Passionately Curious

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Pulitzer prize winner Mark Van Doren, who was a Professor of English at Columbia University for many years, remarked that ‘The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.’   Without an opportunity to explore previously unknown fields, who amongst us would know they had a talent for speaking Russian, for playing the harp, for slalom canoeing, for designing bridges or any of the other fascinating careers or hobbies which have been discovered and pursued on the back of an introduction from someone sharing their passion?

Last Saturday we were delighted to welcome a stream of five to seven year old girls to the Junior School’s ‘Find Your Passion’ event.’ The first in a series of such mornings, it was designed to share with others in our community the sorts of experiences Abbey students regularly enjoy, both within the curriculum and as part of our enrichment opportunities.  Those who came along on Saturday relished the chance to participate in drumming, dance and drama workshops based on The Lion King.  Future ‘Find Your Passion’ events at the Junior School will offer insights into the specialist provision for robotics, coding and computing, science, modern foreign languages and sport here at The Abbey.

One of the keys to unlocking the full potential of our children lies in encouraging them to unearth and explore their passions at school and beyond.  It will come as no surprise to hear that I have been passionate about music since early childhood.  I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with lots of music and this sparked an interest for me.  Along with my piano lessons, it was at school that this passion really flourished, from early forays into recorder playing and school choirs, to concerts, ensembles and cathedral tours during school holidays.  Without the shared passion and generous encouragement of those who taught me along the way I wonder whether I would have gone on to find such pleasure in music, and the social connections arising from this?

Here in the Junior School our students are encouraged to discover their passions right from the outset of their educational journey.  Every member of the class participates in a form assembly each year from Nursery upwards and taking part in productions is an important part of school life, whether on stage or behind the scenes developing an interest in lighting, sound, creating backdrops or any of the myriad roles which contribute to successful performances right through the school.  Indeed, this early exploration has led to some of our students taking up the opportunity to act in professional theatre productions during their time at school and beyond.  Our specialist teaching teams have nurtured passions and we count, for example, experts in cyber security among those who have benefited from what The Abbey is able to offer and have gone on to forge successful careers in fields they might not otherwise have considered.

Passion-driven learning instils a lifelong thirst for knowledge and when students engage in activities they are passionate about, motivation comes naturally.  Intrinsic motivation is a powerful force that propels students to excel in their chosen pursuits, fuelling a desire to learn and grow.  This is reflected in the recent scholarship applications of a number of our Lower III students.  Their aspirations at scholarship level mirror their individual passions and reflect their desire to develop these further.

Pursuing a passion often involves overcoming challenges and solving problems.  By honing critical thinking skills and learning to approach obstacles with resilience and creativity, students foster a sense of ownership over their education and are eventually equipped to navigate real world challenges with courage.

Throughout the school every class, every day features the Abbey IP: the Ideas and Passion that make this the most exhilarating and joyous learning environment there is.  Providing opportunities for our students to discover, explore and become skilled operators in their individual areas enables them to step into the real world with confidence, purpose and joy.

As Einstein said, ‘I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.’

Sacha Heard, Assistant Head/DSL, Abbey Junior School

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