‘There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots. The other is wings.’ – Hodding Carter Jr. A Collection of Poems.
I love this quote, because for all the noise and chatter of the modern-day world it cuts through to two simple truths that have guided parents, carers and educators throughout history. The quote highlights two important roles that those who bring up and work with children, of all ages, should strive to focus on.
What is meant, though, by the giving of roots to our children? Roots in this sense mean many things to many people, but at their core I think we would all talk about ‘roots’ relating to a sense of self and a sense of place. Often one influences the other. I have seen, first hand, how the strong sense of community that is evident here in Littleport, gives rise to community mindedness by those who live here. This is witnessed by the many community events- the open days, the park runs and all manner of groups, associations and societies that are part of the community, anyone who lives here, who grows up here, cannot help but feel part of something. Being part of a family, a school, and a village gives us the roots; the values, self awareness and confidence to grow.
But what are our wings and how do we develop these? Again wings, in this sense could mean many things to many people, but for me, a key component would be the hope and belief that things can always get better and be better. As we enter one of the most testing times of the year- with most children/students having started a new class, working with a new teacher(s) and even some in a new key stage or school there are particular challenges to face. I like the word ‘challenge’. When I was teaching, I used to enjoy setting work that was challenging in different ways, and what was interesting was the way in which different learners would react to academic challenge. Some would say things like; ‘I love a challenge’…’I want to try’…you could see their eyes shine with the excitement of trying something new. They had wings and wanted to fly! Others would react in a different way saying…’its not for them’…and ’I can’t do it’. You could almost see these learners begin to shrink in upon themselves, you could see their wings had, over time, become clipped.
So, how can we help? It turns out that the roots of these two responses are in how we perceive ourselves as learners- they are determined by our mindsets (fixed mindset or growth mindset-for more on this look at: www.mindsetworks.com). The good news is that we can choose our mindsets by thinking differently. One particularly powerful way of thinking is to adopt a ‘not yet…’ attitude. An example of this in my life is that I am trying to learn to play the piano- can I play the scales smoothly now? Or can I play, and get the timing right, that piece that is being so patiently taught to me be my tutor? No, I can’t, but this is a ‘not yet’. ‘Not yet’ gives us a pathway to the future, a hope for betterment and a nudge to finding out new and different ways of making things work. ‘Not yet’ nurtures a mindset in the belief that improvement is possible. It gives us wings.
So, as we embark on this new academic year with all its trials, tests, challenges and obstacles, it would be worth us all reminding ourselves that while we may not be ‘there’ as of now, we can be in the future. It’s only ‘not yet’. Just stick at it!