It is the “dead of winter” here in Iowa, USA, where I live. The nights are long, the days short, the temperatures are cold, and the New Year is about to begin.
It is snowing. Not just a bit of snow, but 7” (or almost 18cm), enough to cover everything on the ground, fill the streets, blanket the sidewalks, and adorn the trees and bushes in elegant white lace. Dirty streets, brown grass, the occasional litter are all covered in white as though washed fresh of the dinginess of the world. We all know, of course, that this is temporary. The snow will melt, the dingy dirt will re-emerge, the browns of winter and leafless trees will return to remind us that it is a time of quiet sleep when what was old dies and what is new is yet to push up from the ground. No birds are singing, no insects crawling. No butterflies or mosquitos or wasps are here now. It is the dead of winter.
This year has been a difficult year for all of us. We have been caught in a global plague of epic proportions, one that has, as of this writing, killed almost 2 million people globally. Many more suffer long-term illnesses. And many, many more suffer because of loss of jobs, closed businesses, canceled travel plans, closed schools, and lockdowns. It is as though we are caught in a snowstorm and cannot go out. Except this storm has lasted for months and months and will likely last for many more months.
But, like the seasons, this plague will end and like the snow melting in the Spring, new green shoots will emerge. What appears to be dead and sleeping has been rebuilding and growing, quietly, unseen, ready to emerge into the sunlight. We have been busy growing at Westford as have all of you. We have built a new campus, have established new programs, have created new relationships, and our dream and mission continue: to provide accessible education to anyone who wants it no matter where they live.
I attended a virtual graduation ceremony not long ago and in the face of this awful plague, our learners continued to learn and grow. Our teachers continued to teach. Our support staff, so critical to everyone’s success, continued to help learners on their journeys like traveling companions. On the one hand, this ceremony was like many others. On the other hand, it was the most extraordinary event I have ever had the honor of attending. Each graduate had done what every other successful graduate had done: they attended class, they wrote papers, they submitted assignments and they passed their course. But these learners were different: they had done all of that in the face of a global pandemic that wreaked havoc on families, countries, and economies. While the snow came down in winter, these learners were growing and building and succeeding: they will be strong, successful graduates when the pandemic is over: stronger than others, their will and perseverance to complete their studies will mark them forever as “the ones who graduated during the plague”.
It has stopped snowing now. The world around me is white and clean and quiet. But I know that under all that snow, green shoots are forming. Trees are preparing to bud. Life is preparing to come back and we are close to having vaccines. But the graduates of our schools did not wait for vaccines: they strove on with determination and the knowledge that success is earned, not given. Under the snow, they grew.
When this snow melts what a sight we will behold! What new shoots will we see? What beautiful leaves will sprout? What new ways of working, of doing business, of relating to each other will we see?
"If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"
Spring is not far.
Happy New Year
Scottish Qualifications Authority, UK
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