Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,
I was speaking with one of our teachers the other day, remotely of course! He said to me that he never realised how much he would miss teaching his students until he had to do so through a device. I think in many ways; this sentiment sums up what we are all feeling at the moment. We are all social beings and even though a bit of solitude can be a good thing, too much can leave us feeling lost and disconnected. As I write to you this week from my spatially challenged ‘office’ here at home, I too feel a bit disconnected. Not so much from my family, whose constant company has been one of the great bonuses of this whole situation, but from my College community who lift me up each day and who I was just beginning to get to know.
Having said that, I am very blessed. I have a job which gives me tremendous satisfaction and a sense of purpose, and I have a family who loves me. For some in our community this is not the case. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it has been for many in our Whitefriars family who have not only lost jobs but who have lost that sense of purpose and meaning, of security and hope. My thoughts and prayers are with you all in this challenging time. I continue to offer the full support and resources of the College to those of you who have experienced hardship during this time. Please reach out to us in your moment of need.
I wish this week to pay tribute to our staff. Some may think that it would be easier teaching remotely than to have a classroom full of students. I suggest to these people that they speak to any teacher or school staff member; they know only too well the work that goes into preparing our Home Learning Program. The hours of planning, the research, the resources, the innovative and creative thinking. For many teachers, the planning time has nearly doubled, and let us not forget all the other staff who are currently engaging in a million tasks and processes, in support of teachers delivering our Home Learning Program. Let us not forget the Learning Support Officers and Technicians who are supporting teachers with lesson delivery and supporting students with learning needs in the classroom, and our College Counsellors who are reaching out to students in greatest need. The Administration staff are keeping the College ticking over, the Finance staff are working around the clock to support families in genuine need and the Maintenance staff are onsite every day. And of course, our IT team whose talent, problem solving ability and infinite patience have meant that our systems have hardly skipped a beat.
In the midst of all this, staff are meeting with each other every day to plan, to review, to share new ideas they are discovering and to support each other as they work harder than ever to keep up in a constantly evolving environment. In the midst of this, like many of you, they are trying to manage their own children’s online learning and/or provide support for elderly and vulnerable family members.
Then there are our magnificent young men. Young men who have had to adapt quickly. Who have had much taken from them in such a dramatic fashion. All the things they loved about school; jumping on the bus in the morning, catching up with their mates, playing down ball, catching up with their mates, being part of their Pastoral Care group in the morning, catching up with their mates, feeling that warm sense of community when they come down the drive and of course, catching up with their mates.
You, young men, who are experiencing something that we have never and hopefully, will never experience again, have continued to rise to the challenge. I have heard inspiring stories from teachers who speak about your dedication to your studies and more importantly, your commitment to your teachers and to your classmates. All I can say to you is keep working hard, keep reaching out for support, and keep being kind to yourselves and your families.
Finally, I wish to pay tribute to our parents. Not only are many of you managing the loss or change of work circumstances but you are also trying to manage your son’s/sons’ learning from home. My only advice to you is not to be too hard on yourselves. Don’t feel that you need to act in place of the teacher. Reach out for support from your son’s teachers and other support staff, and remember to look after yourselves.
Watching this all from a distance has made me realise that I might be socially distant from my community but I still feel that strong sense of community that exists at Whitefriars. May I leave you today with the words of St Paul who knew something about adversity.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 1-5)
Please take care,
Mr Mark Murphy