It is often said that we learn from the past, but how often do we take the opportunity to reflect on years gone by? With all this talk of connecting in education, do any of us take the time to connect with ourselves, our past, our present and our possible future, and the impact that life has had, and will have on our identity?
At a recent boarding school reunion, I reconnected with many friends and was able to reflect on the impact that boarding school had on my identity. One friend, Soo Bee explained to me how she had always felt that she didn’t belong anywhere. She no longer identified strongly with Malaysia her country of birth, and had always felt like an outsider in Melbourne her home for nearly thirty years. It was through returning to the boarding school that was her home in her formative years and connecting with her past, that she was able to make sense of her identity and through this gain a sense of belonging.
Soo Bee’s journey enabled me to connect with my past and through this connection I came to understand how boarding school had influenced me and my identity. In brief boarding school was a crash course on the key competencies. I had to manage myself, I had to learn to relate to others from diverse backgrounds, I had to participate and contribute, thinking was essential, as was understanding language, symbols and texts. I discovered that my identity was strongly linked to my time at boarding school and the independence that I gained through living away from home.
I spent two nights with old friends at my old boarding school. It had been a very long time since we had all gathered together to share laughter and fun. I took away with me a better understanding of my identity and a clear direction for my teaching. If I can embed the key competencies through my teaching, I will provide an environment where my students can connect with their own past and develop their own strong identity thus enabling them to achieve success in whatever future they choose for themselves.