BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
Let me start with a story:
'Two more days to Mount Wu-T'ai'
Long ago, in China, there was an old monk going on a pilgrimage to Mount Wu-t'ai. Aged and weak, he was treading the long dusty road alone, seeking alms along the way. After many long months, one morning he gazed upward and saw the majestic mountain in the distance. By the roadside, there was an old woman working the field.
"Please tell me", he asked, "how much longer I must proceed before reaching Mount Wu-t'ai?" The woman just looked at him, uttered a guttural sound and returned to her work. He repeated the question a second and third time, but still there was no answer.
Thinking that the woman must be deaf, he decided to push on. After he had taken a few dozen steps, he heard the woman call out to him, "two more days, it will take you two more days." Somewhat annoyed, the monk responded, "I thought you were deaf. Why didn't you answer my question earlier?".
The woman replied, "You asked the question while you were standing put, Master. I had to see how fast your pace was, how determined your walk!".
This famous folklore makes a humorous observation, but also points to an important lesson: When we face challenges, or set our sights on our goals, we do not know how long it will take. We do not know if we will succeed. But if we don't start on the journey we do know for certain that we will achieve nothing.
This was the theme of my Assembly on Wednesday morning. We talked about setting goals and targets (or dreams if you like) and making the journey - sometimes long and arduous with challenges, setbacks, help from others and disappointments - to reach this potential. Following this Assembly, we have asked every child to write down their goals and aspirations for the term. These are being returned to me (I will not look at them), and the children will see them at Half Term to review how they are getting on. I shall look through what they have written with each child at the end of term to see how they are getting on with their journey towards their chosen goals and aspirations.
For every single child, their goal and aspiration will require hard work and effort. The reward they will get when they achieve this goal - or certainly achieve it as far as they possibly can - will be the enormous satisfaction and build up of self-belief. Carol Dweck argues that we set two types of goals: performance goals and mastery goals. She sights "getting an A in French is a performance goal, and being able to speak French is a learning goal" (Dweck, 2009) as an example of this, in that a performance goal is designed to make a child look smart and capable, whereas a learning goal helps the pupil learn. You may well have heard of the '10,000 hour rule', whereby it has been argued that in order to properly master a skill and become the best of the best, learners have to dedicate 10,000 hours of practice. Malcolm Gladwell proved this theory with violinists and pianists, and found that those who dedicated 10,000 hours to meaningful practice were reckoned to be the best musicians, whereas those who only spent 8,000 of mastery were only seen to be very good. This demonstrates two things: one, that reaching a goal or dream requires meaningful practice, hard work and determination; and two, we are not born with talent.
I am, of course, not suggesting that the boys and girls spend 10,000 hours mastering what they have written as their hopes and dreams for the term! It is merely to demonstrate that the ultimate satisfaction will come to those who have devoted hard work, determination and true grit in the pursuit of these aims.
There can be few who have suffered so many set backs in the pursuit of their dream than Michael Jordon, as shown below.
Every single child has the ability to reach his or her potential in whatever they put their minds to. The greatest reward will come when they hurdle whatever challenges come their way and they feel their hard work, perseverance and grit has paid off: that is true potential.
"Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph: a beginning, a struggle, and a victory" Mahatma Gandhi.
Term has got off to a fantastic start, and I couldn't be more delighted with the atmosphere and sense of community spirit in the school. I would like to pay particular tribute to our new boys and girls in every year group who have already made a significant contribution to the ethos and values of St Leonards.
Wishing all St Leonards families a fulfilling weekend - whatever your adventures may bring.