Farewell to 2021
Dec 10, 2021
With the end of 2021 nearly upon us, this is my last message before we break for Christmas and New Year. In reflecting on the year now passing, there are some key questions we might ask: what are the things of value gained this year that we can take into the new year? What things are best left in the past? No doubt, the answers will be different for each of us.
It probably goes without saying that 2021 did not start well. With schools closed across Hong Kong as a public health measure, students began the year receiving their formal education online. Teachers and parents did their best to compensate for the lack of direct human interaction, but the physical isolation and social limitations of home-based learning were difficult to overcome. Teachers worked hard to modify curriculum to focus on those skills, such as independent research and writing, that are better suited to remote learning. Schooling gradually adapted to the new conditions and evolved in some unexpected ways. New technical skills were established and honed to a high level. Mastery of online communications software and associated practices and protocols became largely ubiquitous in the education sector.
When we tentatively returned to face to face learning in the first half of the year, timetables were reviewed, revised, adapted, amended, and abandoned with changing circumstances. Full days in school returned for the final weeks before summer and learning prospered. Outstanding external examination outcomes for ISF students demonstrated that well-prepared, focused, and motivated students will always do well.
While summer was for some a novel experience of immobile inactivity at home, some braved the shifting winds of pandemic policies and politics to travel beyond Hong Kong, leading to some interesting adventures in unexpected locations as various ‘third-country’ strategies were invoked to avoid travel bans and extended quarantines for those departing hard-hit countries. Those who enjoyed a Hong Kong ‘staycation’ benefited from the absence of ‘jet-lag’ recovery that often punctuates the start of a new school year.
On campus, construction workers had to contend with poor weather and supply chain constraints over summer to finish the first phase of our ‘Gallery’ project. The access disruptions for returning staff and students experienced during the first days of the school year offered a timely reminder of the difficulties of scheduling any kind of project in Hong Kong at the moment. At the time of writing, we are still well short of where we hoped to be, but we can see positive signs of the amazing new facilities emerging: a new library and gymnasium for Primary School and completely revamped circulation routes through the central part of our school.
We commenced the 2021-22 Academic Year in good shape. With all staff and students safely returned to Hong Kong, we have enjoyed an unbroken stretch of 16 weeks of full-day on-site learning since mid-August. To the joy of all, we have resumed many of our core signature learning programs: experiential programs went ahead for all grades to the delight of all participants; our core experiential and Shuyuan enhancement programs have been in full-swing; while our ‘Jam’ was canceled, all students reveled in a well-planned and executed day of service learning; and we have even enjoyed live student performances on campus once again.
In reviewing the year, it would be remiss of me to neglect to mention an important milestone that passed this week: it is the 10th anniversary of the inauguration of our beloved H.J. Zhang Black Box Theater. The following is an excerpt from my reflections on a decade of performances in our ‘BBT’, published this week:
Our little theater has taken us from the jungles of India through to the Arabian deserts, from the depths of the ocean floor we have ascended to the heavens to contend with Greek gods; we have put to flight 1,000 paper cranes, marveled at Charlie’s ‘golden ticket’, and reminisced at the poetry of 99 years. At times, we have filled the space with the sound of music, and at other times journeyed to the West in an empty theater. This amazing performance venue has been recast, reshaped, and reconfigured in so many ways, yet we still seem to find new dimensions for performance and entertainment. Now ten years old, the H.J. Zhang Black Box Theater is a home for dreaming that rightly holds a special place in the hearts of ISF families!
This seems an appropriate note on which to conclude this review of the year. In the broadest sense possible, our school continues to be a ‘home for dreaming’ that helps to shape the journey – along with the hopes and aspirations – of each ISF student from childhood to the threshold of adulthood.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all members of our community for your spirited and wholehearted participation in the life of our school over the past year and particularly for the generous and sustained support offered by all during difficult times.
Please accept my best wishes for a restful and restorative holiday break!
Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School
A Decade of Wonders at H.J. Zhang Black Box Theater