The Journal for Executive and Governance Leaders

The tenacity of the human spirit

Recently I wrote an article in TES about the path from crisis to recovery in the COVID-19 response. In this article, I talked about the need to build resilience and plan for recovery, as well as focusing on the here and now.

I also talked about the tenacity of the human spirit. What we know from periods of global stress is that the human spirit prevails. COVID-19 is a global historical event, and I think it would be really helpful if we could document the ways in which we are responding – the ways in which the human spirit prevails, the stories of kindness, love and hope that are everywhere.

The stories of random acts of kindness, of ordinary heroism are everywhere. I believe it would help us to document our stories to help us understand and deepen our collective understanding of what we are living through.

Leora Cruddas

Social documentation

Last week, I left my house for my daily run around the park and my neighbours – twin six-year-old boys – had created a beautiful chalk image on the pavement showing the growth and renewal of nature all around us. In the centre of their image were the words “Nothing can stop spring”.

I took a photo of this as a form of social documentation. I’ve used this picture in a variety of ways as a symbol of hope, renewal and resilience.

Last week, I took part with eight other panellists in a really interesting virtual round table hosted by the Centre for Education and Youth (CFEY) and Ambition Institute on supporting vulnerable learners through COVID-19. This roundtable, joined by over 200 virtual delegates, was recorded and published on YouTube. Another form of social documentation about the ways we are responding to COVID-19.

Just as Ann Frank kept her diary during the Second World War, so I think it would be helpful to hear the perspectives of our children and young people through written or video diaries.

Social documentation helps to analyse, frame and eventually reflect upon contemporary social issues through the art of documentary media – video, photography, writing and publishing. It is a way of storytelling. I am an English teacher by profession. I believe we are hardwired for stories. It is stories that have sustained us through history. Stories are ways in which we pass on knowledge and culture – and indeed historical events.

I have always loved this quote by Jeanette Winterson in her novel Written on the Body: “Trust me, I’m telling you stories. … I can change the story. I am the story.”

The stories of random acts of kindness, of ordinary heroism are everywhere. I believe it would help us to document our stories to help us understand and deepen our collective understanding of what we are living through.

In this time when we are at home together or for those of us working in schools, let’s create some social documentaries, some video diaries perhaps, showing the tenacity of the human spirit – hope, renewal and the affirmation of life.

Leadership

My friend and colleague Tom Rees at Ambition Institute talks ironically about the unprecedented use of the word unprecedented. He’s right. But we are living in unprecedented times. We have not faced this scale of global pandemic in our lifetimes. As Sir David Carter says, there is no instruction manual.

I am so impressed by the stories that CST members are telling me every day about the ways in which you are responding to the crisis. I am astonished daily by your courage, your creativity, your resilience and your determination to do what is right. I am determined that we will record these stories too – the stories of the kind of leadership you have shown in our time of great adversity.

Nelson Mandela famously said about leadership: “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

I see you leading from the front in this time.

But please remember, you are not alone. CST will stand by you.

And this too will pass.