Mr Hallows, Trent College Deputy Head Pastoral, has been reflecting on the challenges presented to pupils in this unprecedented time, and the opportunities for personal growth and development this can afford them, if they are supported in the right way.
“When nature moves, butterflies take flight.” (Anthony Hincks)
If your biological education stopped at the first opportunity afforded to you in your own school days, you might never have stopped to ponder on one of the great wonders of the natural world: Metamorphosis. Tadpole to frog or caterpillar to butterfly are both familiar to us all. The changes involved from one form to the next are genuine things of wonder. All the more interesting because the existing form was perfectly adequate for the tasks in hand. But changing life circumstances lead to the metamorphosis and the emergence of something even more wondrous and fully formed.
The joy of working in education is not from dispensing knowledge but in learning about each individual pupil and their repertoire of established and developing skills. Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, has inspired fascinating, long term research on the relationship between character strengths and wellbeing.
In normal school life, by the time children join in Year 7 and thereafter, they have the map and compass required to chart their course through their education. They know that along the way, there are certain character strengths, such as Perseverance, Teamwork, Curiosity and Love of Learning that will always be to the fore – and in many ways, despite the current interruption to normal service, these will remain the touchstones for success.
The Corona virus has created a new and unprecedented educational environment which might well develop different character strengths more rapidly and fully than they would do under normal conditions. If you take a moment to scan the summary diagram, I wonder what you would pick as the aspects of character that the children will come to rely on over the coming weeks. I will be looking forward to talking to the pupils about what they have learned and how they have grown through the experience.
No doubt, they will be absorbing the aspects of Humanity that have come to the fore as neighbour supports neighbour and society shows its gratitude for the selfless work of our frontline practitioners.
The transition to remote learning will take exceptional Courage and, so far, every one of the pupils, has embraced the challenge in a way that we would never have presumed.
At this early stage, I think in years to come we will see the children develop into young adults with finely honed and fully formed character strengths in the Temperance domain. They will emerge from this experience with deep appreciation of their capacity to self-regulate and to exercise Prudence in their management of work.
It will be a wonderful discussion to have when we see them again and we already know, and are quietly delighted, that they, and their peers, will never be the same again. They will be even better than before. We will await the return of our beautiful butterflies.
As Anne Deborah Morgan wrote in her poem, Metamorphosis:
Sleepy, crumpled, papery wings,
Slowly unfurl and expand,
To reveal gossamer silken sheets.