Embracing the Challenges and Rewards of Lifelong Learning
What makes a 'Greenfield Learner?' Mrs Butcher discusses the importance of having a positive attitude towards learning, and makes some discoveries about the staff at Greenfield!
...I think I might be having a mid-life crisis.
I have recently taken up the noble art of Karate. My youngest daughter was keen, and I was intrigued. It was one of those mad moments when we just thought ‘why not?’ Anyone that knows me may be laughing right now - I am not particularly light of foot and I possess probably the furthest thing from ninja-like instincts as you can get! However, I went with that time-honoured phrase ‘Carpe Diem’!
So why am I taking this on?
I would still be next to useless in an actual conflict situation, and I am not taking these classes to become a prize-winning black belt fighter. I don’t think I’ll be giving Jackie Chan a run for his money any time soon. Relatively speaking – I am truly awful. Yet despite all of this - I love it. Being challenged every week, taking on something new and celebrating improvements week on week is hugely rewarding - and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Our School Ethos
As we start a new term and new lessons we consider the question, what makes a ‘Greenfield Learner’? Amongst many great answers that children and staff could come up with, my best suggestion is that a Greenfield Learner is someone who is simply willing. Someone who is willing to try their best, even in their least favourite subject. Someone who is willing to learn from others, even those younger than themselves. Someone who is not afraid to fail, make mistakes or do badly but, most of all, someone who can appreciate their progress, however small or slow. Being a successful learner is all about our attitude and mindset - we should be constantly willing and eager to learn new things.
Learning New Skills
We have started a new subject in Year Three this year - Life Skills. These Life Skills lessons focus on helping our children understand that there are certain skills they will need to navigate life - writing an email, making an emergency phone call, tying a shoelace - showing them the wide variety of options they have for future careers and also how they can make the world a better place by using their talents and learning to help others. When I was considering where to start these lessons, I kept coming back to the same idea - we all have to be willing to learn.
So, the first lesson was about just that. We talked about how important it is to have a positive mindset towards learning new things. Inspired by my new karate hobby, in one of the classes we learned how to count to ten in Japanese. Another class learned how to count to ten in Ukrainian, spurred on by our lovely Ukrainian children who have come to Greenfield.
We also talked about the fact that we all learn differently - everyone sees learning in a slightly different way, but reaching the same goal. At the end of one lesson, we decided the only thing that really matters is that we all have a desire and willingness to learn new things. If we maintain this attitude we will be nothing but successful in life.
In the classroom, I am always learning new things from the children: how to pronounce the name of Hindu god or goddess that I have been pronouncing wrong for years; what life was like in the trenches in WW1 in gory detail (rotten toes and holes in feet); a new and lovely way to show kindess to a fellow human being; and how many ways there are to make a free-standing photo frame. You would not believe the interesting and original ways Year Three children discover to make a free-standing photo frame using K’nex...! Each year I think I’ve seen every possible design, and then they show me that I have no idea as to the breadth and depth of learning and creativity they possess. I am sure we have some budding ‘Dyson-esque’ designers in our midst.
Greenfield Learners – Not just the children!
As adults, we are in the privileged position of being able to choose what we want to learn to a certain degree. We have done our schooling and usually do not have to do any more ‘learning’ as such. But, as has often been said, we should be life-long learners and I ascribe wholeheartedly to this philosophy. Trying new things and learning different skills is hugely beneficial to us for many different reasons; personal development, enrichment and fulfilment, career advancement, physical and mental health, social interaction and our well-being in general.
It is also vital that we are setting a good example to our children. Whilst they will not necessarily exceed in all their learning it is merely the fact they are learning that is important. We need to be showing them that any learning should be something to embrace at any age. Learning should be a challenge, it should sometimes push us out of our comfort zone, it should allow us to fail (spectacularly at times) but it should also be fun, sociable, hugely rewarding and just part of everyday life.
Embracing a Learning Curve
I enjoy karate every week as for me, it is something completely different; pushing myself totally outside my comfort zone. I enjoy the social aspect of doing an activity with my daughter, and other equally inept middle-aged adults who are also happy to laugh at themselves when they get it wrong; but we all find pride in jumping over each hurdle, however small.
Our learning is not always chosen, and it does not always turn into success or a huge passion for the subject. But that is not the point. The point of learning is to become our best selves, to be proud of what we learn and our achievements (and even our failures) and to find those areas in life that we love. Our learning does not even have to be enjoyable, and sometimes it takes huge effort. All of us had a very steep learning curve to face during lockdown and, although I doubt many of us would want to repeat it, the whole experience has empowered us with the ability to cope in similar situations. It has made us adaptable (case in point, our school power cut recently – it was very straightforward for staff and children to return briefly to virtual learning).
Learning as a Community
To confirm my thoughts about Greenfield Learners, I asked my esteemed colleagues to share some of their recent learning experiences – and they proved me right. From skydiving, dancing, boxing, painting and more, I discovered that Greenfield staff embody the phrase “you never stop learning” as they shared the challenges they have taken on outside of their work.
