‘The future is uncertain ... but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity.’  
Ilya Prigogine

2020 has been a year like no other as our students and teachers have been thrust into remote learning and the unique challenges that come with the pandemic restrictions. Principal Susan Just reflects on the social and technological challenges that our school community has faced during COVID-19 and the creative ways in which we have risen to these challenges, demonstrating resilience, adaptability and a willingness to collaborate and innovate:

As we continue to move through Level 4 Restrictions we have been planning for the remainder of the year and for 2021. Unlike previous years where we had a clear picture of what the next school year would look like, we have had to consider possible challenges and unknown circumstances which might arise.

As organisational expert Jim Hemerling said: organisations, and indeed schools, need to constantly adapt; we live in a time of ‘always-on transformation’.

Since the beginning of 2020 at Lauriston, we have chosen to focus on taking a long-range approach rather than be reactive when situations arose. We developed and continue to develop scenarios about likely challenges ahead of us in the short-, medium- and long-term. This approach has allowed us to be more agile and accepting of the fact that it may take time to return to normal.

As educators we have a clear purpose: to educate our students and ensure that they are able to progress with their learning and personal growth throughout the year. Because we all believe in this common goal, our teachers and staff feel a strong sense of connection to our school and to our students. This is a factor which has enabled each of us to be adaptable when we needed to make changes in our teaching practice, the way in which we assess students or the way in which we communicate with them.

Throughout this year, our students and our staff have been at the forefront of our decision-making. When you feel that you belong and are valued, you are more willing to adapt to changing circumstances. Teachers and students have a strong level of trust in each other because we can rely on our colleagues and peers to support us and share their knowledge and expertise with us.

We are fortunate at Lauriston to have enormously capable members of staff. We have relied on the skills and expertise that we bring to the table when working our way through various challenges which have presented themselves. We have been able to find solutions to remote learning and our teaching staff have actively looked for new ways of approaching their teaching and assessment of students. Our general staff have continued to ensure that our school operates smoothly each day, even though we have had periods of time when most members of staff have been working remotely.

It is particularly pleasing to observe a growth mindset in our students and staff. We have all been required to re-think the way we do our roles and we have demonstrated resilience even though we would prefer to be attending school each day and participating in lessons and co-curricular activities.

Most importantly, we have remained connected to our peers, colleagues and our school. Our school has remained the anchor in a sometimes tumultuous and scary environment. Students can spend time talking with our friends, learning how to bake, participating in a running challenge or House debating. Like our students, our teachers have made time for more informal Zoom get-togethers. The very nature of these activities has helped to provide us with a sense of normality and a small window of hope for the future.

It has become clear to me that at Lauriston we have had to focus on being an innovative organisation.

Linda Hill, a specialist in organisational management, says that innovative organisations are communities that have three capabilities – creative abrasion, creative agility and creative resolution.

Creative abrasion is about enabling debate and discourse, allowing people to participate in constructive debate and active listening of differing perspectives. Innovative ideas are more likely to come from people voicing their different perspectives and often bringing quite divergent ideas together.

Creative agility is utilising design thinking principles, working through a process of actions and re-thinking when mistakes are made and better solutions are required.

Creative resolution focuses on combining different ideas to reach a more creative and successful solution.

Each day brings a different challenge for all of us at Lauriston, and rather than accept the most obvious response, we have actively chosen to focus on debate and dialogue where every person has an equal voice and different approaches are encouraged.

Some of the changes we have made to our Year 9 Howqua program in the High Country and the manner in which we have managed the various challenges of having our girls on campus for as long as possible are determined through debate and listening to a range of different perspectives. I have learned that we all need to be tenacious when it comes to finding an innovative solution to a challenge which confronts us.

I really like the statement from Pixar Studios that leadership is about creating a world in which people want to belong. No matter what their role, everyone is allowed to give notes to the Director about how they feel about a particular film.

I believe that at Lauriston every member of staff is given the opportunity to offer their thoughts and opinions about how we will manage the challenges of COVID-19. This has made for richer discussion and better decision-making.

We are confident that whatever 2021 will look like we will continue to take similar approaches to meeting the challenges presented. We know that we have the agility to move seamlessly from classroom learning to remote learning. We will look for ways of managing the wellbeing of our students and teachers. We have demonstrated adaptability in changing programs to suit the current situation and we will continue to do so.

In the end, it is the education of our girls that is paramount and we will adapt and change in order to ensure that our girls have a well-rounded education.

IMG 8646