Learning from experience and history

Tougher Minds Head of Education Andrew Foster has been out and about this week and relates the experiences he enjoyed to three aspects of the Tougher Minds programme.

Baby Brigand, Marika the Witch, Cock of the East, Pork and Onions, Ape in Uniform Prince from the Dirt and three False Dmitiris…

The cast of characters from Simon Sebag Montefiore’s new history of the Russian royal family The Romanovs tells you that as much as Game Of Thrones may have appeared to push the boundaries, real life was providing outlandish tales long before George R.R. Martin picked up a pen.

It was an absolute treat on Monday to be able to see Simon live in conversation with his fellow historian, Professor Kate Williams. Thinking about how good it was prompted three further reflections each of which relate to teaching, learning and the Tougher Minds programme.

1) Simon’s mastery of his subject is inspirational. At all times he was engaging, erudite, insightful and yet also relaxed and even playful. This is despite early technical problems that resulted in one of the audience clawing aside the main screen above the stage to complain directly to Simon and Kate that it was blocking his and his companions’ view. Young people should take note of what is possible when we pay sustained attention to a subject. The level of expertise we can develop is almost limitless and accruing that knowledge and understanding is one of the best ways we can spend the time we have.

2) Teachers will always organise excursions but we should perhaps think more about how best to prompt our pupils to attend events such as these of their own volition. When we consider why access to elite universities continues to be an issue, one reason is the need to develop an interest beyond the bounds of the curriculum, and occasions such as Monday night offer just that. This is particularly the case in London where the range of events is as great as anywhere in the world.

3) On a very basic level, evenings such as Mondays rely on our ability to delay gratification and endure hassle in the short term for a longer-term reward. My thanks go to Craig Foxall (AKA @COLFESMedia) for purchasing the tickets before Christmas. Come the evening, Storm Imogen and delays on the trains made it tempting for one of our party to drop out. But he persevered and afterwards commented on how glad he was that he did. If we and our pupils are to enjoy our lives to the full, we need to win as many of those little battles as possible. As tempting as the sofa is, often we can do better with our time.

I am very much looking forward to our event at the Institute of Education on the 10th March because it will be an opportunity to share our expertise with parents across London. I hope as many parents and children as possible will be able to join us, and that they will use what they learn not just to be better prepared for examinations. Thanks again to Simon Sebag Montefiore for the reminder of what is possible.

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