BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
"Folks, human minds do not only learn from small amounts of data. Human minds think of altogether new ideas. Human minds generate research and discovery, and human minds generate art and literature and poetry and theatre, and human minds take care of other humans: our old, our young, our sick. We even heal them. In the years to come, we're going to see technological innovations beyond anything I can even envision, but we are very unlikely to see anything even approximating the computational power of a human child in my lifetime or in yours. If we invest in these most powerful learners and their development, in babies and children and mothers and fathers and caregivers and teachers the ways we invest in our other most powerful and elegant forms of technology, engineering and design, we will not just be dreaming of a better future, we will be planning for one.”
I was very taken by this quote from a TED talk by Laura Schulz, ‘the surprisingly logical minds of babies’. Do watch it, I think it is incredibly relevant as we talk so much of technological advancement, artificial intelligence and super intelligence. Her message is that the development of emotional intelligence (EQ) in babies, young children and teenagers is critically important for them to flourish.
Flourishing is a word many parents would turn to if they were to describe how they wish their child(ren) to develop. We all aspire for them to flourish academically; to flourish in their chosen hobbies and interests; to flourish socially; and to flourish in terms of happiness. ‘World Mental Health Day’ has been marked this week, in which the ever growing awareness of mental health and emotional wellbeing has been highlighted. So much of this increased awareness reports the rise in self-harm, disordered eating, depression and anxiety and stress, largely amongst teenagers and young children.
Whilst this is, of course, heartbreaking and deeply concerning, we have come so far in the last decade to be talking so freely about mental health and acknowledging the importance of proactive measures to support a child’s wellbeing. Schools are becoming much better at responding to mental health problems and we are taking our role in promoting social and emotional well-being much more seriously. As little as five years ago, stigma might well prevent schools talking openly about this, and encouraging discussion about our emotions would be seen as ‘looking for issues’. It is now universally agreed that effective approaches to promoting good mental health and positive wellbeing should be taught to all children.
I am sure I have quoted Dick Moore many times in my blogs. Dick, a retired prep school Head, works tirelessly to promote mental health awareness in schools, following the tragic death of his son Barnaby, as a result of depression. Do watch his TED talk, below.
As we consider how to support our children to flourish amidst a back drop of societal pressures they may face, I urge you to think about Dick’s advice to parents:
Be emotionally genuine and authentic to those close to you.
Authenticity lies at the heart of developing confidence in ourselves. If children are comfortable with who they are (indeed, proud of who they are as an individual), they will naturally develop a strong sense of wellbeing. Largely through social media, it is so easy to spend more time comparing ourselves with other people, than being happy with who we are. Being true to ourselves is the very foundation upon which to have a strong emotional intelligence, and if formed at a young age, this will prevail against societal and media pressures.
Laugh and smile.
This is of course such a simple tonic, but so very powerful. We must never lose sight of the importance to smile and not allow matters to blow out of proportion. By coaching our children not to catastrophize events and feelings, they will be able to rely on one of the most powerful emotions.
Eat well | Sleep well
Exercise | Fresh Air
The very basic in self-care. We release endorphins – literally happiness hormones – when we exercise, and of course all know the benefits of fresh air. If your child does have problems sleeping, do refer to Nicola Morgan’s advice.
Don't expect to be perfect; we all fail.
Making mistakes is a springboard for future learning and important to develop resilience. Those who have seemingly ‘sailed’ through their childhood, often find the slightest setbacks more difficult to manage later on. It is human instinct to strive for perfection, but this is unrealistic.
A*s are not essential for happiness.
This is absolutely crucial and easier to explain when flipped: happiness is essential to achieve academically.
Accept your emotions. Talk, talk, talk | Ask for help
Being aware of our emotions, and not being afraid to talk about them, and critically ask for help is a sign of great strength, not weakness.
Be kind to others | Be kind to yourself
Support each other but don’t think you can make everything better
Altruism leads to an extraordinary level of self-satisfaction, self-awareness and authenticity. Developing social skills, whereby one has the ability to make social relationships and feel empathy and compassion contributes to a feeling of high emotional wellbeing.
Count your blessings | Believe that time changes things
These last two are all about having a positive outlook, and when we are facing a challenge, hurdle or setback, always looking with great optimism for the future. This is a very important message to give young people when they are facing difficulties or in a low period: things will change for the better.
The ‘Action for Happiness’ movement has produced ten points for happier living. I encourage you to have a look at their website, and if you feel appropriate, to use the posters and messages with your children.
As Laura Schulz implies, we must invest in the emotional literacy of our young children so they have the building blocks to flourish as they enter a world of transformational change.
Wishing all St Leonards families a happy Half Term, whatever your adventures are.
FIREPITS & FORAGING
FIREPITS & FORAGING | Year 3 revisited the Edible Garden at Albany Park in St Andrews this week, having planted seed potatoes and parsnips back in April with Miss Fisher.
On Tuesday, they made the return visit to harvest the vegetables they had planted. The potatoes gave us a brilliant crop of amazing purple potatoes and pink ones! The parsnips were fabulous, despite a dry summer they had grown very well. Andrea said they would be best left to allow the shoots to die back and a good frost would make them sweeter, so we only lifted two for our pot of soup, and the rest will be left for the university students to lift for Christmas.
As well as harvesting our own vegetables, we picked kale, leeks, celeriac and we found pumpkins growing, so we picked one of those.
We weighed all our vegetables so Andrea and her team could collate how much had been harvested. Then we brought all our vegetables back to school.
It was a fun morning, with lots of team work needed in the digging and harvesting, as well as maths with the weigh-in.
On Wednesday, Year 5 used the vegetables to make a big pot of soup, whilst Year 2 kneaded dough to bake bread on the fire pit. Thank you to the team of students and staff from the University of St Andrews and Transition, who came in to show the boys and girls how to safely peel and chop the vegetables and prepare the delicious feast.
Everyone (parents included!) enjoyed tucking into the homemade (and home-grown!) soup and bread in the Outdoor Classroom, and it tasted all the better having grown and cooked the ingredients ourselves!
INFORMAL CONCERTS | Years 4-7 started off this week’s series of Informal Concerts, with a fantastic variety of solo and group performances
The String Group kicked off proceedings with two tunes on a sporting theme, followed by piano performances, pieces on the flute and brass instruments, and a cool guitar number from Tom, who played a George Ezra hit.
We even had our own mini Queen tribute band, with Verity, Emil and Lewis taking to the stage with their rendition of ‘We Will Rock You’.
This morning it was Year 1-3’s turn to perform. It was wonderful to see so many of our Lower School pupils playing everything from recorder to violin and piano, with solos and group pieces culminating in two songs from all the boys and girls in Years 1-3.
Here they are singing ‘Paintbox’, complete with vegetable pictures popping up in time with the words!