As we near the end of 2018, it seems like a good time to look back over the year and remind one another about the purpose of our unique, small family school – a special place of learning in London for 100 years. Places where children grow by setting goals and learning from mistakes are not like other places where people spend time together. Schools are not static or sterile factories or office complexes that produce widgets or made-to-order merchandise. Schools are living organisms animated by purpose and potential. In the most effective ones, students “learn to earn” considerable freedom without taking advantage of undue license. The nature of the building in which they do so is a major factor in the success of this enterprise.
“There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives.” Winston Churchill made this observation in 1924 and it is certainly applicable to schools – the physical space influences the behaviour, attitudes, creativity, and the work of the children and adults inside.
At Matthews Hall, generations of teachers, administrators, and governors have safeguarded the mission of our school by prioritizing the continual improvement of programs and facilities to support the goal of preparing students to be responsible and confident learners. We continue to do so, guided by the beliefs and principles of values, which inform bold and strategic decision-making from the classroom to the boardroom.
Why invest in an independent elementary school education at all? Why invest in the very building in which this learning occurs? What are the benefits? After all they are only young children. Surely it’s in high school where the most important work is really accomplished.
Wrong. During the elementary school years, our children develop attitudes toward school and learning that lasts a lifetime. And the old adage is true – where a person ends has a lot to do with where a person begins.
For children and teachers to do their best job, the space in which they work is all-important. This should come as no surprise because the lives of people largely play out inside buildings (and the majority of thoughts people have occur there, too!).
School design, space and flow are not inconsequential considerations. The classrooms of yesterday are inadequate to serve the needs of today’s students. Shouldn’t the teaching and learning we envision for our children shape our spaces, not vice versa?
We learn best by working together in spaces where shared values and common interests shape learning. If we expect excellence in our family spaces and actively pursue the improvement of those spaces, we should aim high for our schools, too!
We Must, We Can, We Will!
Ric Anderson, Head of School