
8 May 2020
The view from my office window before and after lockdown…
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
‘Begin with the End in Mind’ is habit no. 2 of Stephen Covey’s International best-selling book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. This poses a serious paradox with regards to our current situation. How can we possibly navigate our way to success, if we can’t currently see the end of Covid-19?
There is however some respite if we apply some of the principles in Covey’s book. In order to achieve ‘success’, we need to tap into our deep fundamental personal values and make these work for us. I would also postulate that we have to adapt our values to cope with the unforeseen challenges that we have been presented with. Adapt or die is perhaps too macabre for us to consider, but it certainly brings our value system into sharper focus. We are essentially being forced to examine what really matters the most to us. We have, in essence, been presented with an opportunity to reevaluate some of our beliefs surrounding what makes us happy.
It is here that I deviate from Covey, as there is no single reference in his book to the word, ‘wellness’. Yet this very word is now taking on powerful connotations globally. Never before has the state of our personal and collective mental and physical wellness been more important.
A WELL-ROUNDED APPROACH
Relief comes in maintaining a well-rounded approach. In this regard, I am thoroughly grateful to the Clifton Staff for having the far-sightedness to realise that a Clifton education is not one dimensional. When formulating the online programme (there are two words Covey never mentions either…) much care, time and attention was given to academics. But Clifton has champions on the staff who consider culture, the arts and sport to also be essential elements of a gentleman’s education. Thus, we have seen debates, art competitions and projects, music ‘jams’, orchestral concerts, book reviews, sports lessons, physical challenges, live panel discussions and any number of other fantastic initiatives.
BOYS SHOULD QUESTION, CHALLENGE AND ARGUE
It is at times like these that we are reminded as parents and educators that our children are not superficial, and therefore neither should their educational experience be. Clifton also advocates that boys should question, challenge and argue because this is how you develop personal opinions. Unfortunately, these characteristics may be making ‘life in lockdown’ more difficult for our hard-working and under pressure parents!
Along with every parent on the planet, we worry about the impact of this pandemic beast on our children. It is the ‘monster in the cupboard’ that we almost dare not think of. Our parental duty is to protect our children, yet we find ourselves ill-equipped to cope with a virus that has been sensationalized by the world’s press and in pictures of microscopic spores that have been made to look ‘pretty’. Add hours spent in front of luminescent screens and a lack of social contact and the picture looks bleak.
A SILVER LINING
Yet there is a silver lining. History teaches us that the human race has emerged from tragedy, conflict and pestilence and thrived. London was rebuilt after the great fire in 1666. Following world war II there was a postwar economic boom which heralded worldwide economic expansion. The world’s worst historic pandemic, the Bubonic Plague, claimed in excess of 200 million lives. Yet, tragic as it was the plague may have made the world a brighter place. The pandemic spearheaded a renaissance of changes that ultimately created a healthier and more prosperous planet. Medical, health, environmental, architectural, social and academic reforms made life immeasurably better for citizens of the world
Unequivocally the most important change following the plague was the rise of Humanism. People were forced to contemplate the value of life individually and collectively. A collective responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment that aspired to contribute towards the greater good emerged. We cared more about others.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF CLIFTON?
What does this mean for the future of Clifton? It means that we can focus more on what we are thankful for. The wonder and beauty of life, our city and country. We can appreciate the incredible environment and opportunity that a Clifton education offers. We can celebrate the heroes that have emerged in our society. We can rejoice in the human acts of endeavour and accomplishment that the press should be printing. We can ensure new skills in teaching and learning are utilised in our lessons and school environment in a refreshed thirst for human-based knowledge. And we can do all of this in the name of our children, to show them that we will emerge from this pandemic stronger, better and ready to write the next chapter in the history of Clifton and South Africa. Now that’s an ending I can believe in.
PREPARATORY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL