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Norwich School Blog

Head Master's End of Term Address, March 2019

Friday 29 March 2019

Head Master's End of Term Address


We come to the end of another busy Norwich School term. As you have seen in the two presentation assemblies, there have been plenty of high points. However, there have also been moments of real difficulty in parts of our community. Most of the actions which caused these difficulties took place away from Cathedral Close, but there is no doubt that their consequences were felt by pupils, families and staff here. The interconnectedness of a school community in the 21st century has been reinforced for me: the blurring of distinctions between home and school, online and the real world, weekend and weekday, term and holiday. The values of the school and the people who attend it do not exist simply 8.25am-4.00pm, Monday to Friday.

These reflections remind me of a model of different learning spaces in education which I have mentioned before: it comes from the Australian educationalist, David Thornburg, and refers to campfires, watering holes and caves. For Thornburg:

Campfire The campfire is a space where people gather to learn from an expert. In the days of yore, wise elders passed down insights through storytelling, and in doing so replicated culture for the next generation.

Watering Hole The watering hole is an informal space where peers can share information and discoveries, acting as both learner and teacher simultaneously.

Caves The cave is a private space where an individual can think, reflect, and transform learning from external knowledge to internal belief.

Obvious comparisons in a Norwich School context might equate the campfire with the classroom, the watering hole with tutorials or the refectory, and the cave with the place where you do homework. However, there is a way of compartmentalising lessons to incorporate all three of these learning processes and one could argue that the power of the internet age is that you can summon up endless campfire and watering hole situations at the touch of a button.

As we come to a welcome holiday at the end of this intense term, I encourage you to reflect on a balance of different activities in the upcoming three weeks; what will be your equivalents of the campfires, watering holes and caves from Thornburg’s model? I encourage you to try to find situations where you can learn from people who know more than you, situations where you can interact with peers to exchange views and information,

situations where you have space to reflect and absorb new experiences. Avoid the temptation to see the next three weeks simply as cave time, revising relentlessly or reverting to an online world in your bedroom for hours on end. Keep a balance and keep at least one foot in the real world.

The Thornburg model recalls primitive man to make observations about how humans learn and interact. I think it captures something of the social importance of school communities as learning environments because the richest models involve a combination of instruction, interaction and internalisation. Some of this is best done, most vividly done in the real world and cannot be accomplished as effectively by individuals or by digitisation.

This set me thinking about universal human languages and communication systems, activities which span time, distance and cultures, activities which are irreducibly real. It is striking how common it is for human societies to think about big issues such as mortality, fertility and divinity. It is also noticeable that they often express their reactions through the media of images, music and/or dance. We all know how important art and music are to our community here at Norwich School, certainly through our hymn singing here, but also the myriad creative opportunities available elsewhere; only yesterday the Unsigned group of singer-songwriters and the Writers Bloc group of poets went on a trip to the Coldplay studios. I should like to invite you to reflect on movement and dance as another universal human language. In an increasingly online world, it is a form of irreducibly physical expression which we can all do and to which we can all respond.

I hope you can either see the stage or a screen; do move if that is not the case. Dance certainly has the ability to entertain and cheer us up. I am going to invite members of the Senior Dance Games option to perform a routine from the recent Dance Show. It is called When you’re an Addams and was choreographed by Stephen Knights…

Thank you. I love the sense of fun from this dance, as well as its impressive teamwork and technical prowess. However, dance also has the power to provoke and move us with different emotions, to provide quieter reflection or to offer a window on sadness or anxiety. We are now going to see a two-hander of a markedly different tone. This is Leave a Light On, choreographed and performed by Ellie Hayward and Emily Wallace…

Thank you. Finally, dance has the ability to surprise and one of my favourite things at Norwich School is when pupils show you a talent that you had no idea about…

Thank you to Bradley Beales who choreographed and performed the piece called Body Pop, and to all our dancers this afternoon.

Do maintain a balance of activities during this holiday and keep yourselves at least partly rooted in the real world. I hope you all have a restful three weeks.