I hope that the return after the half term break has been positive. I know that when the clocks go back it can feel very different in schools and colleges. It won’t be long before we are arriving in the dark and leaving in the dark.
Those cold winter months do drag on somewhat. It felt a little strange to be back at it in October. Much of a country has just had this week off, for the half term break. I would say that broadly the way it’s fallen in Rotherham has worked for us. We mustn’t forget that at TRC staff and students had been back after the summer that bit earlier than in school – almost 10 weeks without a break for some!
There’s a run into the Christmas break now. It’ll be challenging, it will be cold, it will be windy and, of course, it will be wet. But as always, we will all work hard to ensure that we have a collective and positive approach to the challenges we face.
Many weeks ago, I did mention the crisis in Israel and Gaza. I really don’t want to get into the politics and into the details of that conflict, and especially the impact upon the lives of ordinary people – it’s just too complicated and all too painful. However, I do want to say thank you to you all for your intelligent, sensitive and proportionate response to the crisis, whilst working with our children and young people. It is right and proper, as educational establishments, that we encourage and facilitate intelligent free speech. When there is a crisis of such magnitude, emotions can run very high and we are not immune from those emotions; being somebody who works in a school or college does not mean that we are detached from what’s going on in the real world. What is important though, as we have discussed over the last few weeks, is that we as professionals remain and work without political bias, yet professionally (and personally) sensitive to the impact upon ordinary people.
I know that it has been challenging over the last few weeks for many. Emotions do run high and individuals will want to engage. But I do need to say and as you know, it’s only the role of the professionals is to serve the needs of our children and young people. And so, our role is to encourage questioning, to encourage critical thinking and deep thought, to encourage intelligent research, from trusted sources, and to offer an understanding ear or two to our children and young people and how they are feeling.
It is not a time to be flippant, within this message, but I do have a role in considering the general mood whilst we’re thinking about those absolutely enormous global events and it does allow us to nudge our thinking towards how we serve in our communities. We are in the season of parents’ evenings, review days, open evenings and the like. We’re in that period of time where we are inviting parents, carers and the wider community into our schools and into the college.
We underestimate at our peril, the importance of these events. It’s not about putting on a show and wearing our best face, although that does play its part. I would say that we ignore how we present ourselves at our peril; it is important. I see it as how one would present one’s home to the wider world. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t invite anybody to my house, knowing that there were coffee cups all over the place, pizza boxes strewn across the floor and the TV on in the corner. We are bound to maintain high personal standards, so our friends and relations get the right impression. In the same sense we have standards that we need to maintain and our parents, and community, do look to us to set an example. And that’s just what you do! We know that we are out front and centre, we are all the face of the institution and the wider trust. We must not underestimate the importance that people place upon us all to be something of community leads. We play a significant role in the lives of children, and as a consequence, a significant role in their development. Great schools, great colleges, lift communities, allow for a different dialogue about how that community and its residents are perceived.
Standards are expressed through how we present; what our rooms, our schools, our college, look like. And in how we present ourselves, not just how we dress, but how we speak, the language that we use, the professionalism which we exhibit. It’s not just words, it’s action, it’s a belief.
I feel very honoured and proud to be associated with this group of schools, this college and this community. That pride emanates from the standards that we set, and the professionalism of the staff, week in and week out, season after season – however, short the days, however poor the weather, whatever is happening in this country and around the globe.
‘At the end of the day, you can’t control the results; you can only control your effort level and your focus’. Ben Zobrist