At a professional development session I once attended, the presenter showed an approximately 100 year-old photo of a room and asked the audience to guess what it was. The room was reminiscent of a university lecture space. It had tiered wooden bench seating and what appeared to be a teaching table in the middle of the room. It had a blackboard mounted on the wall and another small table with a wooden chest on it that was presumably used to store materials.
To the surprise of the audience the presenter explained that the photo was of a surgical theatre. We were then shown a photo of a contemporary surgical theatre complete with sterile surfaces, robotic machinery and a range of monitors. The two images seemed utterly irreconcilable.
The presenter then showed an image taken around the same time. It was immediately recognisable to everyone in the room. It was a school classroom and while the blackboard has now been replaced with a whiteboard or smart screen, the point was well received that the pace of change and integration of new approaches has been far slower in education than in many other areas of life.
There are many reasons for this – everyone has received an education and the view that, “I turned out ok”, can be an impediment to embracing change. Also, systemic structures led by matriculation systems and standardised testing can also be blockers to the introduction of innovation.
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and as the current crisis emerged it was apparent that an entirely new paradigm was required to embrace new technology to shift our delivery modes of teaching and learning on a massive scale.
It is truly extraordinary to consider the revolution that global education is experiencing right now. As much of the world shifts to distance learning models our schools are rapidly accommodating new teaching styles, resources and technologies. While there is no doubt that there will be teething problems, I have seen firsthand the enthusiasm and energy with which educators are embracing this change.
Ordinarily such a change would require months of planning and training in new software and the testing of home networks to ensure effective levels of connectivity and speed. Instead, our school from the IT department to every single teacher have taken up the challenge with instantaneous focus and a genuine growth mindset.
I know that our community appreciates the tremendous effort that our staff have put in over this trying period to prepare for this dramatic shift as so many of you have written to me to share your gratitude. I must say that I have never been more proud to be part of this community.
It is arguable that the disruption caused by this very challenging period, will reap benefits in our educational approaches when the crisis is behind us. My hope is that we learn from these new modes of delivery and that all our teachers become even better practitioners through embracing the best aspects of the lessons learned in this new mode of delivery. I also believe that the radical systemic changes initiated through an emergency mindset can open up avenues for greater flexibility and innovation in our matriculation and testings models going forwards.
I once again take the opportunity to thank our whole community for the understanding, patience and compassion that has been demonstrated in so many ways. We learn so much about ourselves and others during such challenging times and I hope that we all use these learnings to help build a better world when we emerge from this crisis.