Your Mind is a Palace
"He says, you have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace." Frank McCourt, Writer, (1930-2009), Angela’s Ashes
This is one of my all-time favourite quotes. In fact, this is also one of my all-time favourite books. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of devouring McCourt’s memoir of life in 1930s Ireland, it is a tough read about the poverty and hardship of the author’s childhood, but one of the most interesting themes is the nature and influence of different teachers upon young Frank, as well as the impact of the partisan education system of the time. It’s a salutary reminder for those of us privileged enough to be teachers, of the responsibility and importance of our role with young people.
What I love about this idea of the mind as a ‘palace’, is that it is our one true constant. Whatever happens in our lives, wherever were are fortunate, or unfortunate enough to find ourselves; we will always have our minds and whatever we have chosen to fill them with. What better job than to be a teacher, who can inspire, cajole and support our young people in selecting the very best intellectual jewels to stock their palace with. The art, of course, is not filling children’s ‘mind-palaces’ for them, but helping them to develop the skills and discernment to relish and select their own ideas, nuggets of knowledge and life experiences.
From the Nursery to the Sixth Form, our classrooms are great havens for nurturing this curiosity, but this is only the beginning. Brilliant and imaginative co-curricular clubs and trips are vital for providing those ‘wow’ moments. Some of the loveliest educational moments as a teacher are seeing the memories being created by students: holding a newly hatched duckling; donning white gloves to handle a historical document; standing in the very stadium where Jesse Owens won his gold medals. These are treasures we have the privilege of showing to our students and which every great school holds at the heart of what they do.