Nord Anglia Education
Nord Anglia
28 September, 2021

Stepping into the Unknown

Stepping into the Unknown Learning Resource Leader, Judith Scholes shares her insights into how the Dragonflies teachers and the school, as a whole, support our students emotional and social well-being.

Over the Labor Day weekend, a friend and I were paddleboarding in Lake Michigan. Used to the calm waters of the lagoon, she realized that she was far less comfortable with the unrestricted vastness of open waters. She preferred to have a set destination or a regular path to follow.


Judith with Y6

After a pause, I wondered out loud if this was a metaphor. Her youngest child had left for college two days before and she and her husband now found themselves charting their own course in life, no longer bound by others’ schedules, timeframes or plans. As we talked about this some more, we recognized our ambiguity towards this experience. On the one hand, we could direct ourselves, in the words of Dr Zeuss ‘any direction we chose’, and take full advantage of whatever life now had to offer; on the other, we were uncomfortable with the inherent uncertainty of the future!

Over the last 18 months, all of our lives have been plagued by uncertainty and we have often had little control over changes imposed on our daily routines. This has wreaked havoc on our physical freedoms, on our mental health and on our relationships. At BISCLP we have worked hard to maintain as much consistency as possible for our families, within our own confines, to provide a safe and familiar space for children’s learning to take place. We are acutely aware of the social and emotional impact of the last two years, and hence our current whole school focus on wellbeing within our community.

Social and emotional health is always a huge focus for the Dragonfly Team. Without this, learning is much less likely to take place. We are very invested in researching strategies to support strong social and communication skills, self-awareness and self-regulation. Recently, while exploring characteristics of certain diagnosed needs, we learnt of a universal root cause that is common to many challenges in learning: uncertainty. Uncertainty causes much more anxiety than a tangible fear; in a horror movie – isn’t the unseen much more scary than the visible horror? If you know what you are dealing with, you can come up with a plan and a potential solution, but how do you plan for the unknown?

In school, there are lots of strategies we employ to limit uncertainty for children. We provide visual timetables and planners, we can give them advance warning of transitions, and we help them plan for special events and changes in the schedule. You may have done similar things at home to prepare your children for the upcoming day, or a change in their routine.

There has been much discussion about the increasingly uncertain nature of our future world, and the fact that many of our children will enjoy careers that have not yet even been conceived. A good education is one that prepares children for that uncertainty and helps them to develop the flexibility and resilience to thrive in this world. Newly graduated children are experiencing some of that even now: just like us, they are quickly learning how to structure their day at work or college, often while still being in their own homes; they have to learn how to apply themselves without being coached or supported in person, and they have had to learn those key executive functioning skills at double quick pace!  

Returning to our point of departure, there are times when we can get bogged down with the daily grind and it seems that our children will never be independent responsible beings. It happens – almost before you know it, and not necessarily in the way you expect. Enjoy every moment.   

Judith Scholes
Learning Resources Leader - Determined Dragonflies