Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Passion projects, risk taking, and creativity

This is the text from my address to the junior school in assembly this morning.


Ki te kura te Huruhuru Ao o Horomaka - tena koe

‘Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu’
‘Feathers enable the bird to fly’

I’m maybe not much of a poetry person. My university creative writing work saw my lower marks in writing poetry, and higher marks writing short stories. However I have a number of fave poems, and I thought I’d read done of these to you today. For staff present here today, my apologies because you will hear this in my prize giving speech too..  ao be warned.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

You may remember me talking to you last term about how learning is changing. I’ve talked about the kinds of skills we need for our future. Teachers are still your guides, they are still a source of knowledge, but they are no longer the only source of knowledge, as they were thought to be fifty or a hundred years ago.

I’ve also talked many times about our vision as a school, to be ‘a centre of creative excellence’. In thinking about what it takes to become that centre of creative excellence, we decided that being prepared to take risks was really important. That suggestion, by the way, came from the student rep on the Board of Trustees at the time. Whenever we try to be creative we have to take risks. We all put ourselves up there in front of others in a way that invites comment, and maybe criticism.

And creativity is really important to our way of causing learning at Hornby High School: our ‘Learn Create Share’ approach to learning. In educational jargon, we talk about ‘student engagement’. This is our way of talking about how interested in your work you are, about how connected to your learning you are, about how enthusiastic you are about your learning. And when we are following our passions, we are more likely to be engaged with what we are doing.

Where am I going with all of this?

Over the coming weeks you will be challenged in quite a different way, as we introduce something entirely new to Hornby High School: ‘passion projects’. These are projects devised as a result of asking you what you would like to do, asking staff what they would like to do, and then putting the two together.  The projects invite you to “follow your passion”, to attempt something that you find really interesting, something about which you (hopefully) have a passion. Why? Because when we are passionate about something we are more likely to take risks, we are more likely to be creative.

For us as a staff, this represents a big risk, because it’s not the way we have done things before. Similarly, for you it represents a risk because it’s not the way you have done things in school before. Our own journey to these passion projects begana couple of years ago when Mr Aitken asked us to take risks by trying a concept called Project based Learning. We didn’t flinch. He didn’t flinch. And neither should you.

And let’s not forget that when we take risks, that means that sometimes we fail. But failure is useful, as it tells us what didn’t work, and therefore gives us an insight into what might work better next time. There’s that famous Thomas Edison quote. Edison was inventor of a huge number of different things we take for granted, amongst which was the first lightbulb. The myth says that he tried 10000 different ways before he was successful, and of that he said:

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

We all need to draw upon our school values as we take these risks, we all need to show Commitment, Achievement,. Resilience, and Respect, in the face of either success or failure. You may fail. Be resilient - get back up and try again. Be committed to your end goal, stay the course, don’t flinch in the face of challenge.

This commitment to taking risks, takes us a little closer to our vision as ‘a centre of creative excellence’.

‘Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu’

Robin Sutton