In a move which confirms that even the biggest of fish needs to ride the right waves and adapt and react, and which blows out of the water the school of thought that ‘survival of the fittest’ only pertains to the minnows in the shallows, Microsoft – graceful master and commander of the technological deep – has pioneered a number of changes to its Teams platform in response to its adoption by (discerning….) schools as their remote learning platform of choice. They have kept the platform recognizable, user-friendly and familiar whilst introducing some fresh elements to make sure their users (that’s us) can have at their fingertips the intuitive functionality that they need. They have been quick to spot the need to shift from meeting platform through lecturing platform to teaching platform, and the ‘hands up’ function that has been brought in over the past few weeks – coupled with the increased number of faces one can now see when teaching – has allowed for an even greater sense of ‘the classroom experience’ in what is offered to pupils and teachers.
The ‘hands up’ function is a terrific addition, and has been particularly useful in our large-group sessions, where interaction and a sense of being able to contribute remains important but has hitherto been logistically more challenging. In Assemblies, for example, asking for volunteers and answers has been rendered significantly more feasible by being able to deploy the page-one-of-the-teacher-handbook line ‘Put your hand up if….’.
This week, for example, it allowed me to ask questions of the Prep School about George Floyd when we met for our Monday morning assembly. I showed the pupils his photo and we learnt about the horrific incident that led to his tragic and untimely death at the end of last month. This led to an important lesson on the BLM movement: what it is, why it matters, and why people have been protesting in the USA, closer to home in Bristol and, in a different way, on our doorstep in Exeter.
Crucially, it opened up a talk about equality, about diversity, and about the legal, societal and moral imperative to fight against prejudice and discrimination of any type. We discussed what racism is and then agreed four very clear facts about it: it is abhorrent; it is never ok – anywhere, ever; we reject it as a community; and I expect each member of ECS to fight against it at every turn. Our values as a School are clear: we are a School where people matter. Not where most people matter, or where some people matter more than others, but where our values of tolerance, acceptance, compassion and love – for and to everyone – underpin and dictate all that we do, all that we say, all that we think and all that we take out with us into the world.
On the subject of going out into the world, my congratulations to our Year 8 pupils who this time last week finished their public exams, and who today presented a series of terrifically impressive pitches as the culmination of Week 1 of their Leavers’ Programme – Business and Enterprise Week.
They were tasked on Monday (à la Apprentice, though not at 5.45am) with designing and pitching a new product, and – having worked in teams on project management, product design, branding, print media, packaging and TV adverts, and having budgeted their allocated investment – pitched live this afternoon to our guest entrepreneur Mrs Emma Solley. They were, without exception, hugely impressive (one team has in fact – entirely genuinely – already brought their clothing product to market) and it gives me confidence to know that the next wave of entrepreneurs is following in the jet stream of Microsoft in adapting their products and understanding their market demographic and their own core values – and that they are acquiring the skills, awareness and understanding that they need as they prepare to turn from the shoal and swim to the horizon.