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“When we set out upon the search for truth we should not assume that we already know for certain what truth is…”

—Mary McLeod Bethune

I have only been a father for just under four years. Despite being around children every day in my profession, albeit a little older, there is nothing more humbling than trying to parent. What works one day, doesn’t work another. What works for 99% of children doesn’t apply for your own child. What works at home doesn’t work in the most public of places, like a crowded quiet café. Often when faced with a parenting conundrum one can feel at the end of their tether, having tried so many options, googled, asked advice and still unsure of what to do. It is at these times our limitations feel exposed. I know for me my pride can be affected because surely I should have had the solution at hand.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the concept of intellectual humility. It is the ability to recognise the limitations of your knowledge. Tenelle Porter, from Character Lab, suggests that when you approach life with intellectual humility, you open your mind to learning. You are able to learn from opposing views and have more constructive discussions, even when you disagree. No matter how old you are, with intellectual humility you become wiser. It helps you be less judgemental of others, learn more in school, and be a better leader. I would suggest that in our ever-increasing online world, it is easier to navigate life within an ecosystem of unchallenged ideas or understandings. I believe this affects our ability to learn new ideas or change our thinking.

As I visit classrooms, I love hearing students and teachers say, “That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer, but let’s discover it together.” It’s refreshing when students admit that another student’s insight has helped them consider a new point of view. Or when students reflect at the end of a unit of inquiry and can identify how their ideas or perspectives have changed. Intellectual humility breaks down the barriers and mindsets that can impede learning and growth. When we practice this trait, I believe our school value of Truth is in action in our community.

Here are some questions that can help as we reflect on Intellectual Humility:

  • I question my own opinions, positions, and viewpoints because they could be wrong.
  • I reconsider my opinions when presented with new evidence.
  • I recognise the value in opinions that are different from my own.
  • I accept that my beliefs and attitudes may be wrong.
  • In the face of conflicting evidence, I am open to changing my opinions.
  • I like finding out new information that differs from what I already think is true

Christopher Sanders
Deputy Head of Junior School – Teaching and Learning