Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Be Fearless

Over the last 5-10 years there has been an enormous amount of hype in the business and education world around the pace of change and what this means for our young people.

Questions such as:  How do we prepare our young people for a world beyond our imagination? How do we craft a student’s learning journey towards a job that has not yet been created? And how do we measure up against educators around the globe?

These and other questions have been very much part of our staff professional dialogue ensuring we are on top of the debate and are engaging with any new thinking.

Here at Wellesley we are passionate about our holistic philosophy—body, mind and spirit. We squeeze so much into each day for the boys. We regularly debate the ‘pulls’ on the timetable always trying to get the right balance. Our professional development is on-going and relentless. The content of the curriculum delivery is the easy part, it is the how the curriculum is delivered is the key part. Our aim is to infuse the ‘learning how to learn’ principles into the boys so they have the skills and dispositions of life-long learners.
So what are these skills or dispositions and what is the journey we need to take children on to give them real learning power?

They are a collection of attitudes and behaviours. Skills such as perseverance and graft, flexibility, questioning, curiosity, creativity, abstract thinking, reflection, making connections, resourcefulness, resilience and optimism This is not about getting rid of content but going deeper and providing a broader utility. I like Guy Claxton’s metaphor of a school as mind gym v an assembly line. The concept of imagining the mind as a muscle you can build, is appealing.

Teachers are not the font of all knowledge and it is healthy for the children to see them model cheerful ignorance and a desire to learn. We want to prepare our children to become brave new explorers in this exciting fast paced world. Earlier this year, old boy Michael Dobson spoke to some of our Year 7s at a House breakfast. He is 25 years old and after studying at Otago and then the University of California at Berkeley he took on work as a lawyer in Wellington. He recently won a scholarship to study in the USA for his masters in political theory. He told the boys about the many things he loved at Wellesley but the one thing he valued most was being taught to always ask questions, to be curious. He talked about his love of sport but most of all his love of art where he was encouraged to explore and create and to be fearless. He said what he learned in art class was to ignore that little voice we all have in our head, that voice that restricts us to voice our ideas and take the risk of saying it aloud. I want to quote you a small part of what Michael said to the boys.

“I’m extremely excited to live in one of the world’s greatest cities. (New York) And I’m confident I can foot it there. And a lot of that is because of what I learned at Wellesley long ago up some steep steps, in a classroom floating above the school. I learned that there is no such thing as a bad idea, and what I think matters. I believe what you guys think, matters too. So I say be fearless! Whatever you do, do it fearlessly. But—a final word of caution. As important as it is to be fearless, it also matters to be kind.......Don’t ever be mean. It is easy to be mean. Anyone can do it. To be fearlessly kind—that takes real strength.”

To see the Wellesley impact on young men such as Michael is very humbling and motivating for us all. The citizenship and  learning to learn skill set described so far are not new features of the Wellesley philosophy but we are forever honing and reflecting on the best way to facilitate them to our boys.

So we may be on the second half of the chessboard in terms of the exploding rate of change in our world, but we are not concerned because we are determined to provide these young boys with the skill set to not only navigate along with it but be the explorers, explorers with integrity that will create futures for not only the betterment of themselves but for society.