Foretelling the future

SMUS-Views-Bob

How useful is it to know that the sun will come up tomorrow?

This past Tuesday, one of our Middle School students sang the song “Tomorrow” from Annie. In the first week of March, the Middle School will be presenting Annie on stage for our enjoyment, and I can guarantee you will want to try and see it. The previous week, the Senior School students will be presenting The Secret Garden, and in the spirit of never having too much of a good thing, everyone should try and see it also.

In the song “Tomorrow”, we learn that even if things were bad today, at least we know that the sun will come up tomorrow. Prepared with a contradictory weather forecast, we might dispute this statement, but in principle the song is right – if not tomorrow, then one of these days the sun will come up. There are experts, of course, who will try to foretell more than the sunrise, and they appear in every newspaper, on television, radio and the internet.

This is a time of year for thinking about tomorrow, making resolutions, and at least trying to influence the future if not predict it. In the same Chapel as we heard “Tomorrow”, I observed that in a school, we are very focused on tomorrow; the students under our wing will shape it. I wonder if there is a field of endeavour that takes tomorrow more seriously.

Ironically, the best approach to tomorrow seems to be to focus on the things that don’t change, and have a good chance of enduring. Secondly, we know that there are going to be surprises, so our students need to be prepared for surprises and resilient in the face of them. We also know that some of the things we were sure about are going to disappoint us.

As much as education likes books and study, the most useful learning seems to involve experiences rather than theory. Experiences (students in Grade 9, thinking of their Grade 10 program, might want to look at our Experiential Program) contain all the complexity the future contains, and isn’t stripped down like theory is. Like sports, the arts, service, the outdoor program, leadership activities, the academic program in a school like ours that considers the future thoughtfully is going to develop classroom practices that are less about study and books and listening to the teacher, and more about doing things. This is a powerful step in discovering the promise in our selves and the world.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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