A round of applause for parents

I have finally managed to find some headspace since embarking on the journey into the world of online learning, remote working and isolation. We all know, from the news, the massive challenges we have all had to face during the current COVID-19 pandemic and we know that there are even more ‘unknowns’ to come!

As a new (well new in January) Principal of a school in Qatar, I could not have predicted the challenges I would have to face within my first 3 months in the role. Like many of us I was aware of the situation in China in December / January and even had a friend who was caught up in the travel challenge to get back to China after travelling for Chinese New Year, but I don’t think any of us thought that these reported issues of a virus in China would have such a life-changing impact on the whole world within just 2 months.

On March 9th the schools in Qatar were told to close and we had to rapidly implement an online learning programme for our pupils. Having been at a Heads meeting just that morning, when the advice was to remain open, we had all hoped that schools would have been able to stay open. Now I can see that this was an unrealistic hope, but it was born out of care for the children we educate. As educators, we want children to be safe, supported and protected. Rightly or wrongly we feel that the best pace to educate children is in our schools and all of a sudden, this safety blanket was pulled from underneath us with what felt like no notice.

We were all taken out of our comfort zones, overnight. Our focus initially was the delivery of the curriculum but very quickly we realized it was all about wellbeing. The wellbeing of our pupils, the wellbeing of our staff, the wellbeing of our parents and the general well being of the whole world. I am sure that we will all remember specific times in our lives as we were growing up which left a long-lasting impression. This might be the hottest summer on record or that time you went on a really special and memorable holiday; the Covid-19 pandemic, is likely to be a period of time that all of our children will remember.

We need to ensure that the memories our children have of this time are as good as possible and this will only happen if we focus on wellbeing. We need to take care of each other, ensure we are all calm, and that we have routines that build confidence and security. We need to keep healthy, we need to laugh together, we need to support each other and we need to, above all else, make sure that the lasting memory of this time is as positive as it can be.

Finally, education is going back to basics, with us focusing on what is essential and ensuring that it is flexible and engages everyone, including the parents in the very challenging position of managing their own concerns about these uncertain times alongside supporting the education of their children, at home. I would like to give parents a metaphorical round of applause; keep yourselves well and spend some time each day focusing on your own wellbeing. Your children will thank you for it, in the years to come, when their memories of this time are about the fun activities you did together when they were unable to attend school in 2020.

Oona Carlin

King’s College Doha