Whatever You Can Do, Or Dream You Can Do...
One of the great pleasures of regularly assessing kids - usually aged 8 to12 and contemplating secondary school options - is getting the chance to chat to youngsters in depth about their interests and passions.
Yesterday I met a super little boy. Keen to assess his writing skills, I asked him to bring in a story he had written. He brought the first few chapters of his novel about the medieval knight, Sir Lancelot, time-travelling to contemporary London. As a budding children's author myself, I was a shade envious first of his great idea (Lancelot is baffled first by the texture of denim, then by the 'horseless carts' which speed by) and next by the elegant execution of his story. The student told me he had done it all for fun over half term.
Recently, a different 12 year old student of mine pitched his concept for a super-hero film to me. I shouldn't give it away (really, it's that good!) but it came with an intricately sketched costume design and a detailed storyboard for the opening scenes.
These creative pursuits were not schools assignments, nor had they been instigated by the parents. Yet these two kids both achieve highly at school, and I expect their success proceeds in part from their early understanding that creativity, ingenuity and effort are not just required for homework purposes. They are fulfilling parts of life, and may even be the key to an exciting future career.
While I applaud these projects being created 'just for fun' - because storytelling is and always should always be fun - I also like to treat such fabulous ideas with the seriousness they deserve. My little writer friend from yesterday could certainly submit his work to countless competitions and schemes which give youngsters the chance to be published. My talented film-maker student could even copyright his idea and send it off to Marvel. Sure, I wouldn't raise his hopes that his film would be made, but I'd definitely expect someone there to reply with encouraging words to inspire him further.
It's all about opening up a sense of possibility for kids. Being the next JK Rowling or JJ Abrams need not be a pipe dream. In fact, it seems to me that an awful lot people who reach stardom in their chosen field go on to explain in interviews that they have been honing the skills since childhood. So...
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, majesty and power in it.
That’s one of my favourite quotes, attributed to Goethe. It’s up on the wall in our entrance hall of our office.
The same applies, of course, to non-literary / artsy types. Your child may have ideas for websites, inventions, experiments, musical compositions or mathematical theorems. Encourage them to have fun developing those ideas - but remember to treat their innovations with the utmost seriousness too. Your kid may be a genius of the future.
Here’s another quote I stumbled upon lately, which I adore. It’s from a beloved literary icon of mine - Roald Dahl.
If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, HUG it…