Wright, a distinguished headmaster with a 16-year career at Shore, called for teachers to show students that they care about them, not just their grades.
He said that he consistently hears from graduating students that the ideal teacher is firm, friendly, fair, funny and authentically interested in students – a message that resonated with the teachers in attendance.
“They want to know that you care about them,” he said.
Wright also railed against “the persistent myth of the blank slate”, or the idea that students enter school ready to be fully shaped and formed by their education.
“A child comes to us with their instinctive fears,” he said.
“We know from twin studies that twins raised apart in different families often have profound similarities.”
You can’t teach students quadratic equations, Wright added, if they’re fearful or suffering from overwhelming pressures at home. They can’t just detach their emotions and learn.
For that matter, learning itself is an emotional experience, he said. It stimulates not just the brain’s prefrontal cortex, but areas like the amygdala, the sources of deep, primal emotions and fears.
Wright criticised the idea that cold logic is inherently “better than” other ways of thinking.
“Those sorts of ideas are profoundly flawed, and they undermine our work left, right and centre,” he said.
After rallying the crowd with a call for big picture learning and depth in education, Wright closed with a message of reassurance for teachers.
“We do actually understand what we’re doing,” he said.
“We’ve just got to convince the Minister for Education and The Daily Telegraph that we do as well.”