I worship the ground my colleagues in IT walk on. This has been a week in which I have turned the air blue with my petty frustrations as my attempts to jazz up German@Home, care of the Head, have gone phut: I won’t bore you with the gremlins’ ID, but suffice to say, they were enough to put paid to some nifty work on my part. And Highgate’s IT department resolutely diagnosed the problems of iPads not synced or email accounts having unknown aliases to find resolution after resolution delivered with skill, patience and, where circumstances allowed it, astonishing efficiency. Indulge me while I serenade our IT department: there are many heroes of this lock-down, and you are among them!
I wonder what your lock-down coping mechanisms have been. I have found that almost anything which doesn’t require me to stay sitting has been good: cooking lunch, for example; experimenting with new recipes (finally, a cheesecake to write home about! Baked, of course); walking to the corner shop (another local hero) with a rep of the younger generation needing a break; listening, rather than watching. Book@breaktime, Highgate’s recording of novels from the Highgate 21 list is to be recommended! Listen out for your favourite teachers! I am not usually a fan of listening as I walk or run but this last fortnight I have tuned into more downloads than ever before when moving about: not just the Pettitt staples of P G Wodehouse and From our own correspondent but all sorts of goodies to be found in the BBC and other archives.
Part of this must come from wanting to hear reassuringly familiar voices such as Kate Adie or David Attenborough. I’ve always felt I’m meeting an old friend when I tune into a favourite radio programme, and that’s one thing lock-down hasn’t really changed. I’ve enjoyed listening to the Chaplain’s cheering, thoughtful, kindness-laden words as a podcast as much as a video; delightful as it was to see Dr Silver talking to us from her kitchen table, I almost enjoyed the gentle, reassuring, un-intrusively wise modulations of her voice even more. Is it, I wondered, because the voice is something we don’t ever touch whereas the video and the visual remind us of our physical separation? I know Father Robert is picking up on this later in the week.
By the middle of the week, IT licences and technology permitting, we should be teaching all classes ‘live’ for at least part of the time. From the excitement in this household when voices connect across the ether, I know we are all itching for this re-connection. It’s difficult to convey the interest and care a teacher feels for their pupils if all you can do is swap emails and comments, however deftly and swiftly. I know I can’t wait!
If you have found the sheen has come off the potential of being locked-down – you’re not getting past the first chapter of the impressive novel which you’re ashamed of never having read; the language learning hasn’t got beyond the present tense; the abs remain anything other than flat – don’t despair: the reality for many of us is that we are not working from home but working at home with our families, who usually obediently troop out of home, transforming home to workplace for a few hours, all around us, attempting the same, nigh-impossible task. What most families are achieving is nothing short of heroic, and that includes teachers trying to pull off the same trick. So, if it misfires or is imperfect from time to time, if there are meltdowns or fallings- off in productivity, I don’t think we should beat ourselves up. I’ve told the children we shouldn’t be behaving as if there are medals for how well we navigate the lock-down – it really isn’t a competition! – you do, all of you, deserve a medal!