Depending on what era you grew up in, there are plenty of things that you’d claim not to have been taught in school. A lot of us still carry some resentment or frustration that things would be better if we’d only been tough such-and-such instead of chemical catalysts, river deltas or trigonometry.
The truth is we were taught some of the greatest lessons at school although we didn’t realise it at the time: how to cope with annoying people, how to get out of doing something, how to turn up on time and how to learn. These and other skills were not ‘in the curriculum’ of subjects so we tend to call them ‘extra-curricular’. Some are generic, some are woven throughout school ethos and some are deliberately focused on.
At Fyling Hall School we have a suite of extra-curricular systems. We have our Tutor Groups, Assemblies, visiting experts, Clubs and Societies and of course the Learning for Life programme which is an extra lesson per week about a range of topics linked to the government’s PSHE, Personal, Social, Health and Economic directive.
This year, a lot of our programme has been and will be disrupted and we’re working on different ways of doing things. That main question remains: ‘what would we wish they’d have taught us at school?’, and ‘what extra skills and knowledge do kids of today need to flourish in their lives?’. These are the driving force behind the plans we put together.
During lockdown I created a ‘chat show’ to replace some of what we could suddenly no longer do in school. It gave me the opportunity to get guest speakers and interview them on a range of topics of value to our students. None of the topics discussed fit into the curriculum, they were all life skills and knowledge that enrich lives if taken note of. There are links to the shows and their topics below. See what you think.
A lot of what schools do actually teach may at first glance to seem like a waste of time (“when will I ever need to use algebra in real life” is a common one). This is partly that we have become too focused on subjects and topics as collections of facts and information and then, realising that a simple Google search will pull up that information, wonder about the relevance of spending six hours a day in a classroom. “What about the stuff you actually need?” people cry, “like filling in a tax return, how mortgages work, how to book a foreign holiday…”. I like to answer that with two responses. One, those topics would make for very, very dull lessons. Two, those things can be found out by a simple Google search too.
I believe that the answer to this dilemma is to switch this obsessiveness away from topics, information and facts to skills where the information is the conduit for learning the skill. It’s not really about chemical catalysts, river deltas or trigonometry, it’s about what you become by studying these things. It’s about the process of learning itself. It’s about critical and creative thinking. It’s about resilience, perseverance and practice. If you can be the person that can learn, understand, remember, apply and combine ideas on one complex or abstract topic, you can do it for any topic.
That said, the curriculum is nowhere near perfect. I’d love to be able to re-tool it beyond what I can do just in my own school. That’s why I’m working on a manifesto for a new approach, not that anyone with any power will take any notice, but I’m doing it anyway. What would you like to see in it?
Here’s a list of what we covered in The Early Show:
- Professional speaker and magician John Hotowka discussed resilience, the skill of keeping strong when things are tricky and you feel like giving up.
- Steve Judge continued this to the extreme adding in the idea of having a string vision that drives your perseverance. As a gold medal winning special Olympian, Steve’s story of overcoming dramatic injury to become a winner was inspiring and moving. Steve ran a competition to win a copy of his book for creating a vision board.
- David Hyner is one of the countries great speakers on having and achieving goals. His humour and humility made the case to take action immediately. Some of our students did following the talk and got coached by their heroes during lockdown.
- If Frederika Roberts’s presentation on wellbeing and happiness didn’t make you smile, you need to watch it again. She presented us with loads of tips to keep our minds healthy, especially during difficult times.
- Science magician Matt Pritchard talked about us re-gaining a sense of wonder about the world around us.
- David Thomas, the Guinness Book of Records memory man told us bluntly that memory is something you work on, not something you have or don’t have.
- Our headmaster Steven Allen talked candidly about the nature of school returning to wider opening.
- Alex Drew disused the benefits and dangers of the rise of internet use.
- Lind Sage, a criminal psychologist, discussed how we each make our own prisons. She works with the most dangerous criminals to help them come to terms with their actions which are li need to their self belief. She should us how we can change positively too.
- Jackie Perkins talked to us about self-image and how we present ourselves in our appearance, clothing etc. She told us how dressing for the occasion will get you further in life.
- Graham Frost escaped from a cult as a young child, overcame a number of massive problems and now talks about the power of decisions and how they can positively change your direction.
- Silky is a stand up comedian and trainer of comedy and improvisation skills. He discussed with us the meaning of life and how in fact, the meaning is to find the meaning and in doing so, enjoy it.
All of the shows are available on YouTube:
Ep.1 https://youtu.be/gi_UZ3k7rDI resilience with @JohnHotowka
Ep.2 https://youtu.be/IMLCdKpDF8w vision with @SteveJudge
Ep.3 https://youtu.be/pgwXD2aNH4I goals with @davidhyner
Ep.4 https://youtu.be/kRDzgppOi4M wellbeing with @Frederika_R
Ep.5 https://youtu.be/qLxSvWXzQMQ wonder with @ScienceMagician
Ep.6 https://youtu.be/iieo7u03skI memory with David Thomas
Ep.7 https://youtu.be/uFt6N0AWwaM wider school opening with Steve Allen
Ep.8 https://youtu.be/eTC6AOHLqlA internet use with @Alec_Drew
Ep.9 https://youtu.be/3NRJVgYyGGI self belief with @meetLindaSage
Ep.10 https://youtu.be/XBjbDBtROXQ express yourself with Jackie Perkins
Ep.11 https://youtu.be/7b-H6p5NzBI decisions with Graham Frost.
Ep.12 https://youtu.be/0yPlh_DIpnA the meaning of life with @paulsilkywhite
Please tell me in the comments below what you’d wished you’d learnt at school or what you did learn that you’re convinced was of no use whatsoever…