Voices - 3 May 2018

Fin Webber, Programme Participant from our 2017 Cohort, is in his second year of teaching Physics and Science. Outside of the classroom, he's been running an archery club, and here he shares some reflections about how hitting the bullseye (or target!) isn't the only success to be celebrated.

My involvement in the school archery club is defined by failure. However, that does not mean it has been a failure, though an outside observer may perceive it that way. Yes, there is inexperience and inefficiency aplenty, but when I reflect on the endeavour, the first thing I feel is satisfaction.

The archery programme runs year round in one of the school gyms, which we set up as a target range. I’ve been running the club since the start of the year, replacing the previous manager who, upon leaving the school, asked me to nicely. Technically I was the most qualified to take over, but ‘least unqualified’ feels like a more apt description. I felt like I’d just gotten the hang of teaching and managing students when somebody said, “Okay, now we’re giving them all bows and arrows”.

We’ve come along way since then, since the terrifyingly oversubscribed and chaotic early days. I’ll be honest, the responsibility is often daunting. For a time archery was without question my greatest source of anxiety and stress. For me this feeling turned around the day I discovered a beginner hitting the yellow centre of her target. I felt like a character from High School Musical that afternoon, bursting into the staffroom exclaiming “Talent! One of them has talent!”. I put the girl on the competition team, and while we lost every match we entered, we achieved much that isn’t easily quantified. It didn’t matter that we were dramatically outclassed, we did ourselves proud. Even within our trainings, there is a wealth of learning happening that doesn’t directly help arrows hit bullseyes. This is success, defined by failure.

I realised the value of this experience because I took part in it myself. I’m not a seasoned archer; I learned alongside the students back when I first started supervising last year. Because of this, there’s no disconnect between their perception of improvement and my own. I’m not telling students it’s easy because I’m fully aware, in a way that’s much more immediate than in my classroom teaching, that it isn’t. Meanwhile, with the logistics and administration, I’m reminded of what school can be like for kids. While feeling ill-prepared and out of my depth it’s humbling to realise that some students feel that way all the time. When I feel underqualified, I remind myself that there was nobody around who could do the job any better, that every milligram I achieve is better than nothing. No one has been shot by accident, and if I can only keep that true, then I consider my involvement a net gain.

If you are presented with such an opportunity, then I say this: You’re never going to feel ready to do something you haven’t done before, especially leadership. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t step up. You may be out of your depth at first, it may be messy, but that is how one learns.