I was invited this weekend to spend some time in the Independent Thinking Bubble – which turned out to be a beautiful country house in Wales, packed full of people whose books I had read or am waiting to read. I was slightly nervous, sitting in the car for ten minutes, plucking up the courage to go in on Friday night. By Sunday morning, I didn’t want to leave. I had found my tribe and had my soul realigned.
It is easy in times such as these to start to think that people who know that learning happens in the body, the heart and the mind are a tiny minority. You can start to believe that the words ‘fun’, ‘engagement’, ‘relevance’, ‘enjoyment’, ‘love’, ‘happiness’, ‘conscience’, ‘ collaboration’ and even ‘group work’ are the problem with education and not an integral part of the solution. Too often we read earnest, well meaning blogs from teachers who argue that learning is not fun. It is hard. And so children should not enjoy it. But hard things are sometimes fun. Leaving my car was hard, but it led to enjoyment. And I had fun. And I learned loads from some of the wisest and best in the profession. And when the lovely Neil Hawkes told me on Sunday morning that he had watched me ‘become myself’ over the weekend, I nearly cried. He was right. Being in and among people who love children, and have not lost sight of what they need, helped me to get back in touch with the teacher I always wanted to be again.
What if….I thought….all schools did this? Took their staff to a lovely place to be together thinking about how they could work to make the lives of children better? What if they sat, like we did, around a table, sharing food like a family, laughing, debating, creating together? And then went back to school on Monday. Money wasted? I’d bet my life not. It would be a school reinvigorated, a staff reunited and children would come in and see role modelled for them what proper collaboration looks like. Isn’t it sad that outside of the private sector, such experiences are deemed to be frivolous? Oh, we mustn’t have fun!
Let’s think, as teachers and leaders how to create those spaces for finding, gathering and becoming a tribe. For being together. For finding our common ground and building upon it. Let’s stop denigrating playfulness and accept that playful states are essential to learning and happiness. Let’s start thinking about how we prepare our children for a world in which ‘becoming me’ is a priority and forms a step towards ‘becoming we’ in whichever tribes we need to belong to. Because life is not about passing tests and performing as economic units. At least, it’s not just about that. It’s about living, loving and learning.