This article was written by high school personal academic counselor and school psychologist, Dr. Jeff Devens.
On December 31, China alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) to increasing concerns regarding the spread of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Within the first week of January, the WHO announced the identification of a new virus, the Coronavirus (COVID-19). At the time of this writing, the disease has killed some 161,000 people and infected more than 2.34 million according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
On April 7, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation of Singapore, informing all residents for the need to implement a series of "Circuit Breaker measures" to limit the spread of the virus. These included social distancing, wearing a mask when in public, only allowing for takeout food from restaurants and hawker centers, staying home as much as possible, the closing of all non-essential services, and most impactful to our community of students and faculty, moving to an online learning-based platform. These measures were to be re-evaluated on May 4. Instead, we heard the updated news on April 21, informing us online learning was to continue through May, perhaps to the end of the school term. This was not what any of us foresaw as the school year began, but this is our reality.
Considering how our students are processing these events, I'm reminded of terms such as resilience, character, grit, growth, and loss. No spring sports season. No IASAS. No spring banquet. No Jazz Night. No senior prom. No final exams (yeah!). And, no traditional graduation ceremony. The Class of 2020 will have a graduation story to tell for generations to come, but it won't be one of sitting in an auditorium with peers culminating with the throwing caps into the air. Despite these losses, there remains growth. Our community, and for that matter, the country of Singapore, will come through this. What awaits us on the other side? Some suggest there will never be a return to a time of normalcy. Similar to the events of 9/11, the world will shape a new paradigm for what normal is. Amid these changes, however, we must not lose our humanity. Education sits at the intersection of preparing students to be good learners and preparing them to be good people. I'm confident this will continue to be a central focus of what we "do" at Singapore American School. For the past several weeks, our motto as a learning community has been "Grace." Grace, defined as courteous goodwill, is what we have been extending and receiving from one another. Grace is also what allows us to endure the unknown.
As I type these words from my online learning space, I am keenly aware I am not where I want to be, but I am where I need to be. As teachers and faculty interact with students online, we want them to know, we too are eager to return to campus, to continue with in-person learning, traditions, and keeping good company. Students and faculty are appreciative of technology and the role it can play in imparting content; however, technology has yet to bridge the human divide. We are more connected than ever, yet feel more alone and isolated than ever. Holistic learning requires proximity. We need to be physically together, engaging with one another, laughing together, doing life together. Interestingly, amid this crisis, SAS is planning for the construction of new facilities and upgrades to existing buildings. This time of social distancing may prove highly beneficial in influencing the creation of learning spaces and places that foster humanity.
Throughout the remainder of this online journey, students and faculty will continue to attempt to make heart connections, both via online advisory as well as online classes. We look forward to a time when we can be physically together, on campus, welcoming new and returning members of the SAS community.
- distance learning
- high school
- we got this