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I was asked on Wednesday morning by a journalist about what she or other interested parties could learn from our response to the current situation and what advice I would like to give to parents. There are no certainties about what anyone can learn about anything, though there might be a few ideas we could share.

One thing that comes to mind is to consider where you are getting your information and what you do with it. I would suggest that it is prudent not to dwell too long on what social media and the papers say. No sooner had talk of the faintest glimmer of light begun to emerge than the next headline was about the impossibility of the young finding a job. OK, one crisis at a time please. Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? A series of disconnected and often repeated facts do not of themselves a story make. Even Pollock would challenge the assertion that flicking paint at a wall makes a fresco. Knowledge comes from the interweaving of facts established to be true with a connectedness to a greater whole. However, we live in rarefied times. The seclusion and isolation we are going through can create a distorted paradigm. The need to take the widest perspective is all the more important when context through no fault of its own limits the one we are in. 

It is worth also challenging some assumptions. Assumptions are usually challenged when something goes wrong or we are met with the surprise that the world didn’t turn as I thought it spun. To illustrate the point: when does a fish know it is in water? When it is removed from it. There is an understandable conceit that might be called the myth of progress. Essentially the sense of superiority we feel over generations before us and the feeling of security that we know more and are better off. Current circumstances seem to level such notions and arrest the satisfaction we may have felt about our way of life. There is a moment to challenge norms that have grown up around us like ivy on the walls of a house. Slowly and imperceptibly at first until we no longer see the fabric of the building. What have we filled our lives with that we can do without? What is really important?

Parents worry. I never did get the instruction manual that came with our children, I am sure if I had been more careful about where I should have collected it from, I would be much better off now, but perhaps reader you might lend me yours? As children grow, the worry changes, it doesn’t leave. This is not to say that every waking hour is greeted with quaking fear of impending doom, but the persistent hum of concern that occupies every parent. At times it is heard more clearly than at others; it’s because we care so much. Given our current context, there will be worry about the children’s progress, their futures, about parental ability to support learning. This can become a significant worry especially when parents are also working and thinking about financial futures. So be gentle with yourself. There is only so much you can be and do for the children. We are all in this together and while feeling that you may not be doing enough is understandable when so much is currently out of our immediate control, there is only so much you can do. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.

Heraclitus talked about not being able to put your foot in the same river twice. The water changes with every moment and as such the river is never the same. The constant of ‘change’ brings some comfort in this moment. All things pass, this too shall pass. Some perspective might come from this clip (please click here) where the expanse of what it is possible for one person to experience is captured by Bertrand Russell. 

Difficult as it is to endure, history and experience tell us that we will get through. There is some comfort from this stoicism. There is some comfort from making the most of the time and space we now have, to understand that we take one step at a time and that in exceptional circumstances not even their exception is sufficient to allow them to persist. To be appreciative of our authentic efforts in exceptional times, to recognise that all things pass and to ponder the knowledge lost in information and the wisdom we have lost in knowledge.

Cliff Canning, Headmaster, Embley (@EmbleyHead)


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