Lessons from COVID

Bob Ogle
The past year has challenged the world, our society, and our school in unprecedented ways. As we continue to respond to the obstacles posed by COVID, it has become clear that certain skills and mindsets make the difference between thriving and simply enduring. The future will routinely call upon these same qualities - rapid change is here and there is no turning back.
Our own response to the pandemic has relied heavily on agility, collaboration, and perseverance. These feel natural to us, as they are part of our DNA as an institution and are also central to our educational program. We know they are necessary for thriving in today’s and tomorrow’s world, as the pandemic has so clearly illustrated.
Be prepared to act quickly but decide more slowly.
Last spring’s shutdown required Pacific Ridge teachers to take on remote teaching with one week’s notice while the school scrambled to support them. Over the summer, class sizes were reduced, extra sections added, and tech-supported spaces created; the daily schedule was reshuffled, new teachers hired, and the campus transformed into a place where students could learn and interact safely. It goes without saying that none of us trained for this when we became teachers. But together we have learned, we have adapted.
Agility requires being pro-active, a willingness to change course, comfort with discomfort, and the capacity to rapidly assimilate information. It requires preparation to act, while not rushing into action before making solid decisions. From problem-based math to global travel, we have aimed to cultivate multiple kinds of agility in our students so they can respond to the curve balls life may throw at them.
Combine strengths to overcome challenge.
Just as researchers worldwide have worked together to develop COVID treatments and vaccines, community leaders have formed teams to solve the problems that each moment has brought us. Collaboration has always been at the heart of innovation and problem-solving.
Critical thinking, listening and effective communication are powerful skills in all aspects of life but are especially valuable when dealing with new or unforeseen challenges. Leveraging diverse perspectives and strengths must be part of any change management protocol. 
From Harkness to athletics, service learning to the dramatic arts, our students refine their collaborative skills at Pacific Ridge on a daily basis. COVID has made clear how valuable these skills are.
Don’t give up. Just don’t.
When we first moved to remote learning, I am not sure any of us expected it to last more than a year. However, March 12, 2021 will be the one-year anniversary of our first remote classes, and each and every week tests our perseverance further.  None of us wants to have to continue to restrict our movements, our social connections, and our lives, but that is exactly what we must do.
I so admire the resiliency our students and teachers have shown. This year has been grueling, to be sure, and it can be hard for us to feel that there is any long-term benefit to the experience. However, hardship can teach important skills for surviving and thriving, and I hope the support we are providing to our students is helping them build the kind of healthy resiliency they can call upon when needed in the future.   
I have always tried to lead by noticing and thanking individuals for the big and small moments that define an institution and a community. This year has yielded many such moments. Our school community has pulled together in remarkable ways over the course of this ordeal; because of our families’ patience, support, and constructive feedback, we improve every day. And, while it may not always seem like it, so many of our students are thriving, not just enduring, the crisis. I hope they can find gratitude in the present and carry its power with them going forward.
Each new generation enters a different world than the one their parents inhabit. At Pacific Ridge, we try to arm our students with the skills and habits to face any challenge their world throws at them. We have always aimed to craft a school program that prepares our students, and ourselves, for anything.  I am hopeful that one small gift that will come from all of this challenge will be just that – our students and school will be ready for whatever comes next.
Thank you for your continued commitment to the mission and community of Pacific Ridge School. The support of our community has always been the foundation on which we have built the school. This year, it has meant everything.