The premise is that although we are born with a certain amount and certain kind of talent or intelligence, the success that an individual achieves is down to the hard work that goes into developing that talent or intelligence or the hard work that goes into developing a talent that you don't discover until later (Mr. Crehan is quite a good example of the latter as he regularly takes up new pursuits like karate, piano playing, diving, kendo, flying . . . . and the latest is indoor rowing where he just came 2nd in the British Championships for his age-group. He's aiming for World Champion next year!).
Our half term assembly theme is 'Good to be Me'. For Monday’s assembly I had a short video clip ready to use which, in honour of the Oscars last Sunday, was Will Smith, the actor, talking about the fact that he feels that his success has been down to a small amount of talent but an enormous amount of hard work. He also feels that he is happy and that this comes over on screen and helps his success.
However I didn't get the chance to show the children in Years 4 - 6 the video-clip because they had so much to say on the topic that was truly philosophical. It was a shame that assembly is limited to twenty minutes because it was a really good 'Philosophy for Children' conversation.
I decided to 'brain-storm' the words 'Good to be Me' to see what the children felt it meant before offering any suggestions myself. One child began by saying that it meant developing your talents but not allowing negative comments made by others to affect how you saw yourself. We discussed the fact that we are all born with differences and some may be better at some things than at others.
We have discussed this previously and encouraged the children to be happy with their own particular talents and to recognise that each could shine in a different way. A child mentioned that with the Lego competition you had to accept that someone else had won and be glad for them, and we spoke about the fact that at St. Helen's College we run so many different activities and competitions that all should get a chance to shine at something, using their various talents.
The discussion then moved on to developing talents and how it's not much use having a talent unless you do the work to develop it. We referred to the lovely phrase from the Bible (Matthew 5.15):
'Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.'
This then developed into the Growth Mindset argument which is that we are not necessarily limited to the talents or personality that we are born with and can develop new strengths later in life and then develop them through hard work and practice.
We talked about how one child might envy the talent of another, but while envy was a negative emotion and seems of no use to you, it might however serve as a spur to make you become good at something that you admired in someone else.
A child said that sometimes you want to change yourself in order to 'fit in' with a group of children that you admire but that they might not be a good influence. She said that if you copied someone else's character or personality you would not be being true to yourself and others might be able to detect this and not think of you as a genuine person.
One child then asked that if 'Good to be Me' was being true to yourself, are you being true to yourself if you are then changing yourself? What a fantastic question! This of course begs the question 'Who am I?' which is at the root of many philosophical treatises. I spoke about the belief that 'the self' or 'the soul' is the essence of a person and unchanging, but that everything else - their character, personality, and their talents - could be developed and changed for the better. (Or worse of course, but we didn't go there!)
A child asked if you could change how popular you were - a very brave and earnest question to ask in front of 120 children. I reminded her of something we are doing in Positive Psychology at the moment which looks at many different aspects of a person that can be developed, one of which is social intelligence.
Popularity itself is obviously not a talent but being astute in social gatherings is something that can be practised and you can become better at it the more you practise. A shy person can become confident by putting herself or himself in challenging situations and gradually learning and practising the skills of being confident and more social. This therefore can change the character of a person.
Unfortunately this was the end of assembly - apart from the team point competition. One of our house teams, Windsor, has had a run of weekly wins lately and the Cambria captain has been urging the House on by giving speeches in assembly encouraging grit and determination and how they could change the state of affairs through hard work. Today Cambria won!