Leading Aiglon through the Covid-19 crisis has taken mind, body and spirit – as Head of School Nicola Sparrow explains.
Mind, Body and Spirit: I've been thinking about these a lot recently. In the classroom, we expand our minds, learning new skills and ideas. On the sports field and on the mountain, our bodies grow strong and stay healthy.
These are, of course, great things, and rightly the three things that underpin our school ethos. But it strikes me that the greatest of these is spirit – yet it’s the hardest thing to pin down, and perhaps the part that’s talked about the least.
Spirit, for me, is where it all starts. It’s the people we are and the people we become through the Aiglon experience. It’s about adaptability, ingenuity, innovation and having the resilience to cope with whatever is thrown at you. It’s having the determination to win that match, or get those great results – but not being defined by them. And it’s about going out into the world with a certain type of positivity.
So, while the Covid-19 crisis changed everything in one sense, in another, it was business as usual, because responding to challenges is what staff and students have always done here. Dealing with the pandemic has simply demonstrated that Aiglon spirit on a grand scale.
I’ve found that spirit everywhere. It was there in the school hall in the last week of term, as students who were due to go to Ghana performed the music that they had learned for the trip, along with a song they had written especially for the Head of Music who is retiring this year.
Those students had spent more than 100 hours preparing for this project. They had built their own ukuleles, ordered more to take with them and built a wonderful repertoire of music. Their plan was to perform concerts and run music lessons in schools, using music as a way to communicate across boundaries. When it was cancelled, the students were, of course, upset. But, at the end of term, they chose to make the best of things.
I’ve seen that same spirit in our online activities: during the semi-finals of our debate, for example. If we can’t hold the debate in the school hall, then we find a way to do it differently. It’s just what we do.
I saw it in the rather unlikely setting of our local Co-op shop here at Aiglon, where I came across an Aiglon day student. I asked him what he had been doing and what had been the highlight of his week. His reply: the virtual Junior School assembly that we hold on a Friday afternoon, where all the Junior School students and teachers come online to say hello.
And I also see it right now in all those Aiglon students across the world who are helping not just their school community, but their friends, family and neighbours. Our resilience makes us able to turn to those who are struggling and help them to be resilient, too.
Our ability to test ourselves physically on the mountains might have been restricted, but we can be inspired by them still. At Aiglon, when we look at a mountain, we don’t waste time worrying about whether or not we can get to the top. We get up the first part, set up camp, and then we work out how to get to the next destination, a little higher up, and so on. We take everyone with us. We work together, we help each other, and that’s how we reach the peak – together, wherever we are.
Interview: Lucy Jolin
Photography: Joe McGorty