As the closure of British schools became imminent (and prompted by a straight-to the-point email from Mr Noyce) I dutifully charged up my iPad in anticipation of a radically different workplace and the acquisition of a new skill set.
Fast-forward a fortnight and I found myself ‘zooming’ at will with my Heathgate tutees, trying my hand at webinars on German film and literature ahead of the Y13 undergraduate programme, and in command of a list of Microsoft Team channels as long as my arm.
The digital revolution did not end in the virtual classroom. With the daunting prospect of months of socially-distanced exercise looming, I decided to break with tradition and purchase a Garmin gps watch, giving me licence to compete for Highgate Harriers in the inaugural Virtual National Road Relays. More than 5000 runners from 140 athletics clubs took part, all uploading a solo 5km time trial to the Opentrack website, as a fascinating competition unraveled.
The ‘Highgate School Heroes‘ have provided another opportunity for remote sporting collaboration: seventeen members of staff regularly sharing training tips, motivational messages and photographs of a dystopian city centre, whilst notching up over 3000 km of cycling and 1000 miles of combined running since lockdown began.
On the family front, the closure of nurseries has provided valuable insight into the world of pre-school education, as I’ve attempted to enthuse my four-year-old son with numeracy, pot plants and the German alphabet. It’s been a humbling experience at times (aforementioned iPad coming to the rescue on more than one occasion) and one which has left me with nothing but admiration for his sometimes undervalued teachers.
Life under lockdown will undoubtedly continue to pose significant challenges, but it will hopefully also provide further incentives to innovate, venture out of comfort zones, and perhaps add one or two new strings to the bow along the way.
Gareth Creagh has taught Modern Languages at Highgate since 2003 and is currently Head of German and lead editor of The Cholmeleian. An active member of the SpEx department, he was training for the 2020 Virgin London Marathon until the lockdown began.