Dr Trevor Richards, Headmaster of All Hallows reflects on last term and what he has learnt from this unprecedented time
Learning is an inherently social process
Like Aristotle, I have never been more aware that “People are by nature social animals.” I was delighted that much of the warmth and care that is intrinsic in great teaching managed to migrate online, but it’s just not the same as being together in a learning environment. Offering the opportunity for all our young people to come back on campus for the end of term has further reinforced this point, as children have revelled in just being together again. Academic learning has certainly taken place, but the positively palpable impact on the children’s wellbeing alone has made the complex logistics entirely worthwhile.
Bad hair days or a sign of growing up?
Child development is an individual process, but lots of young people experience and exhibit similar behaviours around the same stage of their lives. Most of our pupils from Year 5 and above were happy to be seen during meetings on Microsoft Teams aside from Year 8. On numerous occasions, teachers led sessions where, en masse, Year 8 used avatars, photos and characters to represent them visually, which I found very interesting and may be a sign of their ever-increasing self-awareness and insecurity that can characterise early adolescence? Or perhaps they were just all having bad hair days?
Striking a balance in our lives
Much of what we take for granted in our lives is more fragile that we think. Far beyond All Hallows, global economies which were centuries in the making ground to a halt, travel plans were cancelled, major events like the Olympics and Premier League football were suspended, and even our basic human rights – like freedom of movement – became subject to monitoring and even prosecution. And all this seemed to happen overnight! Perhaps we are learning how little control we actually have over what happens next and, if this is the case, should we make the very most of the present and stop worrying quite so much about what may be round the corner?
The importance of friends and close relationships
Whilst I could not go out, keep busy, eat in restaurant, visit the theatre or partake of the odd glass of wine in an appropriate environment, I found that I had more time to talk with my friends, properly talk and hold deep conversations, without feeling there was somewhere else I should be, or something on which I was missing out, and I am resolved to continue to do so as part of my ‘new normal’. The children recognise this inherently and openly refer to their relief about spending time together again, much of it occupied just talking, laughing, and playing together.
A heightened awareness
Finally, the quiet of the world in the past few months has prompted me to notice some many aspects of my environment I took for granted or to which I was just too preoccupied to attend. Less traffic noise made the birdsong more noticeable, working in the kitchen made me appreciate the changes in the garden, and my daily walks brought into focus pieces of architecture that had previous been overlooked in my busyness. Again, the children seem to see things with a fresh pair of eyes in a manner that might benefit us all. On my first day back in school this term, a Year 6 girl excitedly pointed up to the top of the Science Block where she had noticed that swallows were building their nest under the eaves. Later that day, I happened across some Year 1s pondering how some white flowers were growing in a gutter. How great that they noticed!