COVID-19 turned the world upside down seemingly overnight. 2020 was a year that held so much promise yet plans and aspirations for the year felt like they were put on hold or blindsided. These moments in history can bring out the best or worst in society. Positively, amidst these unprecedented times, we have seen the resilience, generosity and strength of Australian schools and their communities come to the fore. Now it’s time to prepare for what is next, and for leaders to think about how they will lead their school communities in the next phase of our recovery.
We have a choice not to just react but to respond
In the intensity of the moment, it is important to not just react to the situation unfolding around us, but to respond with a considered approach. Reactions are often knee-jerk and largely from one point of view, whereas a response brings compassion, empathy and understanding. The experience of COVID-19 has been different for everyone, and unless we take the time to understand people’s concerns, fears and desires, conflict can arise.
As leaders it is also important to reflect on our response to the crisis. Some of our decisions may have been on point, but some may have missed the mark. As Winston Churchill said ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’, so let’s take the time to ask questions and understand the school communities experience. This will allow us to know where we need to improve. Transparency can be intimidating, but those that embrace it create a culture of trust, honesty, and partnership to build a shared future together.
Will we just resume or take a moment to refocus?
Focus creates clear vision and achieves outcomes. As we move into a new phase of this experience, there is an opportunity to not just resume school life as usual, but to refocus on what is truly important. To re-establish the outcomes that are most important such as love of learning, creative thinking and community. The COVID-19 experience taught us that there is an openness to online education with 82% of Australians believing education will be delivered online more in the future.
During this time, we also learnt that schools are not just learning environments but hubs of community. Almost nine in ten parents (88%) agree the school community has a positive impact on their child’s education, and the community provides good role models for their children (87%). In a time where traditional forms of community are breaking down, four in five parents (82%) can count on their school community to be supportive in times of need. As school life returns, it’s an opportunity to not just resume old ways but to refocus attention on investing in what is important.
Will we settle for rebuilding or will we reimagine the future?
The experience of COVID-19 has changed our world forever. There is an opportunity for society and for schools to not just return to the old but to reimagine the possibilities for the future. An opportunity to not be limited by what has always been done, but to embrace the new.
We saw online education embraced by Australians young and old, and largely in a positive way – 71% of Australians with children describe their households experience of online education as positive. We also saw the role that education plays in society is not just to establish a love of learning and equip our children for the future, but to provide an environment and a community to belong. It is likely that our world will never be the same again, as our schools look to the future, let’s ask; ‘will we simply rebuild what was or will we take the opportunity to reimagine our future?’
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