Ice, International Schools and Madame Doubtfire: a snapshot of a day, and a lesson in appreciation 

I derive great pleasure from the deep insights that come from making unexpected connections and links. Whilst I very much value (and enjoy creating) structure, organisation and routine, I robustly value the creative perspectives that emerge from changes and variations to daily patterns, because they add dimensions and layers of innovative understanding and appreciation to our world view, and they deepen – often breathtakingly – our human experience.

I have just returned home to Edinburgh after a day in Bath, judging the entries for the 2017 British International Schools Awards – a  really tough (but exciting) call, given the high quality and variety of the schools and the projects represented. The meeting alone, with its glimpses into brilliant teaching and learning around the world, would have given enough material for positive reflection; it nestled, however, within a day’s worth of experiences – each perhaps relatively unexceptional, but all of which reminded me of the deep value of observing, engaging, reflecting, and then sharing with our fellow human beings.


There was ice on the cars and the streets of Edinburgh as we left – minus 6, according to the thermometer – and as I was conversing with my taxi driver about this, we came round to talking about where he had grown up in Edinburgh, and his memories of a particular shop run by a certain Madame Doubtfire. Memories of the late Robin Williams leapt to mind; this Madame Doubtfire ran a secondhand shop in Stockbridge, selling clothes, and was clearly a renowned character. Long dead, she came back to life for me in the narrative of the (now grown up) little boy who remembered her in the 1960’s and who was transporting me to the airport at 6am (his third fare of the day). For a few minutes I had the privilege of seeing a sliver of the world through another’s eyes, and of enriching my own understanding of the local area and heritage as a consequence. In the context of a day travelling to discuss what schools are doing globally to help develop young people, it was a potent reminder of the depth and potential of each and every human being, and the value of our journeys across countries and through history – countries and history which we shape by what we do and who we become.

Every day brings unexpected connections, if only we keep our eyes and ears open, and are ready to see, hear, experience, think and feel. Each of us, in our daily lives, encounters different people, different perspectives and different ideas. Not only do each of these encounters shape us, but we are shaped further by the unique combinations of these encounters. We inhabit an astonishingly complex – and, if we make it so, potentially amazingly and powerfully positive – ecosystem of people, thoughts, feelings, understandings, histories and geographies. It is without question our moral responsibility to try to make the most of this, contributing in our turn and helping others – especially our children – understand how to make the most of it too.

Begin each day with openness and appreciation, and it will take you to breadths and depths of gratitude for the world and society in which we live. And don’t forget to teach children to do the same.


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