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by Volker Ross | This article first appeared in GESM's S.Y. 2020/21 Yearbook "Beyond the Screen. Behind the Mask."

The GESM Admin Head successfully disturbs his assistant (despite warnings to the contrary).

I've always found it profoundly funny, how things are measured in the Philippines. It seems to me as if one system, the metric system for example, just is not enough: Milk is packed in liters, but paint is sold per gallon. Land is by square meters, yet textiles by the yard. Distances are measured in kilometers and meters whilst the length of objects is often measured in feet and inches, not centimeters.

GESM Librarian Sofia Mangilog prepares the week's deliveries

So, how do we do this? How do we measure the success of our past school year? How do we measure the success of our GESM?

Do we measure the thousands of parcels we have sent out to all of our family’s homes? Their combined weight? The kilometers travelled? The number of books borrowed from the library? Or do we measure our success in number of hours of live stream lessons, in terabytes of digital material sent and received, or in number of people following our assemblies and events?

We do not.

We cannot.

Because the number of kilometers travelled, of parcels delivered, does not show the content, does not show the ideas, does not show the spirit - our spirit.

Those numbers do not show our thoughts and emotions and our feelings behind it all – that, what makes us human, that, what drives us and what excites us… Sure, lately some special parcels brought the final IGCSE exams and some pressure into some student’s homes, too – but those very same parcels also delivered the possibility to prove oneself and to show the growth, the result of what was a full year’s work. And parcels delivered thousands of seeds to many homes - now all grown plants for a great garden project, and parcels transported baking material, a handmade Christmas star and, in some cases, even chocolate, too.

Lots of things can cause delays when we deliver materials to students. Sometimes, it's a chicken that enters the delivery vehicle.

What is more important: those parcels delivered a world of thoughts, of ideas and many of our greetings and smiles…

As it is the case with our parcels, the number of hours of livestreamed lessons do not show, do not represent our actual school life, in the very same way as the terabytes of digital information are in no way a real measure for what was “transported”, does not do justice to great student presentations and discussions, projects and all the experiences and discoveries made together.

Behind the mask – beyond the screen is the title of this year’s edition.

In this context, let us not concentrate on what little we saw from our faces, but rather let us look at the people behind all those masks. Let us not be measured by the few inches of our small screens, but rather let us look at what was achieved, at what we achieved together.

GESM's Marketing Officer falls asleep waiting for an online event to begin that he will host.

It took the whole of our school community, indeed. Everyone’s involvement was needed: our board member’s, our parent’s, our student’s, our teacher’s, and last but not least, it took the many extra hours of our highly motivated administrative team, to successfully bring this school year 2020/2021 to a closure.

Hundreds of kilometers and thousands of packages weighing many tons do make some logistics necessary. Being the first school to be able to bring in new teachers during the travel ban, testing Blended Learning Equipment ahead of time, procurement of IT equipment, installing a new administration and accounting software, driving projects like the new GESM Emergency container unit, organizing renovations for GESM and commonly with our French partner school, developing a new GESM marketing strategy, organizing the 40th anniversary festivities, organizing books and material, securing additional funding from the German government, communicating with other school administrations, participating in working groups to organize a possible school opening, securing an internationally approved vaccine for staff and their families as well as COVID-19 test kits, organizing board meetings and information for board members to be able to make the right decisions for the school and the school community… all this takes an engaged administration staff, needs a motivated Team.

“Behind the masks, beyond the screens”

The (windswept and candid) GESM team "beyond the screen"

A big THANK YOU to all our GESM and EIS staff, working behind our (virtual) GESM - classrooms.

From our IT - Department to the Library, from Marketing to the HR – office, to Accounting and Admissions… your hard work during ECQ, MECQ and GCQ was duly needed and very much noted throughout this year!

Unfortunately, this challenging school year made some difficult decisions necessary, too. Given the circumstances, we were forced to let go of many of our employees. Whilst one went on early retirement, 10 more EIS staff were forced to look for new positions elsewhere. Two members from our GESM – staff were put on unpaid leave and could find new positions in the meantime. This workload had to be taken over by other members of the team, remaining in their positions. Whilst there have been accounts within our financial budget where we could save money, we had to spend much more in other areas.

There was one article, we did not spend money on, that we did not order during this past school year, at all:

Not a single Band-Aid has been purchased during the whole year - not a single one.

3500 Band-Aids would have been the procurement for a normal school year on campus. 3500 Band-Aids to cover small cuts or bruises, some accompanied by tears.

We are truly looking forward to purchasing thousands of Band-Aids again – very soon!

Never mind if they are measured in centimeters, or in inches…


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