Once upon a time, one hundred years ago or perhaps one hundred days, a prophet looked towards the horizon and saw our future.
There will come a time, she said, when the world that you have created will spin on its axis so fast that it will come to a sudden and complete stop.
And in that moment, you will discover that it’s all about time.
You will have all the time in the world, but not enough.
You will be asked for words that are both timely and timeless.
You will be asked to help people remember the time and imagine a time.
Looking back on three weeks of Advancement-via-Zoom at the International School of Brussels, I think that this imaginary prophet pretty much sums up the future that we have suddenly found ourselves in.
Three weeks ago, our world stopped. At least the world that we had become accustomed to. All at once, we had all the time in the world. Meetings were cancelled. Events postponed. Even wondering whether there was any point in writing an Annual Report this year. So where did the time go?
Well, it appeared to fall through the cracks of our abnormal routine. Hour upon hour dissolved into the business of coming up with new ideas, rapidly stitched onto even better ideas from far away colleagues. And all the time, we worked with babies balanced on our knees, teenagers upstairs in a world of their own, and the constant fear of the telephone announcing that someone we love is sick. In times like these, it seems, there simply isn’t ever enough time.
For three weeks now we’ve rewritten the script of school. We’ve had to be ahead of the curve. Constantly anticipating and second guessing. There isn’t a moment to waste and this is no time for the educational cliches that we’ve become so used to circulating. Simple, direct, honest is the only thing that counts. And yet, at the same time, we also have to find those words that will linger on beyond the basic facts. Words of hope. Words of thanks. Words of comfort. These are the words that we will need to dig deep and find for people to hang on to when things go dark for a while.
So where will we find these timeless words?
In the end, I believe that we will find them by looking back and looking forward, in the act of remembering and imagining; reminding those around us constantly of where we’ve come from and inspiring them to imagine the possibilities of where we might be heading.
The imaginary prophet once said that when the world stops, we will discover that it’s all about time.
Perhaps it’s about time that we realised the work that lies ahead of us.
After all, the words we choose today will surely define our schools in the times to come.