The Third Quarter

May 8, 2020  
Head of Senior School - Mr Nick Hackett

I read an essay last week entitled ‘We have Begun the Dreaded Third Quarter…When Things Get Weird’. In it, Dr Kimberley Norris, an academic from the University of Tasmania and an expert in human confinement and reintegration described the stages of our current self-isolation.

  1. The first stage was described as a time in which panic buying and confusion dominates behaviour.
  2. This gave way to Stage 2, “The Sourdough Stage” – a honeymoon period in which it felt novel and different to stay at home…avoiding the morning rush hour and taking up new crafts and hobbies such as breadmaking. 
  3. But as the period of social isolation has stretched into several weeks, many of us are now experiencing what Dr Norris calls “The Third Quarter”. It’s a phenomenon well known to submariners and astronauts and occurs when the novelty of an isolated situation gives way to some feelings of frustration and loneliness, as the anticipation of a return to normal living remains tantalisingly out of reach. Dr Norris observes that it doesn’t matter how long the period of isolation is planned to last, merely where people are within it. And so as we see the COVID-19 curve flattening, and there is talk of loosening some of the social constraints that we have been living under, there is a growing tension between knowing that COVID-19 is likely to remain with us for yet some time, whilst also anticipating the easing of its impact on our day to day life.  She describes it as “a time of anticipation, disappointment and dissatisfaction”.

As we begin to plan for a steady return to onsite school life, I wonder how many of us might feel a resonance with Dr Norris’ hypothesis. If the positivity, enthusiasm and excitement I have heard from students anticipating an opportunity to reconnect with friends and teachers at school is anything to go by I suspect it may ring true in many households!

In the coming weeks, students will return in greater numbers to the Senior School campus. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the school come alive again as the building and outdoor spaces reverberate with the sounds of students and teachers alike catching up and demonstrating a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasure of engaging in face to face teaching and learning. The hand sanitiser dispensers in classrooms and around the school site are new, the social distancing precautions will no doubt feel strange and familiar all at once, but I have no doubt that the unique and precious experience of reconnecting with the people who make the TIGS community what it is, will feel exactly as it always has – precious and unique.

Here’s to a safe, productive and joy-filled term ahead.


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