Arriving at St John‘s has been an incredible learning curve for me and my family. Aside from the obvious things such as learning to drive and ride our bikes on the other side of the road, and the challenge of being surrounded by a new language, there have been countless little differences between life in Belgium and life in the UK: cream in dinky little bottles, very few post boxes, red squirrels in the garden, some kind of sticker system for when you go to the doctor. There has been much to take in!
As an educationalist, the notion of life long learning is often cited as an aspirational goal for our students; we wish to spark that hunger for learning so that it becomes an integral, ongoing part of their lives into adulthood. I certainly feel that I am embodying this philosophy at the moment!
But why does it really matter? Why is the concept of lifelong learning so desirable? I think the answer is twofold. Firstly, by continually striving to learn, we are continually stretching and extending ourselves: through new skills and ideas, our brains and our bodies are kept agile. There should always be a place in our lives for enquiry, for books, for knowledge and new skills.
Secondly, and rather importantly, we avoid the adult trap of thinking we know everything. We are open to other people’s thoughts, opinions and views. We demonstrate humility and understand that just because we are older, that doesn’t necessarily make us wiser.
I was therefore really delighted when I chanced upon our youngest learners earlier in the week in the Timbertops garden, all with their wellington boots on and gathered around the vegetable patch, hanging on to every word from Mrs O‘Neill. They were looking at their rather gorgeous crop of pumpkins that had been planted earlier in the year, now bursting with autumnal harvest colours. Mrs O‘Neill was explaining and demonstrating the way that the pumpkin stalks were all prickly as a deterrent to slugs and snails. For me, this was the first time that I had really thought about the prickly stalks on certain plants, but it made perfect sense. For the children, they were learning something years ahead of me and without knowing it, were absorbing some of the core principles of Darwin and adaptation. And just like the children, I wanted to touch the stalk and feel how off-putting it would be to a passing snail. We are all lifelong learners at different points of the journey!