EXECUTIVE HEAD, IVANKA ACQUISTO, REFLECTS ON 2020
COVID-19 made the world stop and listen – the whole world!
We were on our spinning treadmills of busyness but when things were silent, we were forced to listen with more than our two ears. Do you recall listening to nature when the traffic noises came to an abrupt halt and our roads were empty in lockdown level 5? Nature had been calling us, but we couldn’t hear how we were destroying our own planet.
To you, our young people:
You are encountering the world in ways radically different from many of us at your age.
Antonio Spadaro writes that we are in a time of “anthropological change in which all people are interpreting themselves differently from how they did in the past.”
What are you listening to? Who are you listening to?
The movie, ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix is a must-see if you haven’t seen it. This docu-drama suggests that because of algorithms and the way that our social media habits are mirrored in the pop-up adverts and suggestions, who you listen to creates your reality.
This has had a powerful and positive impact for global and personal transformation through, for example, the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The movie warns however that there is another side.
We must always be aware of when our lives and choices are being curated for good and when we are being played by algorithms.
At a time when one of our values of TRUST is at an all-time low within our School community, our country and the world, we need to listen well. As Rev Thabethe wisely says, we need to be filters, not sponges and we need to discern.
To our parents and staff:
Our young people have been calling out to us for a while. Through the global anti-racism drive, their voices have been amplified through social media platforms, and at St Andrew’s we began to hear the hurt created by our own institutional racism.
We have had to learn to listen deeply without defensiveness, without denial, without diminishing – listening with three ears: the two ears we have and the ‘third ear’ which listens for the deeper layers of meaning in order to glean what has not been said with words but through tone, body language and emotions – listening to the heart, not just the head – listening not so much to our intention but the impact it has on others. This kind of listening is deep democracy.
This concept of 3-ear listening was introduced by the psychoanalyst, Theodor Reik. It is a powerful tool for all of us to practice, especially those of us in leadership roles.
St Andrew’s, with the support of our Chair of the Board, Dave Morris, has entered the 3-ear listening approach with our young alumae.
The collection of testimonies by our students are indeed gifts to our school. They are gifts because they help us to listen and understand the lived experiences of our students. Once you hear, you can’t unhear. Once you see, you can’t unsee. Once you know, you can’t unknow.
Parents, please listen to the invitation to be part of the journey and the community conversations.
Together, help us listen to the stories of others with empathy. Yes, it is necessary to look at what is bad, to bring it to the light and then to consciously look for the healing opportunities! Let’s look for hope!
‘Hope is learned’, says Brene Brown. Hope is not an emotion. It is a way of thinking – a cognitive process. When we train ourselves to look out for hope, we build pathways in our brains which fundamentally change our outlook. We can help our children learn hope.
To our leaders, myself included. What am I listening to? Am I choosing to listen to HOPE, befriending hope? At the moment I am listening to Jerusalema – you all know the song and dance!
I quote from the Daily Maverick where Prof le Cordeur from the University of Stellenbosch has done some research.
COVID has propelled me forward to look towards a more hopeful future, a better world, a better South Africa and a better St Andrew’s with the help of our community moving forward together. We cannot do it without you all. We have so much to learn from one another.
Our vision is to establish a school of hope and dignity where everyone, no matter what their role, is treated with respect – a school guided by love, not fear – a school of belonging, inclusion and thriving for everyone – a school where we listen well.
The journey and the way we walk together is as important as the destination.
In the words of South African poet, Gcina Mhlophe, “Hope will always be my walking stick.”
Our motto, Per Angusta ad Augusta – from tribulation to triumph is a statement of hope, still relevant for 2020.
There is much work to be done by all of us.
Don’t lose hope.
Executive Head, Ivanka Acquisto addresses the value of all girls’ education.