What the best schools teach us?

I was very lucky – for most of my life, right up until I was 18, I was at the same marvelous, happy creative Girls’ school.  I totally loved my school; it was the very best place to be on earth.  I was free to be totally myself, accepted and tolerated and not driven to be a square peg in a round hole!  In other words, totally conforming to what is expected, or put on a conveyor belt to join some grey suited and booted brigade.

The pressure of achievement is something that although was important was never a priority – The school, sadly no longer in existence, was in the middle of the countryside in a magnificent, but rather battered large house.  We had stables stuffed with a variety of over-stuffed ponies. We could also keep small pets; most people went for guineapigs. This obscures the fact, that the Headmistress was very ambitious for the education of girls, and everyone who wanted to, sailed into a Russell Group University – we never under achieved it’s just we didn’t overachieve, for the sake of it, either. I speak for myself, but my school experience was wonderfully joyful, a happy place – fresh air, chestnut trees, cooing doves, and it was always summer (in my mind). You can see, a pair of rose-tinted glasses come in handy!

I wonder if the days are returning where we see that the world is complex and people have different talents? Can it return?  Can we see that in the new and emerging world, we need to be flexible and adaptable, nimble but we always need our health and wits about us, where being ambitious doesn’t just mean aiming to be a lawyer or working in a box for a corporate bank, and where being creative and creating our own life and employment and being wholly adaptable are instead key. Flourishing and excelling in unusual-ness!

Being able to be yourself, be ambitious but maverick, stems from a place of happiness, confidence and wellbeing.

Although wellbeing seems an obvious state, with no need for guidance, with the foundation of wellbeing (I would argue, being a nutritionist) being food, young people these days are in a wholly toxic food environment, surrounded by addictive and quick fix hits (sugar and carbs). I had two nice prep school boys (and their parents) to lunch the other day – and they had never seen a broad bean pod.  Really, at 10 years old?  Are they so busy achieving, 11 plus, more homework, that they don’t have time to actually live?

Where does wellbeing education actually start?  I think that it has got to start with leadership in schools; leaders putting on, and prioritizing “the oxygen mask” of health to help the rest, both teachers and pupils – the philosophy, passion and understanding of why it matters, must come from the top – the very people who think they have an exemption card from needing to prioritize their health – too, too busy!  Too busy to mess around with some woolly, nice to have solutions that get in the way of the sharp end of running that ambitious, results driven institution. In a fast-changing world, we may find that the only solid “currency” we are able to measure, it that of health, wellbeing and happiness.

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