But a series of events over the last week or so have made me have a re-think.
- Last Thursday two children from Year 2 played a piano duet in assembly – a Mozart sonata! They shared a piano stool and their feet didn’t reach the ground – but they played wonderfully and received the most heart-warming ovation from the assembled pupils and staff.
- This week, six friends from Year 2, inspired by an assembly presentation by a Year 6 pupil about dyslexia, presented their own home-made assembly on the theme ‘Good to be Me’. With unabashed confidence, they spoke, danced, recited, performed gymnastics and played the piano.
- In this week’s poetry recitation, every child in Nursery and Reception, without exception, recited a poem – beautifully – in front of a large audience of parents and pupils.
- In the Senior Speech Competition, two Year 6 girls, in turn, moved their audience almost to tears with their exceptionally mature, paced and poignant recitations of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Oh Captain! My Captain!’
- This morning 6S performed a most moving assembly on the theme of ‘sharing the gift of love’, using 'The Selfish Giant' as a framework and demonstrating remarkable sensitivity, confidence and tenderness.
Why the re-think? Firstly, I think, because my ‘expectations, expectations, expectations’ philosophy implies that we know what the children can achieve, and secondly because it implies that we set the targets for the children. I am now coming to understand that, while both of these are useful (it’s obviously critically important for a teacher to have a vision for his or her charges, and to communicate that vision) they are, potentially, limiting.
So I am adding a rider - ‘Prepare to be surprised!’
Tuesday’s staff meeting was interesting. The teachers were discussing, in groups, ways in which they stimulate very able children to strive for excellence and thereby boost their progress. When the groups fed back to the meeting, I was pleased to identify this theme - teachers encouraging all children (not only the most able) to undertake open-ended tasks, to take on leadership roles within learning groups, and to identify for themselves how they, as individuals, might maximise their learning. This approach links in with our well-established Philosophy for Children programme in which children from Nursery to Year 6 are taught how to identify key issues, generate deep questions and build arguments collaboratively. In all of this, responsibility for learning is being passed, carefully and in part, to the children. They are being ‘given permission’ to think for themselves, to be creative, and to take a lead in their learning – the first steps, I suggest, in developing a lifelong love of learning.
So, parents and teachers, prepare to be surprised!