Tag Archives: learning

Visual Arts and Education: understanding history and context

A recent trip to Venice was an immersive experience in some of the works of the great Italian Renaissance artists, notably Tintoretto and Bellini, whose extraordinary paintings adorn several churches throughout the city.

Seeing their works in churches is an authentic experience that links one to the historical continuity of the initial inception of the paintings: this is how they were intended to be seen, and it is a privilege to be able to still do this, although non-Venetians have to pay more or less systematically at every church, unlike in Rome where it is still possible to see Caravaggio’s work for free in churches as many did for hundreds of years before the globalisation of tourism.

Why might it be important to view artworks in the settings for which they were originally conceptualised? 

After all, the works are less well lit in churches, one has to stand in the slightly stiff and cold silence and the overall atmosphere of the museum is replaced by the austerity of a place of worship. Furthermore, frescoes on interior walls and ceilings can be difficult to see, especially when compared to well-lit works perched at eye level in an art gallery.

However, this is how these works should be viewed and appreciated. In the hauntingly simple and gorgeous church of the Madonna dell’Orto in Venice for example, where Tintoretto served as a chaplain, his grave lies right next to his dramatic panel of the last judgement: the spiritual purpose of Tintoretto’s work, embroiled with the existential anxiety it expresses are unified by the palpable and very moving traces of the artist’s life. One senses the significance of the place of composition which is much more than a backdrop to the art, it is a vital part of the art.

The way we encounter art today, and this has been the case since at least the late 1700s or early 1800s when the most famous European museums, such as the Louvre, Uffici and Prado were opened to the public, is in exhibitions. Hundreds of paintings and sculptures sit alongside one another in an industrial concentration that is difficult to seriously contemplate and digest. Rather than spending time at each painting, visitors shuffle from one famous painting to the next, walking past dozens if not hundreds of paintings composed by less well known artists. I’ve always felt that it is futile trying to view too much in an art museum, and prefer to appreciate one or two floors. How much art can one take in in two hours anyway?

There is another problem with the decontextualised positioning of such works, which is the ethics behind the curatorship of the works themselves, most especially concerning ancient art. For example, almost all Ancient Egyptian works viewed outside of Egypt (in Turin, Paris, Berlin and London for example) found their way to these places under the questionable policies of Napoleon Bonaparte whose emissaries either traded for them in an unscrupulous manner or simply stole them. Understanding how obelisks appeared in Paris, Rome and London or the Elgin Marbles ended up in the British Museum allows for a fuller understanding of the journey behind the art works, their political and cultural imprint, which is part of their story.

On the other hand, walking through the forest of columns at Karnak, or standing before the Colossi at Memnon in Egypt, one is irremediably drawn to the religious significance of these monuments: portrayals of the power of the sun, giver of life and light. A little understanding of obelisks will have you know that they were intended to always be grouped in pairs, standing on either side of the entrance to a temple. So the fact that the famous Luxor Obelisk stands alone while her sister is at the Place de la Concorde in Paris is not just an aesthetic incongruity, not a mere act of material theft, but a disruption of a sacred symbolic placement, thousands of years old. Indeed, by uprooting works of art from their original contexts and displaying them for decorative purposes, the metaphysics of an ancient belief system are destroyed. In fact, most of the obelisks one sees in their natural setting in Egypt today stand asymmetrically alone on one side of a temple entrance, leaving a gaping wound open on the other side, where the twin was literally uprooted and shipped to an English, Italian, French or even American city.

If one is to enjoy the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum, it is equally necessary to travel to Athens to look upon the empty spaces at the Acropolis from where they were amputated. This is how we can fully connect the historical journey behind them.

What are the implications for all of this on education? Quite simply to give our students the historical depth of understanding to appreciate art fully so that they might have not only a critical perspective but a richer reckoning of the original purpose of art. Seeing a work as “beautiful” or well composed” is an incomplete analysis since there is almost always a strong sociopolitical context to understand in order to fully contemplate the work, feel its character and presence, its identity. 

Whereas art and humanities teachers should always look to embellish students’ knowledge of the historical context of the works they are studying, mathematics and science teachers should do the same, explaining to students that while we might look at arithmetic in a functional, pragmatic sense today, for the Ancients, numbers were sacred symbols with magical, transformational  power. Having some inkling of the Egyptian and Babylonian origins of mathematics helps us appreciate how ancient mathematicians such as Pythagoras and his lineage of Chaldeans  were numerologists, attributing sacred properties to numbers such as 9 or Pi. And why is this important? Because it reinforces the mysterious allure of mathematical elegance, its abstract, magnetic power and, therefore, the central role it has always played alongside philosophy and religion in several cultures as a key to a deeper meaning and series of hidden truths. For the Ancients, maths was not invented, it was discovered.

So the next time you’re in an art museum, or viewing an artwork in its original context, or you’re in a teaching moment where you have the privilege to sensitise your students to great works of art, like those of Frida Kahlo, Katsushika Hokusai or Jacopo Tintoretto, or should you be teaching any other construct for that matter, be sure to expand upon the context and history as much as the plastic composition, for therein lies a story worth telling.

Psychological Safety and Education

In the 1950s, the educational psychologist Carl Rogers coined the term psychological safety. By this, he meant an environment in which people can explore their creative potential, take risks, not be afraid of failure, express themselves freely and essentially feel secure in that safe space that allows them to be themselves.

The concept might go back to the 1950s, but we still need to be reminded of it today.

For decades educational systems have been built on the wrong ideas: premised on shouting at children, threatening them, hitting and humiliating them while creating a stifling, stern atmosphere wrought with fear and power hierarchy. Unfortunately this Victorian model is still in force in some institutions, practices and households today.

What this type of behaviour does is it pushes students into their reptilian brains, shredding any sense of confidence in them and, ultimately, as it models symbolic and physical violence, it reproduces this in students who will not know any better than to copy the unpleasant behaviour they have been subjected to and exact it on others.

A good school looks at students in the exact opposite way: we are here to make sure that the classroom is a place where you want to be,where your self belief is built up every day by acts of validation, kindness, recognition, gift spotting and encouragement.

Unfortunately, some of the remnants of the Victorian past still make their way into what might look like enlightened classrooms through seemingly innocuous but potentially damaging throw away comments, sarcasm, damning reports and, quite simply, an inability to be generous enough to see someone’s potential and to say it. Giving a student a bad grade can be enormously hurtful to their inner core, and it should be scaffolded carefully and sensitively, not done with a sense of impatience or superciliousness. 

When students are starved of the feedback they need to garner that quantum of confidence to grow out of their shells, it can be demeaning or worse. This is all the more so since children need the validation of their teachers, in many ways it counts for more than that which comes from families and friends because it is institutional and less tinged by favouritism: it’s the first exposure to the outside world and whether that place will be friendly or hostile.

If we really want creativity, critical thinking, interpersonal sensitivity, multi literateness and human flourishing, then we have to keep reminding ourselves of the idea of psychological safety and should not be misguided into thinking that harshness, coldness, negative feedback and emotional cruelty bring out the best in students.

Some people, already down a track of mastery, already confident and thirsty to go from good to great, might actually seek out this type of “tough love”, the clichéd draconian sports coach type of relationship with their teacher, but these are exceptions and should be understood as such.

Finally, psychological safety, like so many  socio-psychological concepts, is not only educational, it speaks to the professional world too. We all know how tough it is to have a supervisor who never lifts you up, loses their temper, shuts you down and tries to make you afraid: they are lost in the same Victorian illusion and are not bringing out your creative potential. 

You might not be able to change that, but you can control the way you deal with your supervisees, so create a space for them to flourish and give your people what they need to thrive: a feeling that with you, they are safe, they can grow, they can fly. 

 (photograph: Ali Kazal)

Next Level

Supporting Neuro-diverse Learners through Engagement

The Springbok Rugby Team: Three Educational Lessons

“Rugby is a hooligans sport played by gentleman” the saying goes (as opposed to football, which is the opposite). Hyperbole aside, there is something remarkable about the camaraderie one finds between rugby fans: there are never crowd incidents and a deontological code of respect transcends not only the discipline players have in accepting the referees’ decisions, but the whole culture of rugby, which, despite the surface violence of the game itself, is built on peace and friendship.

This year’s rugby World Cup saw South Africa win for the fourth time in a nail-biting final against the mythic All Blacks. In following the team, three concepts came to mind which can help us in our reflections about the potential effect of an education:

  1. Unity

There was nothing individualistic about the squad. In fact, one of the hallmarks of the team was that the “bench” (the substitutes) was essentially as important as the starting players. The coach’s strategy was to use the substitutes strategically rather than merely to replace tired players. When interviewed on the victory, the charismatic captain Siya Kholosi spoke of a fleet of birds flying in a V formation – when one drops out, another automatically takes the position that has been left vacant. Assessments, projects, and general learning environments that draw on the collective and understand that learning is a social, team effort are more successful than cultures built on individualism. When students support each other, learning gains are stronger. 

  1. Relevance and purpose

The players kept coming back to the importance of this win for South Africa, a country that has been ravaged by iniquity and violence but at the same time in which there is an extraordinary human spirit. During the apartheid years, rugby was an entirely white sport but over the years it has come to be more multiracial and today the whole nation celebrates the Springboks’ victory. The players were clearly motivated by a higher purpose – the lift that this would give people at home – and this brought out the best in them. Our curricula must be relevant to the needs of society and the planet, not dry intellectual abstractions. This is all the more important in a world where climate change, political upheaval and globalisation are particularly virulent sources of change and impact. Curriculum relevance is about serving students with an education that makes sense to them and equips them for social realities.

  1. Self-belief

The Springboks beat France, England and New Zealand in the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals by one point in each match! Every single detail mattered and on each occasion it came down to the accuracy of a kick, the precision of a tackle on the try line or the discipline of a scrum. To win like that, down to the wire with your back against the wall, takes not only courage but a razor sharp mentality that will not waver from a belief that victory is inevitable. We teach our students subjects, skills and dispositions. Self-belief, confidence, mindset are vital and should feature strongly in curriculum design and the hidden curriculum. Our students are entering a fairly daunting world where there will be no shortage of challenges, and they will be successful if equipped with that deep-seated belief that they are capable of something exceptional. This is an educational value that comes down to parenting as much as teaching.

In a world divided by war, let the beauty of sports continue to inspire us to work together as a team and, at the end of the day, to come together as friends. There is tremendous value in sports as I’ve written before, and the exhilarating Springboks reminded us of the power that it has to lift the spirits of millions of people. 

How might international schools position themselves in times of armed conflict?

For those of us who have the privilege to live away from the shadow of terrible human suffering that we see in the world, what position should we take when it comes to armed conflicts?

This is not a simple question, and one that many would probably rather avoid altogether, but we cannot because the reality that is around us engulfs the minds and experiences of our communities and students, either directly or vicariously through social media.

International Schools, in general, are beholden by a set of values around peaceful cooperation, critical thinking and social custodianship. In times of armed conflict, these four core principles might help you navigate your way:

  1. An international school is a place of learning and not a political organisation or national government – while all those working in international schools should deplore all forms of conflict, especially those that contravene international law, the purpose of an international school is not to publicly condemn nation states or governments, individuals or groups, nor is it to encourage our students to take sides, it is always to stand on the side of peace. While individuals might have their own positions, the school represents several nationalities and does not pick and choose a position that the whole organisation is expected to stand by.
  1. In times of extreme emotional turmoil, such as that which armed conflict creates, as educators we must not forget the vital importance of remaining focussed on being critical thinkers, not swayed by any form of propaganda and not assuming, most especially in the middle of such conflict, that information is unbiased or depoliticised, complete or not charged with complex details of context. Therefore, encouraging listening, learning, reflection, questioning and suspending judgement should be centred. 
  1. Students, parents and staff may be traumatised by events and schools will clearly therefore do what they can to be supportive, allowing members of the community who are affected to feel safe and using pastoral and human resources teams to give care and moral support to the community. 
  1. Armed conflict leads to several forms of real but also symbolic violence and we must be attentive to the dangers of overgeneralisation, prejudice, stereotyping and in-grouping or out-grouping that occur. Staff should be attentive to this and ensure that no one in their school community is ostracised because of the country they come from, their religion, culture or political orientation.

The bottom line is that international schools, and perhaps all schools for that matter, should never allow the armed conflict of the outside world to enter the classroom. 

Four principles, therefore, in these terrible and difficult times:

  • Stand on the side of peace
  • Think independently and critically
  • Love and care
  • Be wary of prejudice

The power of sports: two lessons

A few years ago my son’s basketball team won the Swiss national championship. There was much celebration, social media posts, pride and joy. How much does victory teach us though?

The next season was a different affair: the team got to the semi-finals and the match was a palpitating affair, hanging on a knife edge with one point in it. It came right down to the wire as the expression goes, literally the last fraction of a second as the final buzzer went off, my son, who is a point guard (so his job is to take the 3-point shots) received the ball. His team was two points behind, and as he released the three pointer and the ball soared through the air, time seemed to stand still. I remember watching the mighty parabola carve out space as the ball spun high up and then hurtled towards the hoop, only to bounce off both sides of the rim and then down to the ground. The shot was missed, the match was lost.

Lesson 1: camaraderie

My son was in tears and so were his team mates, but they quickly huddled around and owned the defeat together. Later, as we made our way back from the match, they laughed about it and commiserated with one another. That was the first lesson: camaraderie. I’m not sure which academic subjects or formal assessment protocols teach this, but team sports does, and the deep lesson of solidarity, support, followership and leadership, empathy and friendship that is brought about is extremely powerful and much needed in a world where we must come together to face the planet’s problems.

Lesson 2: learning from the past 

After mourning the loss – and it did take some time, my son picked himself up and drew conclusions from the loss. He had to work on his shot more and so he went outside to the village basketball hoop and practised every day over the holidays. This ability to pick yourself up, to show resilience in the face of challenge, to learn from an event and turn whatever disappointment there may have been into a lesson, is another powerful lesson that  sports can teach you. That comes down to coaching, the moral messages that sports coaches give their students, the emphasis on the long game, on looking past temporary failures to the ultimate objective  – ideating an objective till it becomes a reality.

Coaches: the unsung heroes of education

Both of my children are top performing athletes. It is less the physical prowess that is important in what they have developed than the competences. So much of this comes down to the wonderful sports coaching they received at school, something for which I am forever grateful. To this day, years later, they still speak about their coaches.  Sports teaches you important values: self discipline, self knowledge, collaboration, stress management. But this does not happen by itself, it is communicated by coaches who show a dogged commitment and investment that is heroic. The idea that physical education is seen as less important than traditional academic subjects is not only wrong, it is ridiculous in a world where it’s increasingly clear how important all the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that sports give you are for human flourishing. 

With reforms to transcripts , like the Ecolint Learner Passport and the work done by the Coalition to Honour all Learning, we must continue to broaden assessment and to recognise athletic disciplines for their extraordinary life-worthiness. And next time you walk past the physical education department or your school or university’s sports coaches, thank them for the profound gift they give to their students.

What We Can Learn from a Wiliwili

~A Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom

We seem to drown in distractions, our phones the greatest culprit of all. At this moment, the palm of my hand remains empty as I sit and listen to a well-respected speaker. Yet my attention is clearly diverted, my eyes on the horizon as the sun dips into the ocean. The descending light drawing silhouettes of what is my captured  fixation;  lone wiliwili trees, Erythrina sandwicensis.  Though their name translates as “repeatedly twisted” in Hawaiian, describing their distinctive seed pods, it is their resiliency which marvels, only matched by their beauty and strength.  Somehow they defy life’s odds, thriving where less than an inch of rain falls in a nine month period. Steadfast, they reach out of barren and harsh volcanic fields of basalt.  Standing as a sentinel, it is difficult to look upon a wiliwili  and not consider its wisdom.

Amidst the environs of a dry forest, I came to learn more about how the interaction of land and culture contributed to the sustainability of island societies hundreds of years ago. The speaker was a brilliant septuagenarian professor of science from a decorated university and his modus operandi was one of lecture. He clearly was motivated by a desire to share with the people gathered, his audience, the importance of spaces, places, the past and present.  Not unlike the wiliwili, he was a bit gnarly, surely rooted in the wisdom that likely came from life experience.  But this evening was more about knowledge. Graphs, tables, and images of archaeological excavations accompanied an array of text stacked in bullet form as he talked and the people listened.  

As he talked and the people listened.

As he talked and the people listened…

The evening did not exactly align with what is known in Hawaii as “talk story,” or a time to explore ideas, opinions, and history.  Amongst his many messages were facts such as how mica minerals from Asia’s Taklimakan Desert blew over and were contained in the strata of the island’s soil. Another fact was how pre-contact, the island population was larger than the current census. Yet, Hawaiians were entirely self-sufficient in terms of energy, food, and water. After nearly an hour, the scientist was interrupted by a few emboldened individuals in the audience. They wanted to ask questions. This appeared to just happen, not necessarily part of his plan. However, an allowance was made for a few questions and then the final slides and knowledge was imparted.

This was not the end however.

Earlier in the evening, a not-for-profit organization was alluded to and now it would be represented by two women.  However, they would do so much more than talk at the audience.  As founders they could wax poetic about how they were helping preserve and also restore land not far from the desert in which we sat. Or, they could make a plea for support. Instead, a completely different approach was taken.  Instead of launching into the known, they invited the unknown. Ironically, between the two of them their accumulated years did not match the scientist. And yet they appeared to stand rooted with and in wisdom.

“What would you like to know?” one of the woman asked in confidence. The predominantly white-haired audience seemed stunned for a moment. Foreheads wrinkled and necks kinked backwards. As if to say, “The gumption to ask us this? Just tell us!”

I made a mental note to reflect more upon the moment.

What happened was in step with traditional classrooms and a passive approach to “learning.”  Comfort in being told how the world works.  Acted upon. Purely knowledge based and never before was it more apparent how this could be juxtaposed with the natural world. The wiliwili does not just stand and wait. If it did, it would die!  Instead, it actively searches out what it needs to thrive, not knowing where to find it but sensing rather.  

The approach of the two women was as empowering as it was flipped. Inviting wonder, questions ensued.  Questions about nearly everything, from the origins of the organization to how to get involved. Suddenly the audience was alive.

When it was time to go, we walked out under a darkened sky.  I perceived the wiliwili looking upon us. The two women by our side, the scientist long gone. Hawaiians pre-contact navigated across the oceans using nothing more than the stars, sun, and moon. We asked the women if what we saw was Pleiades (Makalii in Hawaiian). They confirmed it so, and shared how just two days prior, the constellation marked the start of the New Year and Makahiki. A time of celebration but also appreciation.  A reminder to take care of the land and all resources.

I continue to think about those lone wiliwilis in the desert and their resiliency. I also reflect on the evening. Of the importance of an invitational approach towards enquiry and the distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Surely the ancients knew the difference.  Might we begin to understand as well.

