Wellbeing Blog | The Tip of the Iceberg

In 1990 I embarked on my first rugby tour to Canada at the sprightly age of 15. I still remember the stunning scenery, amazing people, and excitement surrounding touring Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Being selected was a real privilege for me and four of my year group peers as the tour’s youngest players. Three months of hard training paid off, and we were rewarded with an unbeaten tour. This experience provided me with one of my first “Iceberg moments.” I was often entirely outside my comfort zone, playing with boys three years older than myself, but the experience gave me great courage and confidence that I could achieve success with hard work. Whilst rugby defined much of my teenage years and 20s, I didn’t successfully apply what I was doing on the sports field to other parts of my life. Whilst I was tenacious in pursuing excellence in my rugby career, it took me a little longer to apply the same approaches to my academic and career endeavours; exploring the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky) or what is more commonly referred to as our learning zone or getting outside of one’s comfort zone.  


Representing Trent College 1st XV gave me tremendous pride, something I had aspired to do since I went to the school as a 12-year-old. We had an excellent side, unbeaten in our final year of school, winning some epic battles against the UK’s elite rugby schools. I look back on this now and feel lucky that we had the perfect mix of a great side and excellent coaches who worked tirelessly to challenge us, constantly improving the whole squad and ensuring we could be the best version of ourselves. They were truly wonderful times and something I was lucky enough to replicate four years later at university whilst playing for the Leeds University Rugby League 1st XIII and winning BUSA.


The “Iceberg Illusion,” as Sylvia Duckworth illustrates, is representative of moments in life that arise from persistent hard work as well as failure and disappointment. In reality, struggling gives us the most significant learning opportunities and builds our inner grit and resilience to want to succeed. I read recently that some schools have failure week, where pupils try a range of skills in which they are likely to fail. “Failure” in that sense is an interesting term and one that I often use with pupils in my classes to reiterate that it should not be viewed as a negative but as your First Attempt In Learning. In researching this blog, I searched for some rationale behind failure and found an interesting article in the New York Times entitled “What happens if failure is the key to success?” Perhaps in hindsight, playing in a winning team didn’t do me as much good as I thought, maybe I needed to struggle to realise greater success. I can remember how difficult it was to stomach some of the losses at university; perhaps that is what propelled us to win the BUSA championships.


“Iceberg moments” happen infrequently, which makes it essential to recognise, acknowledge, celebrate and reflect upon them. A paper written in 2016, entitled “A Model of Critical Thinking as an Important Attribute for Success in the 21st Century” by Slaÿana Živkoviü (2016) focuses on developing teaching models which specifically focus on critical thinking. The abstract highlights, “A critical thinking model is designed to help those students develop their thinking skills and prepare for a global, complex society.” I am sure we can all reflect on milestones in our education, career or sporting endeavours in which we dedicated time and effort to achieve success. It is often said that our greatest success comes from the work that so many others don’t see. Developing critical thinking skills and initiating change comes from work that happens alone and in collaboration with our peers. I am a huge advocate for collaborative work; this is something that Sylvia Duckworth encourages and recognises in her website “Connect, Collaborate, Create.” It aligns well with the MCM 3 Cs – Compassion, Companionship and Conversation. 


The sketch note below is one of Sylvia Duckworth’s most shared pieces on Twitter. She is a distinguished educator who has taught French and embedded Education Technology for over 30 years and is world-renowned for her sketch noting techniques. She hails from Canada, which seems poignant that I chose to use her image as the article’s headline. Since visiting Canada on that first rugby tour, I have returned on six further occasions to play or coach rugby, living in Toronto for a summer in 1997 and teaching in Regina on a cultural diversity exchange in 2004. We all get a sense of meaning and purpose and feel deeply connected to this illustration for many different reasons and would have our own memories of success and the work that has led to it.  




Last week I was fortunate to experience another “Iceberg moment” when I presented at the EduTech Asia 2022 conference. I was part of a panel discussion on teacher professional development. I also presented the work undertaken by the Digital Ambassadors and Digital Prefects here at MCM. I outlined the legacy created by over 100 pupils who have engaged in the “Digital Ambassadors” Friday afternoon activity over the last three years, particularly the two prefects that drove initiatives in the previous two years. The group has aimed to design and implement digital citizenship initiatives, in which they have done a fantastic job. Last year’s cohort built the MCM Digi Site, as well as running a one-kind-word initiative for anti-bullying week.



This year we have four prefects undertaking outstanding work across College and working closely with our Prep School Ambassadors. Since the beginning of term, the team has launched the Cyber Compass and the Prep School Box of Tricks, planned anti-bullying week, chaired the pupil-led Digital Committee as well as being the first pupils to present to the School Council. These young leaders have been exceptional. They have contributed to whole school assemblies in Prep and Senior School, operating outside their comfort zones, but simultaneously demonstrating leadership and representing the pupil voice. Presenting to the School or, in my case, at the EduTechAsia conference, has provided excellent opportunities to showcase the individual and collaborative work of these outstanding young individuals. My role has been like my school coach, to harness the enthusiasm, coach and guide them to keep them on a path to success.


MCM’s Cyber Compass


MCM Prep school –  BOX OF TRICKS

Our young people at MCM impress me daily. They are incredibly talented and it is a pleasure to collaborate with them on these projects and help them to achieve their goals. It is, therefore, a true reflection of all the “quiet” and “unseen work” that has led schools and organisations across Asia to want to collaborate and learn more about this model of pupil voice and leadership guiding the digital citizenship program. The coming year will provide many more stories to share about this journey. However, in the meantime, the offer to collaborate and showcase what the pupils are doing at MCM with schools in India, Thailand, Singapore and Australia will be an exciting journey. For these new adventures, I remind the pupils “don’t tell people your dream; show them.”  


I look forward to sharing more stories with you over the year; in the meantime, enjoy building your iceberg! I’ll leave you with one final quote from an American educator, Rushton Hurley, whose book ‘Make Your School Something Special’, has been a great source of inspiration to me in recent years; one quote that resonated with me is “inspire and be inspired.”


Mr Ogilvie, | Director of Digital Learning

You may also like