Today, July 3rd, 2020 marks the end of 2019/2020 academic year for most school teams. On this day, our school’s 6th year folds closed on all that it holds: memories, talks, decisions, achievements, challenges, and stories told and untold. It is our choice to decide what to carry with us, as we start a new phase, and what to leave behind!

Global upheaval made this year like no other, for millennials and Generation Z in particular. While everyone around the globe, elder and young, was disoriented by the emergent situation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, our Al-Hayat International School (HIS) family tirelessly and persistently paved the way to overcoming accompanied challenges. 

Let me take you back to February 28th, 2020. At the end of a regular day, we parted ways with hugs, high fives, and wide smiles, just like any other Friday dismissal. Alas, on that same night, the Minister of Education announced a school lockdown as part of precautionary measures to limit virus spread in the country.

We never imagined that we will not go back. We did not know that our vibrant classrooms, offices, gardens, and courts would sit empty and silent. We did not know that the last hug and high five would last for more than just a weekend.

We miss our school community.

We miss watching our people find their stride.

We miss watching faces shine as they had lightbulb “uha-moments.”

We miss the little moments.

We miss the talks.

We miss the jokes, the laughter, and the rowdy acts.

This year is one school year that none of us will ever forget!

This year put a halt to people all over the world, and residents of Lebanon in particular. 

This year challenged our persistence, resilience, and patience. It also challenged our values, our dignity, our willingness to stay alive, and our ability to transfer acquired skills to solve problems and resume. Each day of this year was gravid; it brimmed with multiples of lessons: lessons of determination that taught us how to vent, cry, care, give, take, forgive, adapt, contemplate, change, bond, stand in solidarity with others, and imperturbably overcome difficulties.

Shortly, this year challenged us to prepare for what Simon Sinek describes as “existential flexibility”. Despite all of the above, we stayed connected in more ways than one!

It was not easy to adapt to the abrupt changes and stay connected. Neither was it easy to comprehend what was happening. But, it is this century’s demands that impose a solid readiness to the ever-changing nature of the modern world, and necessitate the ability to cope with emerging unprecedented situations and events. Reading about 21st century people enriches our knowledge of their characteristics. In this century, people are connected, tech savvy, curious, and value motivation. These characteristics urge them to challenge the hierarchy status-quo as they place high importance on relationships. They value the passion necessary to learn and acknowledge the impetus to be open and adaptive to changes that drive proactive, active, and brilliant development.

As you read this piece of writing, congratulate yourself! You are alive and you’ve diligently maneuvered the situation to not only survive, but also grow! Your story and ours is the story of many others that worked hard to deliver and help out by doing what we all do best, nurturing learners and equipping them with the tools necessary for survival in modern times.

Our vigilant team did not fail to meet all learning opportunities, International groups, webinars, and consultations with experts and professionals available. Our dedicated parent community amazed us with acts of tender solidarity, helping one another and the school. Most importantly, we are inspired by our assiduous knowledgeable, responsible, risk-taking young inquirers, who will always stay at the heart of our work and in our hearts. Hats off to their hard work, pliancy, and perseverance. Most of them did not miss a single session. Most of them met the requirements, despite knowing that their promotion was guaranteed. They were on top of their work till the very last minute. Grade 5 students creatively led their PYP Exhibition. Middle Years boldly and confidently extended their connections by arranging for special self and communal growth sessions. Early Years Three “graduates” planned for their own party, refusing to give up their joyous moments to gloomy unstable situations.

Despite critical challenges, we firmly held onto our norm; our community couldn’t but foster and practice reflection. Team and Student-led individual reflective meetings were conducted to celebrate minor and major personal achievements, set future goals, and improve performance. To top a list of endless achievements, the Middle Years team was successfully able to meet IB MYP candidacy requirements despite all challenges, and has finalized all preparations necessary for the authorization process.

Though this chapter in our story was tumultuous, turbulent, and uncertain, yet its substantial events were key to our transit onto the next chapter, a chapter with much more proactivity to come.

Farewell tears touched my heart, and triggered deep dormant feelings that I had not felt in long time. “I believe goodbyes are not forever. They are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you until we meet again.”

Whether you will stay where you are, or leave, you will always leave footprints that eternalize your presence. Remember to live by values that shape the world you seek to make; adopt the behaviors you instill in others. Be the change agent and influencer in your community wherever it may be…

Alaa H. Katerji is the School Principal for Al-Hayat International School (Lebanon). She holds B.S. degree in Biochemistry and M.A. in Education Management and Leadership. She is also a certified Concept- Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainer