How breaks in routine can inspire and encourage
Fred de Falbe, head of Beeston Hall School, on a different face of the learning experience
Variety is the spice of life! This well-worn adage holds true for six-year-olds, just as it does for 60-year-olds. How do we fulfil it in an educational environment, where routines and rhythms are equally important watchwords?
Children need chances to explore their world and expand their horizons, as well as to engage in the all-important business of practising and repeating, of trying and failing, of trying again and succeeding. Like all schools, there are structures at Beeston, but the inevitable breaks in these – or unexpected changes – are what can inspire and encourage.
One way in which we do this is through the regular lectures that we open up to parents and visiting schools, as well as Beeston children, to provoke questions and inspire the imagination. One recent example of this was listening to the adventurer Antonia BolingbrokeKent talk about her epic journeys, criss-crossing Asia on Ting Tong the tuk-tuk and Hero the motorcycle.
As she took us through the Eastern Himalayas we were entranced by the tales of headhunters and animal sacrifice, just as we were by Antonia’s storytelling, keeping an audience – both old and young – spell-bound. From animations of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates crashing together 50 million years ago, to roast rats and bats and grizzled tribesmen, there was an overriding message I wholly endorse; it’s about making connections, about getting beyond one’s comfort zone, about trusting instinct, about the way smiles and kindness transcend language barriers and difference.
Not only was it a blisteringly good show, full of fun and wisdom, it provoked the most brilliant questions and laid foundations of aspiration and wonder in the children.
Another aspect of this is one which we emphasise again and again – role-modelling. The children saw commitment and endurance on display; resourcefulnees and resilience.
They saw nerves and courage too, which has a particular impact because all our children in Year 8 deliver, solo, their own leaver’s lecture to parents and pupils, about a topic which fascinates them. The result has been some remarkable presentations, about subjects as varied as vegetarianism and Bitcoin, DNA or the North Pacific Gyre, or the issues surrounding ambidexterity or OCD, echolocation or bull-fighting.
Not only do the children have a fine example from which to learn, they grow metres in minutes as they see the results of their well-researched, well-illustrated projects capture the imaginations of their listeners. Suddenly all the fruits of classroom activity and story-telling come together, as the benefits of practice and repetition translate into what is a moment of victory.
The children exceed their own expectations and conquer their nerves. Watching this is a privilege – there is nothing quite like it – and, though perfection is never sought, this most authentic of learning experiences is beyond compare.
Come and see for yourself at Beeston Hall School – arrange a personal visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
ABOVE: Ting Tong the tuk-tuk