After the resounding success of our first Family Assembly last Friday, we have moved from one class and school event to the next this week. Ironically, we may now have seen more of each other than normal and I am delighted we have managed to keep our community so close in these last few weeks. We are all agreed that Zoom is not the easiest of mediums to navigate, especially in terms of relaxed and natural conversation. In fact, it is hard not to appreciate the candid, spontaneous face-to-face exchanges we have all been used to. The children on the other hand, make it look easy and having watched them adapt over the last six months, many sit quite comfortably within this new normal. Whilst some may have found it initially harder, they have mostly overcome their first frustrations and made it work for them.

As Head, it would seem I have been on a steeper learning curve. As someone who thoroughly enjoys getting to know you all and to talking to large, medium and small groups of people for all types of occasions, this has certainly made me re-evaluate my style and delivery on every level! For example, for the new whole school events, families are now asked to dial in ‘on mute’, which certainly allows for a clearer and noise-free community Zoom event. Despite this new online event etiquette, with its value for listening and politeness which I wholly advocate, I cannot remember a time when there hasn’t been a younger sibling singing/chatting/gurgling happily and often loudly from the heart of the Founders’ Hall as I’ve spoken, or the background noise and hubbub of East 96th with the main school doorbell chiming in the middle of a quieter assembly moment. Somehow, in real time, those background noises are as central to the main event as an example of community in action and one that is at a natural ease with itself. Now, the emphasis is on perfect delivery (with fingers crossed that the technology doesn’t let us down!) This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I have to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a few unexpected younger siblings joining our class meetings from home – your presence has been valued and noted this week- thank you.

On Zoom, comic timing, use of humour, audience engagement and eye-to-eye contact has a life of its own! Never have we been more aware of our own face smiling back at ourselves, rather than the crowd, and with most audiences now ‘on mute’ at events, spontaneous feedback is very different. As ever the value of teamwork prevails – I shall never do a very good job at presenting, whilst managing the waiting room to admit entry, whilst ‘muting’ background noise where necessary, whilst remembering to welcome latecomers from the waiting room, whilst gauging the reactions of all in attendance in the gallery view.

Joking aside, we have done a really good job of adapting. Like all good things, it is a journey and a ‘trial and error’ process. It is so invaluable that the children see us trying to grow and adapt in this new period of change – we are finally learning side by side and trying something new is often invigorating and empowering. It has certainly been illuminating for me and has been most enjoyable.

The coffee mornings across the school this week were a case in point. Despite a new medium for delivery, there are some things that never change and that is our community spirit. Thank you for turning up to these in good form and it was good to see you all. And now to those that make life look easy at E96 – your children. Enjoy the following pages of progress and fun at WPNY. Our second edition for 20-21 is an inspiring read.