We stood in our driveway in the darkness before dawn on Saturday with candles twinkling down our street. It was a very different ANZAC Day, but a very poignant one. As the mournful notes of a bagpiper playing Waltzing Matilda somewhere in Camberwell floated across the park, it reinforced we were not alone.
For many Australians, ANZAC Day is our most revered national day, marking loss rather than victory, recognising courage in the face of adversity, and highlighting the strong connect of bravery with vulnerability. Last Friday, in a deeply moving virtual Assembly led by staff and students, we remembered those who made the ultimate sacrifice and reflected on the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919.
There was a strong sense of déjà vu as we viewed those grainy black and white photos from a century ago of medical staff wearing face masks. It provided strong imagery alongside the current global media coverage of health care workers. Along with firefighters and emergency service personnel, they have defined what courage looks like in 2020. Then the tragedy of last week where we lost four Victorian police officers reminded us of the bravery of our police force.
We are reassessing our definition of bravery in everyday life at the moment as we are challenged to find our own sense of ‘brave’ in this new normal. In the well-resourced, high performing and perfection seeking world we occupy, we are used to being in control, and able to portray ourselves as expert and knowledgeable; even when we might be struggling in reality. Suddenly so much of what we do requires additional problem solving, creative thinking and a determined effort to swing into action. Distance teaching and learning, working from home, managing family life, and economic pressures are all adding to the complexity of life.
This week in our Assemblies we have focused on the concept of bravery, recognising the new daily routines for students and staff have required us to overcome personal fears and anxiety and embrace risk taking. We recognise bravery comes in many shapes and forms but we must never ignore small acts of personal bravery. It is these acts that help us to face our fears of imperfection and failure and be our best.
Ruyton Girls' School