Living and Learning – a never-ending education
Friday 29 January 2016
In one single week in January I was lucky enough to attend three lectures by world-class intellectuals, without leaving my place of work.
On Monday night Professor John Mullan, Head of English at University College London, made a compelling case for Jane Austen to be ranked alongside Shakespeare as the greatest depicter of human character in English Literature. Amusingly for the girls, he posed many of his most challenging questions to the teachers in the audience – demonstrating that learning is a continual process that does not end when formal education ceases.
Matthew Syed and The Growth Mindset
Three days later, journalist and Olympian Matthew Syed – a remarkable communicator and one of the finest exponents of the ‘10,000 hours of practice’ theory – spoke to a packed audience in the theatre about the importance of the ‘growth mindset’.
Matthew Syed explained that we have the capacity to make tremendous intellectual and physical advances, both individually and as institutions, when we have the courage to accept and embrace our failures. He contrasted the growth mindset of the aviation industry, where examination of black box recorders recovered from crashes helps experts to learn from their mistakes and improve safety, with the blame culture in medicine that leads to clinical erors being denied or covered up.
Staff, students and parents came away from this inspirational talk with a conviction that purposeful practice and open-mindedness leads inevitably to self-improvement.
The Theory of Everything
Then, on Friday, quite unexpectedly I found myself rapt by an engrossing lecture on ‘The Theory of Everything’, given as part of the Sixth Form General Studies programme by Prof Michael Duff, Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London.
Coming myself from an arts background, I can’t pretend I fully grasped the concept of an 11-dimensional universe, but Prof Duff did a wonderful job of explaining the latest advances in unifying particle and quantum physics in relatively lay terms.
I left determined to find out more. Fortunately, Professor Brian Cox will be visiting the school in February – the perfect opportunity to further my education!
Living and Learning
At Queenswood the growth mindset is fundamental to everything we do as educators. Teachers learn from each other, of course – we observe each others’ good practice, and discuss pedagogy in our regular Teaching and Learning Committee seminars – but we also learn with, and from, our students. For instance, some of our Russian pupils have set up a club to teach their language to staff – and they are formidably strict when it comes to missed homework or forgotten books! Meanwhile, staff join girls in the Queenswood Community Choir, where together they tackle challenging choral music and develop new skills.
There is great truth in the adage that ‘we live and learn’. At Queenswood there is an extraordinary amount of learning taking place every hour of every day.