I recently had the pleasure of perusing a soft copy of David Boddy’s new book Mind Their Hearts: Creating Schools and Homes of Warm-Heartedness. What I read really resonated with me. While I’m passionate about education and learning, I believe in striking a balance and helping my children think about more than themselves. I’m strive help them become rounded individuals. A book like Mind Their Hearts seemed to be an excellent guide. I took the opportunity to interview David Boddy, this is his interview.
TTT: Please introduce yourself and share a bit of your professional background.
DB: DI trained as a journalist initially, working on both newspapers and radio. I took up a position as Press Officer for the British Conservative Party, and worked as Margaret Thatcher’s political press secretary at the 1979 and 1983 general elections. After that I launched one of the first British lobbying companies, which I sold out to a US Communications giant which then gave me the chance to pursue my main life’s passion: education. I was invited to take on the headship of St James Senior Boys’ School in London because of my belief that young people needed to be educated in emotional intelligence skills, not just academic ones.
My studies majored on the Indian Philosophy of Vedanta, which also embraced Buddhism. That led me to a great love of India and eastern spirituality. This has impacted on my thinking quite a lot and finds expression throughout the book. I now run an international education services company ‘Anglo Schools International Services Ltd’, which has pioneered both entry tests into UK schools for international students, and a series of on-line career guidance tests for young people.
TTT: Mind Their Hearts has a spiritual feel in some areas, was that intentional? If so why?
DB: I believe education is as much about the heart as it is about the mind. The emotional aspect of us all equates to our spiritual realm, whether we know it or not. Interestingly enough, the curriculum for warm heartedness is designed as a secular offering and certainly not religious. I think care of and for the human condition is naturally spiritual, but not religious. The book aims to transcend religious difference by proclaiming the singularity of the one human family.
TTT: Why did you make the decision to entitle your book trilogy referring to the head, heart and back?
DB: English is such a delicate and delightful language, it allows you to play with it. ‘Mind your Head’ was a play on headship, the success of which is mostly psychological. ‘’Mind Their Hearts’ emphasizes where attention should be put if you want to change the education system. I am appalled by the ignorance existing amongst youngsters of how the political system works, much of which involves ensuring you are not done over, hence ‘ Mind Your Back.’ Working for Mrs Thatcher I learnt all about that.
TTT: You touch on discipline and study patterns, when children begin reading at school. The nation seems to be divided on the issue of homework for school aged children. What is your professional opinion on the importance/relevance of homework?
DB: I am a homework fan, I am afraid. It builds so many valuable work patterns from an early age. But it has to be appropriate and measured according to both the child’s abilities and his or her academic needs. I like the new idea of “flipped” classrooms, where the actual factual ‘learning’ is now delivered via ‘homework’ and the computer, while the children come together at school to explore and discuss what they learnt the night before. If that takes off, all the old phobias about homework will quickly vanish, because it will become such fun. And it will also mean the school day can most likely be filled with many other heart-warming activities, apart from communication.
TTT: In your experience do you think home edders have a ‘head start’ on creating a ‘warm-hearted’ teaching/learning environment?
DB: (Not sure what an ‘edder’ is: so will answer the question generically) The interesting thing is that warm heartedness is totally natural, for both teachers and parents. But so many pressures are put on both sets of people, that it has flown out the window. What the Dalai Lama emphasized is that we have to come to recognize our existing system as ‘broken’. This means that we are not educating our young people, in schools and homes, the right way. They are not learning the right things, and they are not developing as fully rounded people, with open, loving hearts and clear minds. This means that something ‘unnatural’ must be happening in our schools. I would say that includes excessive concentration on academic success, without development of social and emotional skills. The technology age does not help either. If children don’t learn how to be harmonious with people, what chance does the world have to be peaceful and happy?
TTT: It seems like there would have to be a mind shift for schools to be run the way in which you are suggesting. Are there courses geared towards head teachers to help with them create a school development plan which caters for the ‘warm-hearted classroom’ you speak of in Mind Their Hearts?
DB: Yes there are. I lead training courses for heads and prospective heads every year and it was the findings from many of those courses that informed the book. This is a long-term job. But as my friend, Sir Anthony Seldon says in the book’s Foreword, the beauty with this book is that is shows how real change can take place in the quality of our education, without having to wait for government to do something. Change can happen in the classroom and the living room. And that is a blessing.
Mind Their Hearts: Creating Schools and Homes of Warm-Heartedness, is now available online from Amazon.