EducationPosted on Feb 4, 2020
This is taken from an address by the headmaster of Shrewsbury School to Third Form entrants in September 2019:
WB Yeats’ definition of education always rings true with me: “Education is not the filling of buckets but the lighting of fires”. Of course, we want our pupils to learn interesting things; to develop remarkable skills; to nurture their own individual gifts and talents. We want them to become the best possible version of themselves.
But there is a deeper project here.
Schools are not about dispensing truths unthinkingly. Schools are about empowering the young to seek truths for themselves; to pursue lives of meaning and purpose; to grow in character. And, in quiet moments, to seek the deeper truths of the spirit.
The dynamics of the modern world make trust, truth and meaning increasingly elusive. Rapid change is the only real certainty. As well as navigating the turbulence and change of adolescence, our children need to equip themselves with the wisdom and skills to thrive; and the virtues and values to be a force for good.
The Shrewsbury School motto captures the deeper project of education: Intus Si Recte Ne Labora – If all is right within, trouble not.
We want our pupils to learn, and to learn deeply in an atmosphere of serious fun. We want them to develop the virtues that allow them to lead lives of meaning, active compassion, generosity, purpose and truth.
The fires we aim to light are the true fires, the torchlights, that guide us through life’s choices; those fires that cast light into dark places; those fires that light the way to truth.
Post OfficePosted on Jan 26, 2018
The sun is shining (yes, really) and Sean is busy, fussing over his post office, writing all sorts of important stuff. A customer (Miss Felicity) approaches
“Please may I buy a money order?”
“Yes, of course”
“How much will it be?”
Startled, but fully aware that she is talking to a master of the universe in the making, Miss Felicity tells Sean that she has to go to the school’s ATM to draw some cash. She returns and, under Sean’s watchful eye, counts out five £10 notes to make £50. Sean hands over the money order and says:
“Would you like anything else?”
“Yes, please. I’d like some stamps.”
“How many stamps?” Sean is nothing if not patient.
Miss Felicity tells Sean how many stamps she needs and he carefully counts them out for her.
“How much do I owe you?”
“One hundred and eighty five pounds!”
“Goodness, that’s so much money. How am I going to pay you?”
“You must give me money with £185 on it”
There not being such a thing as a £185 note (nor any notes, seeing as Miss Felicity is currently £50 lighter on account of the money order), Miss Felicity and Sean decide to embark on a bit of quantitative easing. They use as their inspiration a poster, pinned to the garden shed, of Australian dollar banknotes (the reader need not be concerned that we appear to have moved countries. Children at Victoria Road frequent countries, and continents, at their pleasure, and Sean has been much taken by Australia during the term’s theme of The Continents).
While they are easing away, and making an excellent job of recreating the faces on the notes too, Miss Felicity, who has learnt a thing or two over the years, starts telling Sean about the two faces on the $20 note: Mary Reiber and John Flynn.
Mary Rieber was a child convict, transported, aged fourteen, to Australia before making a considerable success of herself. At the end of Miss Felicity’s peroration, Sean knows a lot about transportation; possibly, he is left with the impression that the way on to an Australian banknote is to steal a horse first…
John Flynn created the flying doctor service and Miss Felicity is no less loquacious in her description of the importance, given the vast and inhospitable terrain that is most of Australia of this essential, and life-saving, facility.
Suitably nurtured, and having finished the necessary banknote production, Miss Felicity enquires again as to the price of the stamps:
“One thousand eight hundred and fifty pounds”, says Sean!! Miss Felicity is tempted to ask Sean for his views on the Weimar Republic’s inflationary period but thinks better of it.
“Sean, to count that amount of money we are going to need some help!” Miss Felicity and Sean go back into the classroom and emerge with the Golden Bead, which, together, they use to re-create the massive numeral of one thousand eight hundred and fifty, and its quantity, laid out in exquisite glass beads! I know many readers will be in urgent need of a full explanation of the Golden Bead. Well, tough. All you need to know is that it is to Montessori maths what Mozart is to music.
So, what has Sean done? Personal, social and emotional development by interacting with teachers and peers as the postmaster; maths by selling (successfully) money orders and diamond-studded stamps, geography by visiting Australia, history by learning the wisdom of being a horse thief and a doctor with a pilot’s licence; art by creating, drawing and colouring banknotes. What will Sean take home in his bag? Nothing, because learning like that does not get written down. But Sean knows, and we know, and now you know too.
Bringing up children is an art not a science – Adam GopnikPosted on Jan 26, 2018
If you have a spare 10 minutes, listen to this excellent “Point of View” from Adam Gopnik.
Reading to the gerbilsPosted on Aug 19, 2017
Yuina (let us call her that) is busy making a book. There are (literally) hundreds of different activities in the classroom that could be taking up her time, her concentration, her dexterity, and her skill, but, this morning, it is book-making. She is making a book for a particular purpose: to read to the class gerbils. She takes several sheets of paper, and, using a hole punch, makes holes down the edge of each page: the same number of holes for each page and in approximately the same place. Then, she uses treasury tags to bind the pages together. Satisfied with her creation so far, she moves to her next destination: the Art Island. Here, she delicately, and rather beautifully, decorates the front cover of the book with pom-poms, glitter, lollipop sticks, sequins, ribbons and whatever other flourishes she feels appropriate. Yes, this is a happening book.
As we all know, such books come pre-populated with a story, so Yuina is ready to realise the purpose of her endeavour. She finds the gerbils receptive and reads to them in Japanese. Now, as any Japanese four-year-old knows, not that many people in an English nursery actually speak Japanese so, drawing on her bilingual ability, she translates the story into English. The gerbils are well pleased!!