Enjoy reading a few of their stories below and I hope you will be inspired to try something new this year. I challenge all of you, young and old, to always have a positive attitude to learning new things, whether it is at school, home, work, or within the community and whether it is enforced or chosen. Who knows what successes you will find or passions you will stir simply by being willing to embrace a new venture. And, who knows, I may see some of you at the Dojo!
Head of Design Technology and Religious Education
Mrs Thakrar (Year 2 Teacher):
I have been working on my inversions in Yoga - a new skill for me! As you can see, I am still quite close to the wall!
Mrs Botting (Headmistress):
I am learning Italian!
Mrs Goodwill (Head of Art):
I recently tried to learn piano and read music. I had some lessons with poor Mr Gilder who gave me the second beginners book and I borrowed a keyboard. Some of the Greenfield children were bemused seeing me having similar lessons to them.
Sadly, I didn't continue playing but I did find learning to read music very interesting, it was a completely different language. What is important is that I tried it and gave it my best.
Mrs Shepherd (Early Years TA):
I recently completed a 15,000 feet skydive!
Mrs Lavery (TA and Sports Coach):
Keeping up the amateur acting I do from time to time, I recently attended an acting class to learn how to 'become' a character i.e. acting naturalistically. I even achieved a gold medal from Lamda for my acting!
Miss Baker (Head of Maths):
Like Mrs Shepherd, I recently completed a skydive! The PGL residential is to blame! Having to encourage children on the residential to climb to the top of a tower, I had to encourage some of them to attempt it by doing it myself. After getting a little fearful at the top and imagining myself being stuck there until the fire brigade had to come to the rescue, I did make it down in one piece and was forever cured of my fear of heights. So obviously the next step was to jump out of a plane!
Mr Upcott (Year 3 Teacher):
I undertook a 6 month bee keeping course! Still don’t have any bees of my own but I hope to one day.
Mrs Johnson (English Teacher):
I took up tap dancing and learning to play the saxophone a few years ago. Both sadly on hold since the pandemic, but at least I made a start!
Mr Butler (Year 3 Teacher):
Where do I start? I recently plucked up the courage to indulge my passion for amateur dramatics... and to my great surprise I won the award for 'Best Supporting Actor' at this year’s Woking Drama Festival!
Spurred on by this, I replied to an advert on the internet, and after a brief audition, I now find that I am the lead singer of an 80s rock band!
I am bracketing it all under the heading: Mid-life crisis!
Mr Taylor (HLTA and Sports Coach)
I recently learned to juggle... and here's the proof!
Mrs McRandal (SENCo):
Triggered by the ukulele club Mrs Snowden-Brown started, I started learning the ukulele - I loved it! I don't do it nearly as much now, but I was hooked and taught myself a fair few songs for a while. It made me feel very proud of myself! I still pick it up and try to do more when I have time. I can still do Bruno Mars's Count On Me the whole way through!
Mr Lovejoy (Head of Science and Computing):
I've been dabbling in oil painting every now and then... I did a lot of art at school and university, but not oils, so that was new for me.
I also took up the drums over lockdown - never played them before and it is surprisingly tricky! Getting your arms and legs doing different things simultaneously is problematic for someone who does not multitask well!
Miss Heredge (Learning Enrichment TA):
After years of running and completing the London marathon 4 times, I had such a bad Achilles issue that my consultant said I would probably never run again. Obviously this was very upsetting as it was just about my favourite thing to do. I persisted though and can run again although not great distances and not without pain.
However, knowing that my competitive running days were over, I felt I should try and learn a new skill and therefore have been training towards a Hyrox competition in Manchester at the end of this month. This involves 8 separate 1km runs interspersed with activities like sled pushing, sled pulling, weighted lunges, ski-machine and rowing. Basically it involved learning other skills and weight training, not something I would have ever considered until my injury forced me to.
Mrs Bunyan (Head of Pre-Prep):
I have been boxing for 10 year now and had 3 bouts. One was a title fight at an Open Championship. I came off rather worse for wear and was completely put off at the time but when I think about it now I am so proud of myself for having the courage to get in the ring.
Mrs Mayes (Year 6 Teacher):
I’ve just started doing quick cryptic crosswords over the last 6 months. I’m kind of addicted! I’ve done two a day during the holidays. Although I’m far from quick, and my husband helps me or I help him. We find the more brains involved the better. So sometimes my daughter also joins in and when we visit my in-laws they also do it with us. A bit geeky but I love it. It’s part of my "growing old gracefully" plan!
Mrs Rust (Head of Admissions):
This year I've preached more often at my church... preaching is very out of my comfort zone but it's a good opportunity to embrace something new, even if it doesn’t always fit with the deep-rooted ideas we have about our own skills and talents.