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“Professionals also make mistakes, they just notice them and correct them much faster!”| Global Art Forum speaker Anna Batchelder on the takeaways from her schooling

Global Art Forum is Art Dubai’s critically-acclaimed annual transdisciplinary arts conference, which combines original thinking and contemporary themes in an intimate, live environment.

Following on from last year’s theme of automation, Global Art Forum 2019 unites a diverse cast of global minds – from renowned curators and critics to educationalists and entrepreneurs – under the theme of ‘School is a Factory?’ to address some of the urgent challenges and opportunities facing education today.

In the lead up the two-day summit, its co-directors Victoria Camblin and Fawz Kabra asked some of this year’s speakers a few fun questions on their unique educational paths, if school prepared them for real life and just how optimistic they are about the future of education.


In this short Q&A, Anna Batchelder, co-founder of Bon Education and Bon for Work riffs on her school experience and the values she wishes for her children’s school:


Describe your first experience using technology at school.

In high school we went to the computer lab once a week to work on essays. We just used word processing software. Nothing special!

Where did you first learn about art?

My father is a scientist and a painter and my mother is a teacher that liked crafting when I was young. So, as a child we did art projects at home pretty often. I lived next to the Smithsonian, so my family went to museums many times a year. My favorite artist when I was young was Alexander Calder. I always marveled at his large mobiles displayed in Washington DC.

Anna Batchelder

Who was an important or formative teacher in your youth and what made them special?

Music was my world as a middle school and high school student. I was in my school orchestra, I helped conduct the younger student orchestra, I played in the American Youth Philharmonic, I played in quartets at the Levine School of Music and I took lessons from two violists in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC. One teacher that sticks out to me is my private teacher Mr. Labman. I was always focused on trying to master the technical side of etudes and pieces. He was the one that encouraged me to make music and really enjoy the sound and story of the music. He also reminded me that professionals also make mistakes, they just notice them and correct course much faster! He knew how to calm me down before auditions because he took the time to really see and know me.

End of the Road – Sila

Did school prepare you for “real life”? If not, what did?

Yes and no. I went to a high school with 6000 students. So, I learned how to socialize, how to find my identity and tribe within a large population and how to study and manage my time. I studied economics and education in university. Both programs taught me how to understand problems, scope work and break down projects. My graduate program was almost 100% students from abroad and I learned how to work with many different types of people.

What I didn’t learn in school that I am now learning on-the-job is how to be an entrepreneur. Since school I have studied and practiced coaching. Learning and giving myself permission to think big, to manage my mindset, to practice mindfulness and to see myself as the artist of my own life are skills that have come through my adult education as a coach, wife, mother and seeker.

Pierre Bonnefille, 2019, Artist

Would you trust a robot to teach your child?

It depends on the topic! I have 3 kids. They learn a lot by just playing around with our robots at home and the iPad on “watching days”. I believe human facilitators of learning have a very important role in our society, but I also think machines can teach us other things as well.


What did you have to unlearn after school?

My public education taught me nothing about how to be an entrepreneur. It taught me how to be a good employee – two very different skillsets and outlook!


Describe your ideal school environment.

It depends on what level of school and what topic, but generally speaking I want my children to go to a school that values:

  1. Trust, openness and honesty between all stakeholders
  2. Inquiry – fostering an environment where students ask powerful questions and engage in deep curiosity
  3. The process of problem and opportunity solving – kids learn how to 1) see problems and opportunities, 2) create visions of what is possible, 3) figure out the path from where they are now to where they want to be in the future and 4) create and pursue all of the goals and milestones in-between
  4. Rigor
  5. Empathy and mindfulness
  6. Seeing, hearing and valuing all stakeholders in the school community
  7. Play – “Play is the highest form of research.” (Einstein)


Anna joins Global Art Forum on Thursday, March 21, 6:00-6:20pm, for “From Ras Al Khaimah to Ruwais, A decade of learning design”, a presentation by Chris Batchelder, co-founder of Bon Education and Bon for Work, on the universal principles of learning design gathered from a decade of work in the UAE.

Global Art Forum is open to the public (including non-ticket holders) and free to attend. Global Art Forum is supported by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

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