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The value of collaboration

I have stared at the screen for some time trying to find an original way of starting. Anything about the ‘new normal’ or ‘learning to live with the current situation’ seems like a cliché, and I doubt many readers, pupils or parents, will want any more commentary on coping in lockdown. But bear with me a second, because though I’m not that interested in the actual business of Parliament (apologies to Mr Smith and Mr Brown et al), I was quite interested to know if they are coping with Zoom (or whatever parliamentary equivalent they use). 
 
An article by the journalist James Graham is worth reading if you’re interested. He argues that ‘physical proximity certainly helps to develop that endangered sense of empathy’, and I agree. He also argues that when voting, there’s something incredibly important in turning up, looking your allies – and opponents – in the face. Put in a completely different context, it’s why we interview people, rather than just marking tests or reading applications.
 
Later in the same magazine (yes, reading is a good occupation for the times – and by the way this and many really rich periodicals are free on line), another piece argues that one thing this time is surely teaching us is the value of collaboration.
 
Now, planning ahead – as precarious as that is – is important too, so when a colleague wrote to me last week proposing a modest rearrangement of classroom furniture and layout, for when it’s all over of course, my spirits lifted. And yours should too: social distancing apart (for however long that might necessarily last), and whatever the very capable possibilities of Teams (and I’m amazed and humbled by how brilliantly my colleagues have taken to and are exploiting this and other apps), being in a room collaborating will be more important in the future than ever. My guess is that the young people – you Whitgiftians – who emerge blinking into the daylight ahead will be more keen to collaborate, more anxious to work together, need intellectual nourishment from each other more than ever, and more than ever enthusiastic to solve problems. My guess is that the lecture-q-and-a style will be less needed, and the problem-solving and discussion more. 
 
‘Baby steps’ seems to be the order of the day today. But bold strides towards the more exciting classroom of the future, innovation and progress, will need to follow. We are determined to be ready.