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Resilience: the metaphor

What does a broken bowl have to do with resilience and determination? What does it have to do with the English classroom?

Kitsugi bowl

In English we often ask students to create and analyse metaphorical imagery... and we often ask students to be resilient, to re-draft their work, to reshape their ideas, to ‘have another go’ because the first draft or idea was not quite correct. The metaphor of Kintsugi seems to sum up this idea.

With its roots in Zen philosophy, the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi celebrates imperfection. The broken pieces of the bowl are glued together ...with gold! Symbolically, the golden cracks represent the worth of the bowl because of its imperfections rather than in spite of them. The cracks and joints are not hidden, but are celebrated. In English, students learn from self- assessing their own writing and learn to assess the writing of others. Peer assessing is a valuable way for students to develop their writing skills through having their errors and inaccuracies pointed out to them by a critical ‘friend’. It’s the ‘areas for development’, just like the gold seams in the bowl, that make this activity so valuable.

In English, discussion forms a key part of analysing literature and students need to learn and accept that there is not necessarily a ‘correct’ response, for example in response to an unseen poem (tested in IGCSE Literature and potentially Paper 1, IB Literature). Students learn to listen, respond, critically evaluate the ideas of others and to have their own ideas challenged. The classroom is an environment where it is safe to get things wrong and then to learn from one’s mistakes.

In other words, to end on a literary note,

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” (Samuel Beckett).

Developing one’s skills in English takes time: it’s all about determination and stickability.

Joanne Shepley-Clarke

Head of Secondary English

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