During my recent visits to classrooms I came across a Year 9 Myths and Legends class. Whilst in the classroom I struck up a very interesting conversation with two of the boys. The conversation was ignited by me asking the boys whether they had chosen this class, or if it was one that was allocated to them. Both boys were enthusiastic in their response, wanting to inform me of their passion for, and love of history. This in itself was wonderful to hear, but I wanted to know where their love of history had sprung from, given that many of us had our interest in history killed at some point by the demands of rote learning dates and names in the name of learning history. The boys were able to reflect on the values of studying history, of understanding the context of what happened and why it happened and most importantly learning from history to make the future world a better place.
In light of everything that has been taking place in recent times around the world, I began to ponder; do we in fact learn from history, our experiences or the events of the past? I for one believe that we often struggle to make sense of our experiences and to learn from them. A reason for this is that in the busyness of our daily lives, we fail to reflect on our experiences or the events in our lives. We don’t take the time to internally process or examine an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which in turn prevents us from creating or clarifying meaning in terms of self, not allowing for a changed conceptual perspective.
I watch with interest the two big social issues of our time; the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, and the experiences we have all endured over the past few months as we encountered the COVID 19 pandemic. I wonder if we will ever learn.
The events of COVID 19 have had a profound impact on education, and whilst it has presented some very challenging issues, it has also thrown up some wonderful new initiatives and ideas on how students learn and how teachers teach. Working virtually has not been all doom and gloom. Many students and teachers have thrived in this environment. They have found that isolation measures have provided them with a sense of control, and have allowed the creative and tech savvy to flourish. Now I am certainly not for one second hinting that we should all move to a remote education, however what we should be doing is reflecting on the practices that I believe have enhanced the learning environment and explore ways of incorporating them into our mainstream teaching and learning programs. Over the coming months I will certainly be exploring with our Leadership team and staff the ways we can learn from the experiences of the past few months.
The second issue is perennial in nature, and I wonder if we will ever be able to resolve it. History shows us that in today’s context there were atrocities inflicted on many people, in particular on indigenous nations around the world. Some would argue that things haven’t changed all that much, and that these atrocities continue today, and hence the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has evolved. I observe what is happening and I question whether the actions of the protesters will help or hinder their cause. Whilst my support of equality and respect for all is unquestionable, I’m not sure burning buildings, defacing public property and attacking all police is the answer. In the circles I keep, I get the sense that in fact these actions are more divisive than they are productive. They set up blame games and an ‘us against them’ mentality, rather than inviting everybody into a dialogue to find solutions to the problems that exist. In many ways these actions repeat history.
History shows us that learning through experience is the best way to learn. Otherwise it wouldn’t be us who learned, but rather those who lived the experience providing the learning, and then us relying on others’ interpretations for our own learning.
Our best learning happens when we progress and grow by overcoming the difficulties and obstacles, reflecting on the mistakes and overcoming them both individually and as a community. If we reflect on past experiences or events we can learn not to fear mistakes, but to value them and not to repeat the same mistakes. Reflecting on experience engages our emotions as well as enhancing our knowledge and skills.
Sadly we cannot change the injustices of our predecessors, however, we need to acknowledge the mistakes made, learn from them and reflect on our own values. The events in America that gave life to this world-wide campaign should be seen as a starting point that has raised awareness of issues and highlighted the need for all of members of society to come together to look at ways to ensure these actions do not continue. By working collaboratively and showing respect to all, we can work towards a better future.
How will this period in history be viewed one hundred years into the future?