Hero photograph
Headmaster Mr Grant Lander
Photo by Mark Hamilton

Headmaster's Pen

Grant Lander —

We are certainly living through unusual times. None of us would have experienced anything similar in our lifetime.

Dear Parents and Caregivers

We are certainly living through unusual times. None of us would have experienced anything similar in our lifetime. In many cases life will be significantly different in the future than what we have experienced in our pasts. What will be the nature and the impact of the predicted recession that we might be entering into? What will be the nature of international travel or for that matter, even domestic travel look like in the short and medium term? How will this experience change the nature of working? How we are going to emerge wiser and better for the experience and for how long will we retain and apply the lessons learnt?

I found this extract written by American writer, Robert Pondiscio in “The Lessons That Last in the Time of Pandemic”, which nicely encapsulates the way we might reflect on this surreal experience:

“Trust me on this: There’s a good chance that, years from now, you will feel a bit sentimental for these weeks spent in social isolation. We’re built for challenging times. We are writing the stories we will tell our children and grandchildren. Driving down a suburban street waving to elementary school children may not have the historical gravity of landing on Omaha Beach or working on a wartime assembly line. But when the children of the pandemic are old and grey, they will reminisce about the time the schools were closed. It will be a warm memory, even though so many people got sick, lost their jobs, and were afraid. They don’t have the vocabulary today to describe it, but the lessons will stick and become clearer in the retelling. It’s about social cohesion, love and loyalty, and how good people step up when we need them to.”

We have much to be thankful for. We need to acknowledge all those who have been on the front line over the past month also – be it medical staff, police, aged care workers, supermarket workers, rubbish collectors, civil defence staff, corrections staff, truck and bus drivers, farmers, vets and everyone else who has been working so hard to keep our community safe and ordered during this time. As a country, we can be proud of what we have achieved. We are only part way through a journey and there are some difficult moments ahead but we have demonstrated that in a time of crisis we can pull together and be impressively united in our approach to something like a national lockdown for a pandemic.

Our history is punctuated by times when both New Zealand and the world has had to stand up and be united in our response to a challenging adversity. This British report published in The Sunday Times by Matthew Syed sums up nicely the importance of “both in the past and future of unity … a United Effort:

The story of our nations is packed full of the daring deeds of heroes. Even though he had lost both legs in a flying accident before the Second World War started, the famous flying ace Douglas Bader joined up and fought bravely throughout the war until he was captured and sent to the German prisoner of war camp, Colditz Castle. Although he received many honours for his outstanding war service and his post-war charity work on behalf of disabled people, he told this story.

“I remember a tobacconist’s shop outside Victoria railway station which had been bombed the previous afternoon, but in the morning there was a trestle table and a notice that said, ‘Business as usual’, and a grinning Cockney standing beside it. These are the people that we so seldom see, our compatriots who took it. If they had not taken it, if they had not built the aeroplanes and everything else, we could not have fought. We were the glamour boys up there and had something to fight back with — that was the difference.

This is what mattered. It was a united effort by everybody.”

We are not at war but we are facing dangerous risks to our lives and our futures. We too have seen the wonderful response of so many members of our community. This often strengthens at times of crisis as we applaud and appreciate our doctors and nurses, our supermarket workers, the support from our neighbours and all the unsung heroes who have got us through.

The real test for us is whether this feeling of unity will be sustained when the threat subsides.

I hope so because the strength of this school comes from the united efforts of us all. How we work together will determine for all of us how bright our future will be.

Alert Level three, two, or even one will undoubtedly define the end of the challenges faced by our country, its businesses, its people or in fact St Paul’s. We are probably going to experience an adverse environment for a long time to come.The key question is how do we harness the benefits of the unity that we have achieved during the national lockdown and build on this for a more enlightened future?

Grant Lander