As this month draws to a close, and once again I am pushing against its end to get my blog published in time, I wanted to reflect on a few recent experiences.
Our family always knew that this month would be an important one: confirmation of my elder son’s degree status and his graduation, my younger son’s GCSE results, and the annual occurrence of GCSE and A-Level results that mean so much to both my wife (a teacher and head of department) and I.
There are milestones in our lives and our daily routines that we can expect. Some we look forward to, and others we may brace ourselves for. For many, if not most of us, there is some comfort in all this. “Fail to prepare – prepare to fail” is a mantra we’ve all heard, and many will have recited. Preparation is reliant upon foresight. Whether that is examination revision, job interview practice, sports training before a competition or a dress rehearsal before the opening night of a play, we know what’s coming – and we do all we can to mitigate the risk of failure and maximise the possibility of success.
Children and young people up and down the country, and certainly within the primary and secondary schools of John Taylor MAT, have done their utmost to prepare for this summer’s results, and we have seen some amazing achievements that are testament to them and all those in school and at home who have supported them.
Yet, we also need to be aware of and celebrate the surprise, the impromptu, the spontaneous and the epiphany. There is a different kind of joy to be found in such moments.
We prepared for my son’s graduation thoroughly. Photo session booked. Gown hire sorted. Hotel room and car park booked, destination entered into the SatNav etc. We knew what lay in store for the evening before (photos, a meal) and the day itself (presentation and ceremony). As something of an afterthought, I decided to take my running kit just in case there was time for a run if I was first up in the morning (a quite likely bet!). Our hotel was surrounded by multi-storey car parks, office blocks and a large and imposing police station, so I braced myself for a lacklustre pounding of Cardiff’s mean streets – all chip wrappers and beer cans strewn from the night before.
However, only a minute in, and a turn down a street towards the sounds of the seagulls took me to the bay – and a wonderfully tranquil place as picturesque as anywhere I’d seen in a long time. Without another soul for company, I had a wonderful hour running around the entirety of the Bay. It wasn’t a real discovery – such as penicillin, or that the Earth isn’t flat – but it was new to me, and that was what mattered.
I will definitely return (I don’t know when, exactly – I only wish I’d discovered this before my son left the City!), and I’m sure I will enjoy the experience. But I know it won’t be the same. The surprise and delight of discovery will have been lost.
One of the things that makes childhood so wonderful is that there is so much to discover – about the world, about ourselves, and about the interface between the world and ourselves. As we grow older and “wiser”, we accept that fewer of our days will be filled with the magic of discovery. As such, we must treasure those times they do strike us. And as educators, as proud as we are with the achievements of the children and young people we serve in areas we prepare them for, we need to ensure that there continues to be space for them to discover and that they have a readiness to appreciate those “lightbulb moments” when they come.
Our most skilful staff can build in opportunities for children to make discoveries in their lesson and curricular plans. We may call it “investigation” in some subjects, and even “awe and wonder” in another, but its place within the curriculum is truly precious. It isn’t always easy – but it’s certainly worth it.
As always, thanks for reading.