Like many schools and Colleges around the world, the Senior Leadership Team or College Leadership Team will take it in turns to cover holidays. To ensure there is support for the staff if anything happens to the campus, the city, the country… or beyond. For the 2020 Chinese New Year College Holiday, it was my turn to be the administrator that stayed behind to ‘hold down the fort’. Not a problem as my family and I were new to China and would explore the sites of Beijing which, I was told, would be very quiet during Chinese New Year. Things went well for the first 2 days of the holiday…
No professional blog during this time would be complete without a mention of COVID and my responses to it. I remember many of the interview panels for Dulwich quizzing me about disaster preparedness, my ability to manage in times of change, how would I react to..? What if … happened? and more. In reality, no one knows how they would react in an emergency but we plan, drill, reflect and improve. Nothing prepared the World for COVID 19. I had worked through typhoons, earthquakes, tsunami, SARS and various other local emergency situations. COVID was very different. A few news stories started to creep out and the world slowly became aware of a situation in China. Once in the media, the situation grew rapidly. On the ground in Beijing, I received news that schools would be closed for 2 weeks to evaluate. Together with the Head of College and Head of Schools, we began ‘zooming’ at first reporting then planning then further planning. January 2020 began 11 months (November at the time of writing this) of turmoil. Disruption to students exams, the horrors of online learning, teachers and families living in uncertain situations and working with local authorities that demonstrated their immense power. Being from the UK and seeing how my home country tried to deal with this and seeing the very different way China dealt with the situation was educational, to say the least. As I write this, Beijing has not had a COVID case for 101 days whilst the BBC reported over 35,000 cases in the UK yesterday. I won’t comment further here on this, or draw a conclusion of who was right or wrong.
It is in difficult, challenging and new situations that we learn about ourselves, our colleagues, the companies we work for and the countries we live in. We reevaluate what is important to us and what we can leave behind. COVID has been devastating for so many but we will come out the other end. A vaccine is here, and life is expected to get back to normal in a year or so. But what will that normal be and how will people cope with this new normal?
COVID also bought opportunities. As often happens people get behind a common cause and want to communicate and learn from one another. During this time I was honoured to be asked to present to a group of fellow educators via the ISS sponsored “Managing School Finances & Other Resources in Times of Crisis.” The British Chamber of Commerce in China also asked me to join a panel to discuss COVID 19. Both events were of clever people looking to reflect and understand the situation we found ourselves in.
Of course, we are all still adapting and adjusting. Personally, I have grown immensely over the past 11 months both personally and professionally. I feel empowered to have gone through this, learn and emerge at the other end with stronger relationships and a reaffirmed purpose that ‘Students Come First’ – Dulwich College Beijing.