Building character: why we do what we do by @MaximJKelly

On one visit to a fantastic school* I was introduced to an inspirational headteacher. He had such a clear vision which resonated through the school and manifested in the values and practices seen. The educational philosophy created was one of “learning power” and growth mindset – as the headteacher remarked “to predict what kind of world awaits our pupils once they grow-up and go out into it is laughable; the world’s best futurologists can’t make that prediction and I certainly can’t. What we need to do is equip our pupils with the skills to live in that world whatever it may be.” To that end, his school put great emphasis on developing children as learners – and this conviction served to reassure and strengthen within me my own belief that what we were doing at my school was absolutely right.

The belief in my school centres around developing learning habits. We’ve implemented a strand in our curriculum designed to instil in our pupils a growth mindset philosophy. This means we believe that everybody can learn and succeed with the right attitude. Courage, tenacity and self-belief are crucial, we believe, to learning and can be developed by how we recognise and reward success. Directed effort alongside outcome is valued and children are encouraged to take risks and not fear failure. This element of the curriculum is known as our “learning: it’s up to you!” strand and is the part of our offering which focuses on the principle that there are thinking skills, learning dispositions and good habits as well as subject-specific skills which we can develop in a range of contexts.

This aspect of our curriculum weaves in the development of meta-cognition and learning habits so that our children become brave (taking risks with their learning), challenge themselves (stretching their thinking and enjoying the “struggle” of learning), smile (staying positive even when learning is tricky), become honest learners, sustain effort (recognising that good learning requires resilience and perseverance), fail well (learning from mistakes) and become deeply reflective about the learning process. These habits are found at the centre of our model in recognition of their status as utterly vital components of our curriculum.

Now that’s all well and good. But so what? Why do we believe in this at my school and what difference does our curriculum make?

We took this question one step further and asked ourselves to think about the whole Laxey School experience. If a child comes to Laxey and experiences our school, experiences our curriculum, experiences our learning and teaching philosophy and is encouraged to develop good learning habits that they choose to use through intrinsic motivation, then what sort of person will they be when they graduate from our programme? Will those pupils who have been schooled at Laxey stand out from others? And if so, how so?

If our approach is our means – then what are the ends?

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About maximjkelly 12 Articles
I am the Executive Headteacher of two schools in the Isle of Man (Dhoon School and Laxey School) which form the Laxey / Dhoon Federation. The schools are on the mid to north east coast of the Isle of Man and are roughly 5 miles apart.

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