Today at school, several of our classes had the chance to experience a foretaste of next year as they “sprung ahead”, in order to spend some time with next year’s teachers. The purpose of “day ahead” is to sample some of the learning of the next year’s curriculum, meet another teacher in a different context, and demonstrate to children that their learning occurs along a continuum. For those of us who have navigated school, we understand that learning seldom happens in discrete steps, but rather in cycles of trial, error, feedback and mastery. Each person learns differently and some have a distinct learning style that allows them to “speak their own language” more confidently than others – kinesthetic learners communicate with their energy and bodies; verbal learners use words to their great advantage; visual learners observe and imitate with a discriminating eye; while auditory learners must hear, sense and feel in order to interpret the world around them. In this rich array of learning styles, you will find your child. Some will demonstrate a distinct learning preference and others will be a blend. Is it any wonder that teaching and learning is such a complex phenomenon? Which of these equally worthy learning styles leads to success? Do any of them lead to success?
Adam Grant provides some food for thought in his book Give and Take, in which he challenges the traditional belief that success is driven by individual qualities such as passion, hard work, talent, and luck. He asserts that success in today’s dramatically reconfigured world depends more on how we interact with others. Networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation and leadership – these are the skills and “talents” that Grant believes will have a dramatic impact on success at work and in life. In his book, Grant provides compelling examples to support his points. However, I would like to consider one principle that relates especially well to the life lessons we give to students in our schools and homes: the dangers and rewards of giving more than you get.
Most of us know that in any group, there are ‘givers’ (i.e., those that see a need and offer to help with no strings attached). They are motivated by seeking the highest good for everyone and they have an outward perspective that looks for common ground without a personal agenda. In his book, Grant shares real-world stories of venture capitalists, business people and others who create win-win scenarios that would simply not exist unless the individuals involved understood how to work collaboratively and earn respect by setting aside the “self”. He contrasts ‘givers’ to ‘takers’ and argues persuasively that ‘takers’ strive to get as much as possible from others, seldom looking for ways to contribute unless there is something in it for them. In the middle, we find the ‘matchers’, who aim to trade evenly in a tit-for-tat world – a tedious world of keeping track and keeping score. I am sure we have all experienced each of these in school, work and life. But, which of these aligns more compatibly with our school’s mission and values?
Kate Matthews should really be the foundation on which we discuss any goals or vision for our school. She memorably said that children should be taught how to live “sanely and happily with contemporaries, learning to face life bravely and with joy, whatever it may bring”. What a great lady! There is no doubt that Kate herself was a ‘giver’ and not a ‘taker’. Personally, I think she would have liked what Adam Grant has to say about how to identify true success, which is something each of us desires for our children. However, while we are in a rush to measure such success, it is so important not to overlook the qualities that will equip them to live that ‘happy’ life that Kate Matthews speaks about and we all desire for them – the ability to work and play well together without keeping track.
At Matthews Hall, we focus on offering our students the opportunity to become the best version of themselves!
Ric Anderson, Head of School