It is that time of year again, dear Reader, when it really is very difficult not to enjoy what I do. The sun is thankfully out, in every crevice of school and diary there is something happening that is both a celebration of our children’s skills and achievements and a testament to the dedication of teachers and parents, whose hard work and moral support has ensured that ‘something’ was in place come what may.
You may have read an earlier blog in which I mourned the loss from my weekly schedule of every single one of the activities that brought me into teaching in the first place. I love both the immediacy and urgency of the classroom and playing field; what we do today has a real impact upon a child’s engagement and willingness to learn, share and lead. The classroom is that private space in which the rest of the business of school and life can’t get to you, and where, shorn of those worldly connections, you can learn of children’s dreams and how to assist them to possibilities beyond their imaginations.
Yet perhaps the thing I am more proud of is the quality of the Faculty, those adult employees be they teachers, support staff, caterers or cleaners, who every day come together to make what I aspire for personally in my classroom becomes a very definite probability in most classrooms. You can have the shiniest gear stick, but if all of the moving parts of your education vehicle are not moving in harmony, then all is but vanity. Perhaps the only thing the shiny knob is worth then is as a mirror to reflect your embarrassment.
Last weekend saw both Art on the Street in central Maidenhead during the day and the PTA Summer Ball in the evening, both remarkable events in their own right, the like of which we don’t often see. As one of the proud sponsors of Art on the Street, I notice that pretty much every political party in RBWM announced just how proud they were to support AOTS; funny that in passing, because in its entire lifetime, the local politicians have never passed over even £1 towards meeting the financial costs that AOTS requires so that this 6 monthly Art market ‘pops’ up in our town. It requires herculean afforts, weeks of planning and specifically on Friday and then from 7am Saturday morning, to set up gazebos and display walls the length of the High Street, and additionally to take-over some of the empty shops, in our case to run hands-on art sessions for younger children, who inspired by the Market want to get their hands on paint and start creating their own .work of art’. The most inspiring thing for me was the ‘teaching’ given by our young Art award leaders to so many other young children. It seemed that long after interest in the market itself had waned, the artists of the future were still ‘hard at painting’ – now that makes me a little proud.
Over recent years, the PTA Ball has been hosted out to professional venues such as the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza or further back even at LegoLand. This year, the College PTA committee took the Art on the Street approach, popped up a Marquee for 300, but big enough for 900, in which we were able to celebrate the vibrancy of our own parent teacher community and additionally raise considerable funds to support the PTA in their broader work. I know I speak for all those involved with the Ball just how proud we are to have been led by Mrs Towell; her willing Ball committee partners want to do it all over again next year, and one of our best events has at long last been brought home to the school grounds. Now that makes me feel proud too.
And so this week continues with sports events, theatre trips, Medieval pageants, Sixth Form Art and Photography exhibiton and so very much more, and last weekend’s Ball was of course just a curtain raiser for this Saturday’s Summer Fete, a multiple splash of everything for everyone, with perhaps an attendance of 1500 or so expected to try the Pimms, experience the fair stalls and converse and commune with family, friends, old and new (Football tourney for younger boys starts much earlier in the day), but we’ll be opening the Fete proper at 12 noon. I know just how much effort CCJB PTA Chair, Emma Robertson and her team have put into the event, with excellent support from the other PTA groups also guaranteed, most notably those that run the BBQ and Bar, and the Sixth Form who directly manage so much of the grunt we need on the 24 hours before the Fete opens.
In place of labs (I used to teach Science) and pupils, I seem to have swapped into that bigger learning space outside the classroom in which I am able to interact with the weft and weave of our wider learning community, indeed with many other schools and colleges across the country too. Yes I have been at school this week, and in addition I have also been training 40+ School leaders in how to inspect and be inspected, and my adult ‘students from across schools in the UK seem to have been really appreciative of my work, freely given it must be said as our way of collaborating to help all schools improve. My brother Hugh and I have been working too with architects and builders as we nudge further forwards towards our final plans for realising a new school on the CCJB campus. We have been at this planning malarkey for almost 2 years now, and it becomes increasingly obvious to everyone we work with that:
“Not only do you and your brother know what you want, you also know what you are talking about”. That’s nice to hear other professionals ‘take’ on our work, and yes that make me a little proud too.
J.M Barrie wrote the quote that heads this blog, and there is definately a Peter Pan somewhere in me when I give other people advice on how to find their way in the world. Peter said when he directed others in how to get to Neverland, “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning”; I know that if those that listened understood and believed what Peter said, they could not go wrong. Now I know its a fairy story I’m talking about here, but it is also famously a metaphor for the real world that adults and children find themselves, all too often constrained by the social and economic realities of life. As George Bernard Shaw wrote of Barrie’s book that it was on the surface a holiday entertainment for children, but deeper down, really a serious play for grown-ups.
My closing quote aligns with last week’s blog, because I truly believe what works best is to just get on with things and get them done; that’s how to succeed on purpose. That fact that actually, in the last 7 days everyone around me has done so many amazing things too does rather more than nourish my vanity and pride; it supports my eternal, relentless optimism that good things happen in handfuls for those that get stuck in.
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.” Peter Pan.