A view from the pulpit: End of Lent Term address

Friday 27th March

By Head Master Steffan Griffiths

Campfire, Watering Hole and Cave

We are going to start with a song by the U5 pop choir which was part of their very successful set at Jazz Nite.

POP CHOIR – Stay with me, by Sam Smith

Thank you girls. I am glad we have had the chance to hear you.

Now, what sort of person are you? Are you the life and soul of a party, the one telling stories and making others laugh? Are you a chatterer, keen to catch up on all that is going on? Or are you a people-watcher, someone who reflects on what is going on around them? We all have different personalities and styles of approach to particular situations. I suspect that most of us are all of the above in some sort of blend, depending on the situation.

And what sort of learner are you? Do you like to listen to your teacher? Do you like to chat things through with your friends? Or do you like to get some time on your own to figure out what you have done? I suspect many of you will know whether your preferred learning style is visual, auditory or kinaesthetic but, in practice, our teachers use a combination of styles and we are adept at using different techniques at different times to suit the circumstances. Once again, it is a blend we seek, a balance.

Now, as we come to the end of term, all of you will be thinking about how to spend the next three weeks. Many are going or have already gone on the glorious range of school trips organised by your dedicated staff. Others of you will have private holidays or Easter activities planned. Some of you will be thrilled precisely because you do not have things planned and are looking forward  to being free to choose what you do, whether it be book-reading, film-watching, Fifa ‘15 playing, or shopping. With many of our senior pupils preparing for public examinations, I am sure that appropriate use of the next three weeks is particularly in your minds. You will therefore not be surprised to hear me advise of balance: establish a schedule which enables thorough consolidation of your work, but also take time to provide yourself with a chance for welcome rest.

As we prepare to go our separate ways for three weeks and the collaborative purpose of the Norwich School community gives way to less structured holiday, I should like this afternoon to give you an educational model of balance for you to consider: that of the campfire, the watering hole and the cave. The campfire is where instruction can take place; a speaker commands attention and others listen. The watering hole is a time for exchange, for the sharing of ideas and group discussion, while the cave is a place for quiet, personal reflection.

The model is a theory about educational spaces which comes from an Australian, David Thornburg. He is interested in what spaces are needed in schools to enable balanced learning to take place: people need to hear about the world around them from those who may know more or at least have different experience of it; they then need time to discuss what has been said and to test their understanding; and they need time to reflect on all that has happened in these social spaces, away from others. Our teachers are so good that they give you a blend of these experiences within the routine of term. Also, in a day-school environment, one needs to absorb the role of the home in considering fully the balance between the three different areas. Some of you show an impressive ability to co-ordinate different types of experience; indeed, one of the reasons I was keen for you to hear the U5 pop choir is that you have heard their impressive musical standards, but you should also be aware that this was achieved while also preparing for GCSEs  and that this group also contains hockey players, netball players, dancers and instrumentalists. They form a model of making the most of different types of school and home space; well done indeed. 

Some of you may already feel that you are more comfortable in one area of campfire, watering hole cave (though I hope some of your parents do not refer to your bedrooms as the last of these). In truth, though, I suspect that the healthiest approach is to seek each type of environment in some measure. The balance may change as we enter a holiday phase, but do bear it in mind as you consider specifically your approach to academic work or more general management of time. Seek out situations which will stimulate your curiosity about the world around you; meet up with others to share ideas, but also give time to yourself for quiet reflection. I hope you all have a balanced holiday.