Snow day and slow education

I woke up to the radio
And the glare of a blanket of fallen snow…
It’s a snow day
Snow Day, Bleu

Snow daySnow Day. Two words guaranteed to raise a smile even with the most conscientious of students. A meteorological treat for the pupil who just needs to draw breath at the end of January if popster Bleu is to be believed. I hope that amongst the fun of constructing snowpersons and at least one snow bear, some learning was had on Wednesday. On Thursday we could not run our bus services so we were down on pupil numbers. These days provide some of the most exciting opportunities for creative education. I was lucky enough to be able to work with a Year 9 and Year 11 class at the same time. I normally teach the Year 9s but this time the Year 11s took the lead, they shared their skills in source analysis with the other pupils. They provided the technical knowhow while the Year 9s had the facts. It was a great lesson, nothing really to do with me, I only provided the materials. Education can come in many forms and I suspect that anyone looking carefully at the snow and ice this year will have learnt much about the wonders of the natural world. Learning can be best when it comes from an unexpected source. That said I was surprised on reading the suggestion that British shoe shop assistants are soon to be charged with providing basic arithmetic lessons in the summer holidays when fitting youngsters with their new shoes(1). Whilst I’m all for making the most of every learning opportunity I think this one might be a little optimistic.

Tomorrow, a dedicated band of thespians will meet to spend the day rehearsing for the Senior School show Grease. Again a fantastic opportunity for older pupils to set a great example to younger ones. More experienced performers will provide a lead for those in the chorus. In The Hague another example is to be found. A small group of students have been acting as the Australian delegation to the UN, a model one in this case but no less serious than the real thing. A place for Year 13s to show Year 10 and 11 students how to stand up in front of a packed lecture hall and make a thoughtful, well-constructed speech. And on Tuesday as the snow fell the jazz band were doing their thing in Le Vésinet. Once again an activity in which a cross section of the school community were found playing and learning together.

I’m not suggesting that we chuck it all in as teachers and let the students do it themselves. Indeed I’d never recommend ‘do it yourself’ education (I’m not keen on any form of DIY), but I do think that it isn’t a bad idea to just acknowledge the importance of student to student learning. Sometimes it is better to learn from someone who is slightly closer in age and experience. So if there is something good to come out of a snow day then this might be it.


Nicholas Hammond