NIS Stories

Looking Back, Striving Forward: Educating During a Pandemic

Students performing on the stage for the Primary School Assembly

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, the Grade 10s, their teachers, and parents gathered in the Commons for their concert – what a great evening it was. Music, laughter, and good conversation. Drinks and snacks were for sale at the back of the room. Like so many other events, I was able to sit back and enjoy the performance through the eyes of the parents who had come to celebrate their children that evening.

Yet, this was not a night like any other. Of course, we were aware of the news of the new coronavirus, and we'd been preparing for what was increasingly looking like the 'inevitable.' But yet it happened so suddenly. Midway through the concert, my phone started pinging, and I slipped outside to see the messages from my colleagues at the Japan Council of International Schools (JCIS) come in thick and fast. Prime Minister Abe was on the TV, announcing that all schools were requested to close immediately. And so it was that our COVID journey and closed campus started.

That evening was the last time we'd had anything like a community event on campus. Except for the 1,000 community members who joined us in the summer to receive their vaccine, we have not been able to welcome parents onto campus since that day almost two years ago.

At least, not until December at the end of last semester! So how wonderful it was to see our parents returning to campus – whether for ELC community time, the PTA meeting, or our secondary arts events held before the winter break, it felt almost normal again. Schools are communities, and partnerships with parents are essential for successful learning and well-being. It was clear that all of us – staff, parents, and students - were just as excited as one another to see everyone together again and feel the energy of being in the same space. Connecting on Google Meet has lasted far too long! We feel such gratitude towards our parents for being such great support, and we have been thrilled to welcome everyone back on campus again. The cooperation of everyone is what makes it all possible.

Of course, we are watching the current Omicron variant unfold, and along with the rest of the world, we hope for the best but are preparing for the worst, knowing that we probably will need to go back to a more closed campus sooner than later before this pandemic is over. As we have from the beginning, we continue to follow the science and the recommendations of our consultant doctor and the Japanese authorities and hold the health and well-being of our students as our top priority.

Thank you for supporting your students and the school as we embark on the second half of our 2021-22 school year! Looking back at what we've been through together while anticipating what might yet come, I am confident in the strength and resilience in our community because of the true spirit of caring and compassion I see as I walk around the school every day. We may not know what tomorrow brings, but I know that we can weather this pandemic together.