Amongst the more obvious benefits of being on holiday, it is a great time to enjoy some proper unencumbered without distraction thinking time. Time to think imaginatively and objectively about ‘things’ which you simply don’t have any head space for during term time such is the bubble-like nature of school life, particularly in a boarding school environment like Knighton. I once heard working in a boarding school likened to submarine life submerging at the start of term and come up for air in the holidays. I think the analogy is a fair one. Being able to step away from your work environment from time to time allows this all-important time to think, to reflect and to plan.
Over the holidays, I read lots of articles in magazines, newspapers, journals and online particularly to do with education which are often a stimulus for further thought and investigation.
One particular article at the weekend ran a headline, ‘Are you in a comfort trap?’, and continued, ‘are self-care, safe spaces and a box set of binges turning us all into snowflakes?’ The inference being that increasingly we are risk averse preferring if we can to take the least uncomfortable route rather than the more challenging and difficult one. Perhaps instead we should be embracing the new trend for ‘positive discomfort’ which can also be a stimulus for growth and strength. Should we be putting ourselves into situations which make us uncomfortable, even unhappy, in order for that sense of fulfilment and achievement afterwards might make us a better stronger person.
According to the article, one example of positive discomfort therapy meant sitting around in a group – ‘circling’ – asking each-other uncomfortable searching questions and sharing their perceptions of each-other. A bit of soul searching from time to time does us all good and we shouldn’t shy away from difficult questions.
On the flip side as the saying goes, “A ship in the harbour is safe”, is all very well but it is not what ships are built for.
In the article, Kathy Bishop, deputy foresight editor at the Trend Forecasting Agency, The Future Laboratory, says, “we have to experience the bad stuff and learn how to deal with it, to be able to engage and strengthen our responses to real life’. I don’t think any of us would disagree that in order to enjoy the good things in life you have to experience the bad stuff as well.
Bringing this all back to how it is relevant to school I can think of many examples where the girls are set challenges which put them out of their comfort zone. In fact, it is a daily occurrence as they move through a school day. We don’t dress them up as positive discomfort events, they just happen. In a natural way this builds their resilience and in turn confidence to have a go. Having a ‘can do’ attitude is not just the preserve of a Boris Johnson led government!
Watching and listening to some of our Year 8 girls deliver a presentation on their design of a cooking pot for Nepalese women at the final of the Soroptimist International Bournemouth STEM Challenge in April (which they won) revealed an inner strength and character which said a great deal about their ability to embrace a difficult situation calmly and with impressive command of the situation.
One of Knighton’s wonderful charms is being able to preserve a proper childhood and keep children younger for longer before they leave to step out into the unchartered waters of the sea away from the safe confines of the harbour. This is absolutely our ethos and one that we should protect and nurture.
Of course, there is still a place for ‘positive discomfort’ at school. The bottom line is that life is tough and in order to be rounded well adjusted human beings we do need to go through some discomfort from time to time. How we do this continues to be the big challenge.