Photograph by Sachin Clicks @ Pixahive 

##########

Ice cream, Astronomy and Leadership

I was watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with my friend’s daughter, Alegra. We were immersed in the magical land of sweet possibilities, having one of my favorite types of conversations that you can have with a child…the conversation of ”What ifs…” What if rivers were really made of chocolate? What if flowers were made of candy? etc. As the movie came to an end I told Alegra that my first job was working in an ice cream store. This news launched Alegra into a new series of questions. Alegra was filled with wonder and awe!

Photo by Harry Cunningham @harry.digital from Pexels

The next day my friend called me to tell me about the conversation she had with Alegra while tucking her into bed that night. The last thing Alegra said before falling asleep was, “why would Kristen ever leave her job at the ice cream store?” 

That question got me thinking about my dream job when I was a child. I desperately wanted to be an astronomer. I was so passionate about space. When I was in second grade the only thing I wanted for Christmas was the book Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I wanted to go to Cornell University so Carl Sagan could be my teacher.

I constantly sang:

 Twinkle twinkle little star, I know exactly what you are. If you wonder how I know, Carl Sagan told me so. Twinkle, Twinkle little star, I know exactly what you are.

Photo by Chris Leggat on Unsplash

How could a parent refuse the wish of a book? I got Cosmos for Christmas and spent hours looking through the amazing photographs trying to understand the words that went with the images. I still have the book 40 years later.

As a learner who struggled throughout school to understand mathematical concepts and barely made my way through physics I think back to my 8 year old self, who was desperate to be an astronomer, and wonder, “what was it that I thought an astronomer did?” because I am certain I did not think it involved any math.

I actually spent a lot of time thinking about that question this week after listening to an inspiring interview with America Ferrera on the Dare to Lead podcast where she was talking about her dream, as a kindergartner, to be a human rights lawyer.

My 8 year old self defined an astronomer as a person who looked at the sky and saw endless possibilities of what could be. An astronomer experienced wonder and awe every day as part of their work. Astronomers were curious. An astronomer was an explorer. A person who looked for places that no one had been before and tried to learn everything possible about that place whether it was a planet, a moon, a star, a black hole or a galaxy. An astronomer was a person who could see things in different ways through different types of powerful telescopes. An astronomer provided some direction for the astronauts so they knew where to go in space. Finally, Carl Sagan, who hosted of my favorite PBS show as a child, Cosmos, could take really complicated concepts and make them somewhat accessible or, at least, really interesting to an 8 year old girl and I admired that skill.

When I think about my 8 year old self’s definition of an astronomer, I think I captured the essence of my career dreams in my current leadership work in international schools. Living in different countries and learning about new cultures and ways of being inspires me- it helps feed my soul. I have a passion for gathering data, especially the kind of data that really helps me to understand how things work and how to improve systems or even rethink systems so they support everyone. Data sparks my curiosity and leads me to ask lots of questions. I deeply value different perspectives especially when I talk with someone who pushes my thinking and stops me in my tracks, resulting in those really meaningful aha moments that lead to new learning and professional growth. I also do my best to try and take complex concepts and break those ideas into meaningful, actionable steps. This process helps set a vision or course for our collective work, our discoveries in teaching and learning.

I may not be exploring the galaxy, but exploring the field of education, especially over the past two years, which has been filled with so much uncertainty, is unlocking new frontiers worthy of wonder and further learning.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How did that dream inform your current practice?

Gigworker

Croatians are apparently the tallest people in the world next to the Dutch, or something like that. So, when an Uber driver picked me up with his feet wrapped around the steering wheel of a VW Up! like it was a toy, I wasn’t shocked. What caught my attention was that he was also a pro basketball player. “Gotta stay diversified,” he laughed. “I broke my ankle last season and the insurance runs out fast. I know I’m never going to the NBA and only the top leagues in Europe pay and only then if you start. I’m in a crappy league and I just lost my starting job when I came back from the ankle. So, here I am in the offseason. I also work in my cousin’s café on Split in the summers.”

