An Impulsive Idea

The Head's Study

When my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly one of my more impulsive ideas was to take my Grade 8 piano exam. It was something I had never completed at school, my musical gift came from my mother and it felt like a way of remaining close to her in that first year of adjusting.

Over the coming year I lost myself in hour upon hour of practice and frustration. As you will know if you have tried it, things just do not stick in an adult’s brain as easily as they do in a child’s.

My holiday read this Easter, ‘Stolen Focus’ by Johann Hari, included a chapter on the importance of pushing ourselves with challenges, not something completely alien necessarily but more to pursue an interest to the edge of our comfort zone. To do this we need uninterrupted focus, something the author claims we are losing and which is a necessary part of wellbeing and strong mental health.

Our value for this term, over and above our over-arching value of kindness and treating others as we would wish to be treated, is focused on skills for the future. I suspect girls will not know how lucky they are with their music, dance, art, photography, textiles, DT, sport – all examples of challenges that we can only improve on with dedicated, uninterrupted focus that is enabled by studying these things at school. I also suspect they may not realise how beneficial these are to their mental health.

So what is stealing our focus? Tech obviously dominates much of the book but not for the purpose of self-flagellation. Yes, we need to control our use of it (no more so than now as we start the exam season) by: keeping our phone away from us when revising; removing distracting apps that encourage rabbit hole binging; and controlling our notifications so they do not interrupt our flow. However, Hari also calls for tech companies to reconsider their business plans: should it be all about profit or could the enabling, empowering benefits of technological advantages be the driver?

When my youngest child was born a few months after my scraping a pass in my piano exam it felt as though the circle of life was complete. What I now also recognise is that my total focus on learning and retaining some fiendishly difficult (to me) pieces had helped me heal. It was a skill for the future that I have returned to regularly and one which I hope to encourage your daughters to consider when we have our focus week later this term.