Journeying Forward to a Brighter Future

By 2020-08-20 13:12:30

A few months back, my daughter collapsed on our settee, smeared with mud and grass stains, hot and exhausted, having just played football with her school team in a tournament. The first thing she told us (apart from the fact that she was hungry and thirsty) was the score from each match and who shot each goal. In her mind, this is a competitive sport, where arguably the core purpose of playing is to win against the other team. 

But academic learning is different. It is not all about the grades, and it certainly is not about winners or losers. Indeed, much has been reported about high achieving adults – apparent role models in various professions of successful attainers – who are now struggling with mental health problems. Having come through an education system themselves where they were told to chase the top grades and be the top of their classes, they developed the mindset that they only have worth and value as an individual if they continue to be seen to ‘do well’ and collect achievements that make them seem better than others. As a result, these adults believe that they are only as good as their last business deal, their most recent sale, or their latest performance. If any one of their 'achievements' begin to look a little mediocre, these adults lose heart and spiral down into an unhealthy darkness of profound self-doubt. Education carries the responsibility of instilling a strong sense of self-value in students while preparing them for a long, purposeful, and healthy life beyond school. 

When it comes to academic learning, we at Dulwich encourage students – and their parents – to value the journey. This is why we report on Approaches to Learning, in addition to attainment, in areas such as Self-Management, Collaboration, Growth Mindset, Intellectual Curiosity, and Problem Solving. These key approaches to learning are new to Dulwich and are currently being trialled with Years 10 to 13; directly linking to the Learner Profile for the IB Diploma Programme. In the beginning, many students will be relatively dependent learners, relying upon being instructed what to do and following their teacher’s lead. As students mature and progress, they will begin to take more responsibility and independence around their learning, helping them develop strong foundations for a rounded, well-balanced, and healthy approach to study. 

With the right approaches to learning in place, academic outcomes will be as good as they can be anyway; representing a student’s consistent efforts, commitment, and motivation. As Ernest Hemingway said: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” We hope that future generations will benefit from this.