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The Electricity of Learning

No sooner had the New Year begun, than news arrived confirming that the eagerly anticipated new spring term that Students and Staff had been looking forward to, would take a very different shape indeed. The announcement that ‘schools are closed’ is highly misleading.  St Christopher’s is a hive of activity. All Nursery children are enjoying a normal and packed timetable and we are also caring for all the children of Key Workers. Teachers are fully engaged providing an exemplary and bespoke home learning package via Seesaw which facilitates personal morning greetings to the children by their much loved teacher followed by an amazing exchange of work, marked feedback, photos and videos submitted by both parties in significant amounts.  This sounds like a harmonious balance; what could possibly go wrong?

Parents have had to have a crash course in what education really is- not just the acquisition of a mass of data but the more subtle development of the children’s ability to engage in critical thinking and to learn to use those critical thinking skills to access and process information. I heard a wonderful lecture today by The Reverend Dr Sam Wells who described Education as enabling the child to have ‘a quality of mind and spirit infinitely adaptable to empower the child to cope and manage in any circumstance’. That is quite an aim. You don’t see an area of the timetable dedicated to that but it is woven into everything that we do in school. He went on to say that ‘Teachers are alert to the electricity of learning’ and this sentence stopped me in my tracks. He continued to take my breath away with his next thought: ‘when a student has a flash of revelation, the teacher is never surprised but always delighted.’ It is this energy and encouragement that is so evident and infectious in a classroom and it made me think about the enormous task that we are all asking of parents.

Parents are juggling as they have never juggled before. Parents are being asked in many cases to work from home with little guidance as to how they are going to capture all of the nuances of work or office life and simply replicate these ‘at home’ in an environment neither similar or suitable. On top of that they are being asked to supervise a random number of children of potentially different ages and abilities without any training and with the added minefield of being a parent at the same time! We are all full of admiration for the army of parents highlighted above for their expected patience and resilience even at times when it must feel more like a war zone.

I will end by returning to the fascinating lecture that I heard this morning. When attempting to capture the problems discussed here with children stranded at home a new phrase of ‘educational poverty’ has become widely discussed. Teachers want the children safely back in school. They went into this profession not to hand out data or mark work and declare it right or wrong. Teachers are trained to inspire awe and wonder and no amount of digital input can properly imitate this. What Dr Wells summed up so beautifully was a response to this concept; ‘Educational poverty isn’t about the lack of information that can be acquired later’ but rather ‘about being isolated from those who believe in you enough to be waiting every moment for you to discover connection, insight and wonder’. To our pupils we have a simple message: We miss you.

Annie Thackray