In a week that has been characterised by very little pupil absence from school, and a great deal of quiet time as children sit and demonstrate the written aspect of their learning, it is perhaps good at the end of it to think about how important making mistakes is when we are learning.
My assembly this morning in both parts of the school shared a new book in our library called “Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” by Jo Ann Deak and Sarah Ackerly https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fantastic-Elastic-Brain
As a beautifully illustrated, scientific explanation of the areas within the brain, their discrete functions and their connectivity, it gives all children of whatever age a really clear understanding of how complex and extraordinary our brains are and how much we can influence the brain’s functioning through our resilience to failure and through perseverance.
The analogy with an elastic band is accessible and enabled me to show an elastic band with the knowledge of a five-year-old around a small book and an elastic band with the knowledge of a 13-year-old around a much larger book, but of course in reality the elasticity is not a multiplication of cells but the strengthening of the relations between them in the neuron pathways.
We are lucky to live in an age where it is possible to photograph brains while they are working and one day (perhaps when I grow up!) I would like to learn more about this field of science as there is a direct relationship between this understanding and our ability to influence and ensure mental health.
Some of our training on autism a couple of years ago enabled us to understand completely what happens when a child has a meltdown or “amygdala hijack”. Its central location in the brain and the impact of such a meltdown prevents the functioning of most of the other parts of the rational brain and when you see how much that influences the child’s ability to control themselves and to make sense of what’s happening to them, you understand that giving children time to calm down until they’re ready to listen is the only way of dealing with anybody in this mental state.
This clearly resonated with some of the children in the assemblies and it was pleasing to see them finding it helpful.
I began the week sharing the impressive video made by Greta Thunberg, who spoke at a TED talk about her climate protest.
She revealed that she had struggled as she was diagnosed autistic herself and she experienced a very low period of depression when she was 10 and was supported through this difficult time. In what can only be described as a magnificent, extraordinary and moving, not to mention eloquent and impactful speech, Greta talks about how she struggles to understand the rest of humanity who do not see the climate emergency in black-and-white as she does with her autistic brain. What a powerful argument and how much we should be listening to this young person and indeed all of those in our care.
It was great to welcome Simon Larter-Evans, Head of St Paul’s Cathedral School for a visit on Wednesday afternoon. I’m very lucky to be a governor at his school and I enjoy the cross-fertilisation of ideas that comes from getting under the skin of another school, quite apart from the immense pleasure of access to all that glorious music. Later this term we’re taking The Twelve to a choir practice and service in the cathedral and I know it will be a memorable experience.
I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday at the circus. If you have any complaints, you can get your own back while I’m in the stocks!
Have a great weekend.