Education is an all-consuming passion. And whilst passion is a good thing – wonderful even – it must be handled wisely. Left to fend for itself, passion never lasts – not unless you give it cause. You have to work at it; you have to be inventive, open-minded, challenging. You must never take it for granted.
Passion also needs to come with a health warning: it can sometimes so consume us that we can become all too focused on the object of our desire and lose our sense of perspective. When education is the passion, it is the demands of our day to day work that keep us chained; we focus on the things that are immediately in front of us – the next deadline, the next set of grades, the next unit of work to be taught or skill to be coached – and we fail to look up and see what else is going on that might be relevant, or helpful, or inspiring. We miss the chance to see the very thing or things that might feed and sustain our passion further still.
So, with education as the object of my affections, this February half-term week, I find myself with 11 colleagues from Cheadle Hulme School on a short-stop trip to Boston and New York, visiting three other schools (Phillip’s Exeter, Riverdale County and KIPP) and Harvard University. We had tried to visit before, in October, but were defeated by the might of a hurricane; this time, it was a snow storm of epic proportions that threatened, but we are here.
Avoiding the quips of ‘that sounds like a nice jolly’ and similar, it is a trip that is provoking much debate and discussion amongst the visiting party. When planning for the visit I hoped that the schools that we would visit, the lessons we would see, the teachers we would speak to and the pupils we would meet would challenge us in such a way that we would reflect and debate on our own philosophies and priorities in education. And that is precisely what is happening; away from the melee of the School day, with its frantic pace and several expectations, we are finding the time for real debate and discussion.
The institutions that we are visiting are quite extraordinary: they are humbling to some degree and have prompted us to see much that is new, or simply different. And in difference comes the opportunity to refresh ourselves.
However, it is not the extraordinary schools that we are seeing that are acting as my true inspiration point – it is the CHS colleagues in whose company I find myself. Thoughtful, eager to learn, engaging and open-minded, they are testament to the excellence that CHS can boast as being synonymous with its staff, both teaching and non-teaching. This is the message I hear from many a prospective parent as I ask them about what has impressed them: the simple answer ‘Your staff’ comes back time and again.
We are right to be passionate about education. Education matters. Being able to share that passion makes it all the more special.
Head, Lucy Pearson