It is a widely discussed truism that children are all different from each other, just as adults are. A torsion often arises as modern education systems strive to release individuality in each child, whilst working in a system that is designed for a mass, results-focused education.
Nonetheless, a well-designed and sensitively managed school can go a long way to assisting parents and each child themselves discover where their individual strengths and talents lie.
Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong
Every school that is doing its job well will have a very good idea of a child’s academic potential and capabilities, measured using accurate but narrowly defined tools such as verbal and non-verbal reasoning, reading ages and the like.
None of these very useful tools though tell us anything about the wider capabilities or anything about a child’s character, resilience, or skills beyond the scope of narrow academic abilities.
Probably the tallest (15 metres) indoor climbing wall
in Hong Kong
Identifying broader potential is a much more unwieldy exercise and cannot be achieved by using neat assessment packages, available by purchasing an online license.
At any school where I have had a decision-making role, I have done my best to offer a breadth of experiences for our pupils.
The most mundane of subjects can replicate real-working-life experience with some imaginative lesson planning.
By incorporating life skills such as problem solving, collaborative learning, trying to persuade others and, presenting to an audience pupils can find out that they have a skill in empathy, in encouragement, in clear thinking, in brainstorming, in making people laugh, in asking the right question at the right time, in keeping the rest of the group on-task and so on.
These are all skills that will become talents in the workplace in a few short years. Great schools will evidence lessons in all kinds of mainstream subjects where pupils are exposed to trying out all the critical professional skills.
Thus, education is a social business. Life in the workplace and life in schools is all about getting on with people. Making teams work. Taking an idea and making it better together. None of these things can be done in isolation.
No matter how clever the technology, on-line learning is a poor substitute for class-based teaching. You need to interact with people to learn and to achieve progress.
Discovering potential can be likened to princesses kissing frogs. You need to keep on, and on, and on trying new things, until you find the one that is yours.
As a child, it turned out I was not very good at catching a ball or running quickly. I was told I was not sporty and spent my school years getting in the way in the ‘D’ team games.
When I left school, I was given the opportunity to learn to shoot a rifle and became very good. I subsequently competed at a high level. I became a keen canoeist, (I am still paddling in my sixties), I also became a very capable horseman.
My school did not offer shooting, riding or canoeing, so nobody knew I had these capabilities at the time – least of all me.
The point is that I had some very real potential but as a pupil I was not in an environment where these capabilities could come to light. In my case this is to be expected. Very few schools have safe facilities for teaching target shooting or equestrian centers.
The lesson has been learned though. At Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong we have put as much effort and as many resources as possible to providing a width of experiences in our extra-curricular activities programme.
Every day, normal lesson time is extended by a further two hours, until 5.00pm, as children join over fifty different clubs and activities.
It is my absolute ambition that for each child during their time at Wycombe Abbey School Hong Kong that they, (and we), will discover what their gifts are.
As teachers our role is to help our pupils find the gifts they have been given and to assist our children to carefully unwrap them so that they are ready to be taken forward into each individual’s emerging adult life.