Love. Wisdom. Truth.
These three words are our school motto and define our values at Dolphin School. Love – having and showing love for one another – being outwardly encouraging towards anyone and everyone. Wisdom – a love for learning and academic excellence, mental and spiritual growth. Truth – having the courage to be honest with yourself, understand your thoughts and mobilise your sense of self worth to motivate, aspire and dream.
In recent years children have been, and continue to be, put through the mangle in their global, local, online and offline worlds. For our older pupils and teenagers at secondary school, these worlds have already merged – the noise from the news, social media, parents and friends can be deafening at worst, confusing at best.
We are not long out of a global pandemic where pupils learnt new words such as self-isolate – the idea that humans have to choose or are told to withdraw from society and not see our grandparents, our friends or do something as simple as go to a supermarket or a cafe. Some children I’ve worked with in previous schools enjoyed wearing masks as it gave them the security from the world – allowed them to internalise and control their self-expression. We won’t know the visceral effect of the pandemic on children for a long time. If ever. Now, they are faced with words such as invasion, shelling, violence, nuclear, refuge or shelter – words which conjure the real and terrifying images of being forced to withdraw from your world, to run, escape and seek sanctuary.
As parents and educators we face the challenge (and opportunity) of supporting our children through this fast paced and ever changing world. The additional layers of understanding our children have embraced has been inspirational to watch – the agility they show in accepting and dealing with change, their compassion and foresight to tackle discrimination and bias, accepting that the world isn’t perfect. They seem to navigate their way through the challenges with an entirely different mindset than perhaps we may have done. They know the world has complexities from a young age.
At Dolphin School, it’s clear that the very thing that binds us together in adversity are values. Values create standards of care, human connections, respect and support for each other. Values ensure that not only do teachers stop and support the children and each other, but children also do this for each other and the staff. Parents are outwardly encouraging and support each other, their children and our staff. Values create relationships and uphold the very thing we yearn for in society; positive and meaningful contact and connections with those around us. Everyone in the entire school knows each other’s name. It’s striking to see this in an independent school with two nurseries – striking to comprehend that the sense of community and the value in community is so strong.
During our weekly Friday assembly, the senior team speaks to the whole school – the children, the staff and the parents at once.We unpack salient themes from the bible, values and our beliefs in humanity. We sing happy birthday, praise and commend our pupils for their successes. We are a Christian school and we unpack Christian beliefs in a modern world, and those parents and children who are not Christian still hold the same values – Love. Wisdom. Truth.
A parent once said to me “I know that my children will be successful in life, whatever they do or wherever they end up. I just want them to get there in one piece”. This phrase struck me at the time and continues to shape my approach to education to this day. We have a responsibility to instil values in children which not only stand the test of time, but are also applicable today to shape them into responsible citizens. Dolphin School children programme robots, they sing, write poetry, compete on the sports field (our girls are particularly feisty footballers) dance or solve equations – all that you expect them to do. They are subtly ambitious, thirsty for knowledge and yet humble with their friends and peers. Dolphin School children do not need to compete with each other for their senior schools, to be the most popular or for their teacher’s attention.
This school is not a plantation for academic success, but a natural ecosystem in which all children are nourished, given space and time to grow, and learn under the protection of our canopy. If a plant isn’t thriving, you change its environment, not the plant itself – we are a greenhouse, not a hothouse. It is this reason that our pupils do get there in one piece and senior school head teachers often reflect that they know a Dolphin School pupil when they see one.
In the history of Dolphin School, never have these three words meant so much. Love. Wisdom. Truth.