By Andrew Jones: College Deputy Head – Sport, Boarding and Wider Curriculum
Having had the mid-term break to reflect a bit more on the Deputy Heads’ Conference that we hosted last week (as Mr. Wells alluded to in last week’s newsletter) I would like to share a few meaningful take-outs, which served as a timely reminder for me on how we can be more intentional in our thinking in order to work to an improved outcome.
Nokukhanya Mncwabe shared her journey with us, which has taken her from her rural upbringing to being the co-founder and CEP of Matawi Mead Collection, a pan-African beverage brand that blends centuries of tradition with contemporary and sustainable production. She mentioned how a few significant moments in her life, and especially certain childhood experiences still have a strong influence on her thinking today. She shared how a teacher’s response to a delicate situation and the choice the teacher had to make – either she could deal with the matter with stark confrontation or she could choose to make it an intentional learning experience – were pivotal. The teacher chose the latter response, and that has defined Nokukhanya’s way of dealing with tricky situations.
In an age that seems to be more and more dominated by “cancel culture”, and how this approach of spontaneous disruptions leaves little room for forgiveness and learning lessons, it really is important that we proactively place our focus and energies in creating intentional learning experiences.
She also encouraged us to always try to make sense of our own or any other ecosystem by entering it with humility, and instead of asking how can I benefit from this to rephrasing it to what can I contribute or what small skill can I impart? And, all of this should be shaped by trusting yourself and listening deeply. Collectively, these are very important building blocks when it comes to character development.
In one of the breakaway sessions, I also had the privilege to listen to Paul Bushell, author, and psychologist. (Allow me to mention that I taught Paul many years ago when I began my teaching career in KZN.) Paul made the point that all of us (including our students/children) have two superpowers. These two superpowers are awareness and choice. He reminded us of the need to tap into the power of metacognition (the process of thinking about one’s own thinking and learning), and encouraged us all to use this in our own lives but also to engage in regular conversations with our students about this.
“These often break the momentum of the escalating thoughts and feelings, so that we can make better choices.”
By practising this, our choices become so much more informed and also aligned with what we stand for and regard as acceptable. Paul also encouraged us to remind ourselves that self-doubt or “the voices in our heads” are often not our own voices. He stated that we can place so much focus on what others think or we think others think about us, that we need to break the pattern, and start becoming more aware of thinking and owning that process.
These few short paragraphs cannot do Nokukhanya’s and Paul’s talks justice, but I do hope that something within these lines has made you pause and think about the small changes that could allow you to make sense of your ecosystem; and hopefully some subtle shifts can also allow all of us to be a part of more intentional learning experiences.