“Really?” I said. “That’s a lot of jobs.”

“It’s the Croatian way.” he said. “We all have a lot of, what do you say, gigs? ” I laughed. “Yeah, that’s what we call them, I guess.” I only had one gig. His comment started to make me feel insecure.

When I first heard the expression on the podcast “Pivot” (with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway), I mistakenly thought it referred to something hip like “gigabytes” or people working as digital nomads.

After a quick Google, it presented as less inspiring than that. I know that the idea of having gigs has been around a long time. Bartenders and waiters, seasonal workers, consultants, etc. But the idea of a Gig Economy as a bigger thing is gaining momentum as companies become less institutional in terms of places that people go for a job and more organic in terms of their reach and how and where they operate.

We’ve all heard the stories of the largest hotel company not owning any hotels and the taxi company without taxis. It’s astonishing, for example, that the same place you can buy suitcases and a Peloton (Amazon) is also a company that has the largest government cloud storage contract on the planet. So, everyone is diversifying. We can thank technology, the uncertainty of pandemic, competition.

What it makes me think about is the unspoken rules that we teach at school that hard work gets you immediate feedback that then leads to a clear path for success that then leads you to a future of predictability and promise. Does that contradict the Gig Economy? Who knew that hard work wouldn’t be rewarded or that I’d have to work four jobs?

It’s a bit dangerous, it seems, to have Gen Xers like myself trying to educate the Gen Ys and Zs. When I first got into teaching, my colleagues were products of the 1950s and 60s and literally had no idea how to operate a computer. I grew up in the information age. Talk about irrelevance. But now the problem of connection isn’t one based on computing, but community and what that looks like.

It feels like it’s our responsibility to provide some constants in a Gig Economy, but that doesn’t mean retreating to the basics that this pandemic lures us into doing. We can be forward thinking but grounded in the ability to methodically prepare, to resist instant gratification, and to be a good partner. What scares me about the Gig worker mentality is in spite of the freedom and creativity it portends to, also leaves people fending for themselves, which seems dangerous. I believe that schools are one of the last institutions that are the calm in the storm. In spite of their intransigence, they are the constants, the communities that we depend on, and most importantly, a non-judgemental harbinger of hope in humanity.

I don’t want to educate IB students that end up disillusioned, driving Ubers with their diploma hanging on the rearview. I also don’t want to make everything uncertain so that the foundation dissolves beneath their feet. But if we are going to continue to tilt towards a gig economy, then we have to resist the compromise of self reliance and realize that we run a lot further together than we can accomplish sprinting by ourselves.

A Sense of Wonder

In 1974, a young boy named Harold Whittles is about to experience his world in a new and astounding way. For the first five years of his life preceding this moment, Harold has not heard the sounds around him as he has been deaf since birth. This is about to change as technological advances have led to Harold’s meeting with a doctor to be fitted with a hearing aid.

The remarkable picture below captured the moment when Harold heard for the first time and was transported from a world of silence to one filled with seemingly countless different sounds emanating around him. Harold’s eyes are wide with astonishment and wonder.

It is this sense of wonder, conveyed in an emotional and extraordinary manner through Jack Bradley’s photo, that serves as a reminder of our role to nurture the natural curiosity in our students and their exploration to understand the world around them. Our students also remind us each day that we adults should never lose a child’s sense of awe and wonder.

As we prepare for our annual community Thanksgiving celebration, I was drawn back to Harold’s story and the importance of both gratitude and wonder. In the spirit of giving thanks, I would like to convey my deep levels of gratitude to be a member of a community dedicated to ensuring a learning environment that regularly leaves students and adults in a state of wonderment.


P.S. Thank you to our talented science teacher, Stephen Boyd, for introducing me to Harold’s story.

Photo by Kristine Weilert on Unsplash: Sunrise breaking into the forest.


Blog: www.barrydequanne.com

Twitter: @dequanne