image credit: http://moniqueaimee.com
Last week, we asked all Senior students to complete a Return to School survey to capture their thoughts about returning the school. While the Pastoral Team has been busy analysing all the results, I have enjoyed picking up some of the emerging themes during my English lessons with Year 7. Taking Maya Angelou’s prose-poem, ‘What I’ve Learned’ as inspiration, we explored what, if anything, the last year has taught us. After a quick, but important, discussion about American English to clarify why we tend to say “learnt” and Angelou writes “learned”, I asked the girls to select phrases that resonated with them. Such words of wisdom as “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow” and “I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one” provoked thoughtful comments. However, the line that I was most interested to explore was this one:
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”
The Year 7s had a lot to say about this metaphor and made some powerful links to friendship, and to both kindness and unkindness. However, the conversation became particularly pertinent when we used Angelou’s words to reflect on the experience of learning from home, and how things may be different when back in school. In the virtual world, I argued, it is far too easy to become a catcher, not a thrower, to be passive presence in class, rather than an active participant. All it takes is a broken camera, a muted microphone, a Wi-Fi malfunction or, indeed, a particular mind-set, and the two-way communication, so crucial to the teaching and learning process, is lost. As we transition back to normality and back to school, I encourage all our students take an active part in lessons, and to enjoy doing so. Both inside and outside the classroom, I hope they will grasp opportunities with both hands – or at least remember to keep one hand free for throwing something back.
This week has brought numerous examples of students getting actively involved in the wider life of the school. I enjoyed joining a group of girls for a lunchtime talk, organised as part of Eco Fortnight by Ms Pearson; thanks to the generosity of Julian Thomas, Head teacher and part-time explorer and adventurer, we were treated to a virtual odyssey across Antarctica, the Sahara and over the Atlantic Ocean as he recounted his exploits and pressed upon us the need to cherish and protect the natural world. Elsewhere, another group had signed up for a discussion led by the Brighton Girls ARC (Anti-Racism Committee), and were having an equally stimulating discussion about diversity and equality. The ARC has recently launched a competition to design a new logo, and I do hope that many will take up this creative challenge. Meanwhile, I was delighted to hear that Maggie (Year 6), Jen (Year 8) and Caitlin (Year 11) have all signed up to represent the school on the GDST’s Undivided Student Council.
Next week is bound to generate a lot of excitement, and I can’t wait to feel the corridors buzzing with energy once again. As I mentioned last week, this will not be an easy transition for some, but we are here to help, and we are keen to celebrate the wisdom our students have gained and to capture everything they have learnt. Here are some examples of lockdown learning from Year 7, inspired by Maya Angelou:
I’ve learnt to be grateful for being able to go outside.
I’ve learnt to always think about other people.
I’ve learnt that my family do so much for me.
I’ve learnt that my dog is very crazy (actually, I already knew that).
I’ve learnt that even if I’m not having the best of times, things will get better eventually.
I have learnt that it’s better to get on with your siblings, otherwise you might not get extra support when you need it.
I have learnt that you have to find your own happiness and not rely on what makes others happy.
I learnt that I miss my friends.
I’ve learnt that I like being with my parents.
I’ve learnt that I can focus, even when inside I feel terrible.
I’ve learnt how much I like to be out in nature.
I’ve learnt how much my sister and I get along most of the time.
I’ve learnt to stay positive through tough situations.
I’ve learnt that I like lockdown sometimes.
I have learnt that life is a mystery – you can never predict what will happen.
I have learnt that good things come to the people who wait.