International College Hong Kong
Feb 13, 2017

Shredding school

Ben Blain is Head of Year 7 and Teacher of Physical Education at ICHK

Any parent who has sent their child on ICHK's annual Snowsports trip will have become used to receiving the nightly email telling the story of each day. Among the descriptions of the weather and the progress updates on the students' skills, there is always a list of the awards given out each evening at the communal dinner.

When the tables have been cleared, the students sit down to hear who has won the coveted titles in Community, Growth Mindset, and 'shredding'. Community is always considered the most important one and is always awarded first. It recognises students who have gone out of their way to be helpful, welcoming, inclusive and encouraging. In other words - 'nice'. 'Nice' is a word that English teachers deride as bland and vague. But being nice is an underrated skill set, and one that is vital to the building of community. Picking up another skier's dropped glove, holding a door, comforting a classmate after their umpteenth embarrassing fall - these kinds of actions are the essential glue in creating fellow-feeling and security in a group. No coincidence, then, that after years of in-depth analysis, Google discovered that "being nice" was the key to a happy, productive community.

But there is limited value, we find, in celebrating Community, if we don't have a shared vision of the kind of community we want to be. ICHK's concept of Community goes so much further than simply being nice. We strive every day to be a community of challenge, progress, and endeavour. We want the students to motivate and support one another in improving skills, developing courage, and having great adventures. We want to see empathy and kindness, but also ambition, dash and daring. We seek to be, in the words of iconic rugby coach Jim Greenwood, a community of 'happy, confident, intelligent warriors'. Our Community award therefore also recognises examples of mutual challenge and shared, bold exploration of the edges of the learning zone.

And so the awards for 'growth mindset' and 'shredding' naturally follow on from Community. Growth mindset is at the absolute core of ICHK's approach to learning. It's the belief that intelligence and skill are not fixed and limited by 'natural' talent, but can be improved in every student. Growth mindset is as important for the high-attaining student as it is for the beginner or the struggler. On the snow sports trip, we love to see a proficient snowboarder continue to try new things, just as we encourage an absolute beginner with the insistent belief that with application they will see progress.

'Shredding' is an award that is unique to the snowsports trip. It follows from Growth Mindset and celebrates those moments when our young skiers and snowboarders begin to 'get it'. Shredding is 'riding the terrain'. You are starting to shred when you move on from just grimly descending the slope, maintaining control and little more, to working with the mountain, seeking out bumps, lips edges and powder snow that enhance your experience. Growth mindset tells us that an absolute beginner with the most basic technique can shred just as hard as a ten year veteran. All it takes is an attitude to seek out what the terrain offers and enjoy it.

The snowsports trip, of course, is merely a microcosm of ICHK as a whole. Community and Growth Mindset are the constant talk of our staffroom, classrooms, and planning sessions. And while you won't find 'shredding' mentioned much in a math lesson, we are always working towards, and celebrating, those moments when students start to get it in any of their subjects.

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