In assembly this week, I spoke to the Senior School about lockdown hobbies and put it to them that some of the most powerful learning opportunities come, not when are directed by someone else, but when we allow our imaginations to wander, when we take a different path, or try something new. During lockdown, may people are experiencing this. People are crafting, taking up musical instruments, learning new languages, baking (if anyone knows where to buy yeast in Brighton, let me know). In the extra minutes and hours, we have gained by not travelling to work or school, there are rich learning experiences taking place. This time is precious. As I said to the girls on Tuesday, we should treasure it, and use it wisely. Inspired by Jürgen Klopp’s admission last week that, at 52, he has yet to learn how to tie a tie, but would aim to master it as a lockdown challenge by the end of the week, I have been asking pupils and teachers to tell me about their lockdown hobbies. It has been a great way to engage with the Brighton Girls community and I have really enjoyed hearing how people are using their time.
The teachers have led by example. Mrs Roberts has been litter-picking on her daily walks along the Dyke Railway Trail. Over four weeks she has collected eight bags of litter and, not only is she finding it therapeutic and deeply satisfying, but her local area is benefiting enormously. Mme Zubiena has been doing 20 minutes a day on her exercise bike while listening to the French news, and Mlle Borda has started two projects which she describes as both “eye opening” and “soothing”: gardening on her balcony and furniture painting. Mr Marsh has reconnected with his six-year-old self and reignited his passion for astronomy. He sent me a photo of his giant binoculars, through which he says the moon looks “stunning”.
As for the girls, they have let their imaginations fly during lockdown. Those who have contacted me have shared new interests ranging from learning Mandarin to mastering the diabolo. Mindfulness activities are popular, like watercolour painting and sketching, and it was heartening to hear that some girls have taken time to pursue academic interests beyond the curriculum: one is learning new programming languages, another is researching the Forex trade market. If things go to plan, we will have a new Brighton Girls lockdown band by the time we return, with ukulele players, guitarist and pianists all busy honing their skills. We have a least one entrepreneur in the making (a parent contacted me to tell me that her daughter has set up an Etsy store selling home-sewn Barbie clothes). This was great to hear, as the point I made to the girls in assembly is that they should grasp this opportunity to cultivate new passions, as you never know where they will lead. A pastime could become a future career. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Happy is the Man who can make a living by his hobby”. I would like to think that the skills our girls are discovering now will make them happy women in the future.
There are some really good examples out there of people who tried something in their youth, which sparked an interest that turned out to be hugely significant to their later lives. I complied a short film to follow the assembly, and it began with a quotation from Steve Jobs, who summed up this idea perfectly in a speech to students at Stanford University. He made the point that much of what he stumbled into by following his “curiosity” and “intuition” turned out to be “priceless” later on – and he called this ‘connecting the dots’ – something you can’t do ‘looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.’ And so, as Steve jobs said, ‘you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’
If there are any parents out there who have taken up a new hobby during lockdown, please do get in touch. If you are looking for ideas and want to throw fitness and fundraising into the mix, then try this: inspired by a suggestion from our Year 8 parents, Brighton Girls is joining the 2.6 challenge – a national effort to support UK charities who have lost billions in income following the cancellation of thousands of fundraising events. You can get involved in many ways, from running 2.6 miles to attempting 26 keepy-upies! We are pleased to be raising money for a local charity (and one of our Guild charities) the Brighton Women’s Centre. You can read more and donate on our Just Giving page, here. So, will it be 26 throws of the diabolo, or 2.6 miles on the bike? Could you pick up 260 pieces of litter or learn 26 songs on the ukulele? We would love get the whole Brighton Girls community involved in this challenge, and we can’t wait to hear what you get up to.