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Bears Repeating: An Uncertain Spring

Bears Repeating: An Uncertain Spring

Head of School Jess Hill shares her thoughts in her latest blog post: An Uncertain Spring. Read more from her Bears Repeating blog.

An Uncertain Spring

by Jess Hill

April 2020

It was an uncertain spring.”
Virginia Woolf

The world has stopped spinning for many of us. We will not return to campus this spring, and thus begins a different kind of spinning. We have been thrown off our daily schedules of busyness, accomplishment, and deadlines. In place of our routine is doubt, and in place of our sleep is worry. As adults, we carry the perfect trifecta of angst with us at all times -- simultaneously fearful of illness, economic uncertainty, and loss of community and connection with each other.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to be well, we find ourselves adjusting to a new way of life and hoping that this time away from one another will be short-lived. We remain hopeful that this summer we will push the play button, and life will resume without interruption. We will return to our old selves with our old habits. We will order a tall latte, hug our friends, and make plans.

I yearn for this to be the case, and yet it is likely another reality is waiting for us. We cannot unsee what we have seen. We know and understand that this virus has wreaked havoc on families and communities. Our economic shutdown has erased people’s dreams and livelihoods. As we experience all of these uncertainties and disruptions, we also must examine something else.

When the world reopens, we will be different because we have seen more clearly how our lives fit into the broader fabric of community. We cannot unsee the grocery worker who bags our groceries or the person who delivers our packages. We fully understand that the hourly workers in our economy are risking their well-being each day. We have a new appreciation and respect for our healthcare providers who risk their lives each shift they work and then are isolated from family when that shift ends. We are struck by the strangely blue waters of Venice, the clear sky over Los Angeles, or even the empty streets of Nashville on a Friday night. When I walk through campus each evening, I cannot shake the eeriness of Souby lawn without blankets of girls strewn about, without 6th grade girls scurrying to the library, and without teachers rushing to a lunch meeting balancing salads and notebooks.

During this extended pause, we have the gift of time to notice things we took for granted, pre-corona. We sense an urgency to solve these newly exposed world problems, and we can only accomplish this by working together to continue our learning and growth. Our capacity for learning, ingenuity, and creativity is vast and has been displayed by our researchers, engineers, students and teachers on a daily basis. Our girls must pay attention in biology, not because of their transcript or an AP score, but because what they learn may save lives. Good literature and art transport us and widen our understanding of the world, just as expressing our thoughts on paper or on canvas soothes our soul in times of loss. The smallness of the world becomes more evident with a global pandemic that can only be conquered by collaboration in multiple languages across multiple borders. Never before has the study of history and our past responses during a crisis been more pertinent. And the answer to “When are we ever going to use this?” in math class, is evident in the many mathematical models informing our next steps.

Will we hold these memories with us as we head into our post-corona chapter? I believe we will place greater value on our strong community and the privilege of being with and lifting up each other every day. We can think of this pause as a chance to contemplate what might be. What if we choose to spend our time in different ways -- dwelling less on the things in our lives and more on the people and the big ideas? As an educator, I know the perspective our students will gain from this season will be far greater than ours. This “uncertain spring” of 2020 will be studied for years to come. As we remember the time the world stopped spinning, we must seize the opportunity to envision a better one.