New Normal or Black Swan?
April 3, 2020
I read an interesting article this week titled ‘New Normal or Black Swan?’ about the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges we face as we adjust our businesses and our lives. Black Swan theory is more often discussed in the business world rather than education, but it speaks into the reality we are living right now as a school.
A “black swan” is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterised by their extreme rarity, their severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight. While it is far too early to come to a position on whether this current event could have been predicted, there are some possible insights to consider. One of the most obvious learnings is that organisations need to be flexible enough to respond in the event of such an occurrence. At TIGS, we are fortunate that we already had many of the resources (people, technology, etc) to allow us to respond and we have done this quickly and responsively as the situation evolved.
The business sector’s view is that resilience in the face of black swans requires people, businesses (and potentially schools) to do things differently. While TIGS is much more than a business, we can take note of this requirement to do things differently as we work through this black swan event or prepare for a “new normal” that may be ours in the very near future.
So, let’s consider resilience, which is the ability to cope when things do not go as expected or wanted. Our fantastic staff demonstrated their resilience and the core values of our School by putting together online learning that will no doubt require further refinement but provides learning opportunities for all students that are considered, relevant and reflective of our Schools’ sequence of learning and planned programmes. Our students have demonstrated resilience in managing to the best of their ability a shift to an entirely different mode of learning. And our parents have modelled resilience to their children while being positive in the face of a very frightening situation and doing their very best to understand and adapt to assisting their children accessing School from home.
In the first few days and weeks of this “black swan” event all of our effort has been about people. Ensuring the safety of our students and staff, ensuring access to childcare for essential workers and ensuring the provision of learning for our students. These focus areas have been a reflection of our values in action, Academic, Christian, Caring. The values at the core of any organisation are on show not just at end of year formal events and on our stationery, but highlighted in times of great stress and difficulty. This has been the case in our decisions, our interactions and our response and this will continue to be the case into the future as we either deal with a “Black Swan” or establish and operate within a “new normal”.
It is fair to say that every one of us is scared about what the future may hold, when the “black swan” will finish or what the “new normal” could be. I suspect that much greater levels of resilience and adaptations are going to be required of each of us, personally, in our work lives and in managing the learning of our children. However, we will have finished the term well in stressful and difficult circumstances and our families have supported their children and our School beautifully.
It is impossible to predict if or when a return to how things were done before COVID-19 is possible and we are planning for a full term of online interaction and learning in Term II. Our staff will take a short break from online delivery in the April holidays and will be well prepared to continue remote learning in Term II. It is safe to say that for many families the shift to online learning has been challenging, parents feel that they are having to take a much heavier load in assisting their children at home with learning, this is particularly the case for younger students. And the reality is that this will continue to be the case until the COVID-19 spread is under control. I am confident that we will continue to show our resilience as we make further adjustments to the online provision (specifically with the increased use of video content for our younger grades including opportunities to connect to teachers in real-time for lessons and feedback) and as families and learners develop their capacity and confidence to access remote learning.
What is certain is that the core of our community and a TIGS education will be very obvious as we either live through a “black swan” or adapt to a “new normal”. We will put people first and care for them, we will focus on individual academic excellence for our students, we will value persistence and effort, we will seek and act on feedback and we will give our very best efforts in serving the needs of our community.
As this is the last newsletter for the term, I want to take this opportunity to wish our community a happy Easter. Particularly important at this time and in this season of uncertainty is to remember the message of the cross and the certain hope that this brings.