November always seems to me the Norway of the year.Emily Dickinson
November. We are most definitely in the grip of deepest November. The clocks have gone back, the rain is falling and the temperature is dropping. There are leaves on the line. Those who cycle to school are trying to find their gloves to break the chill air as hands grip frigid bicycle handlebars. Hedgehogs are scurrying around making the last improvements to their winter hibernation dens. Sometimes I think that we would do well to follow their good example and take a few cold months off before reappearing in the spring. That said, such an approach would mean that we would miss one of the most important parts of the year for learning.
Academically, November is a key month in a pupil’s learning journey. A time when there is a good run of uninterrupted school days where progress can be made. It is not without its challenges. Tiredness, coughs and colds and the longer nights are not always helpful to a pupil looking to make progress. We are far enough away from the start of the year for both pencils and ambitions to be blunted, whilst the end of term is still too far away for serious contemplation. The message is a simple one at this time of year, use this time as effectively as you possibly can. Don’t let efforts drop off, keep levels of enthusiasm high and make the most of the lessons that you have. This week I was delighted to read that our extra-curricular programme is well supported with 75% of Junior School pupils enjoying activities and 82% of Senior School pupils engaging in learning outside of the classroom. Such laudable levels of engagement need to be kept up even during the darker evenings of November. Those who have chosen their subjects wisely and have followed their interests will find this no great hardship. This is perhaps a good time to remind ourselves that we succeed when we choose to study the subjects that excite our interests.
A few years ago we were visited by British polar explorer Mark Wood . Those who were fortunate enough to hear what he had to say will remember that his message was a simple one. Distilling all he had learned on expeditions to the Poles and up the world’s highest mountains he gave our young people a very good piece of advice – just keep going. Simply putting one foot in front of another is the key to making progress. The Norwegian explorer, philosopher, art connoisseur and publisher Erling Kagge also offers a good deal of ice-born wisdom in the excellent Philosophy for Polar Explorers . I particularly benefitted from his thoughts about getting up early, enjoying small helpings and accepting failure. Most of all his chapter on resetting your compass strikes a chord at this time of year. Here Kagge tells us that we must always learn, we must never limit ourselves to the achievement of only one goal, we must always be kind and we should always feel a sense of gratitude for the advantages that we enjoy. Even in November. Do wrap up warm.