Friday, 16th March 2018
On Tuesday we had one of our two annual Open Mornings. We had a good number of parents coming to look round the school. Almost all of them were very impressed with the pupils who showed them round, finding them civilised and thoughtful. One of the visitors was a grandmother who was a former OFSTED inspector. She made the comment that Christ Church was a really good school because of the precious interactions between pupils and between the children and the teachers. She said that this had always been her guide as to what was a good school and she had witnessed it in abundance at Christ Church. I was thrilled by this as I am certain that so much of one’s experience at school stems from the quality of the relationships between teachers and pupils. If teachers can establish these links, they can more effectively convey and impart the knowledge which they need to. They can inspire their pupils to work hard and they can teach them about proper social interaction, modelling the behaviour which pupils need to adopt in order to thrive in society. I was very pleased therefore to hear this verdict and I am certain that not only are healthy relationships between people at the heart of a successful school but also at the heart of a proper society.
Taking risks is part of life and is a very important one. Very little is ever achieved without doing so as it is trying things which have not been tried before which is at the heart of progress, development and of growing up. Without risk, life becomes stagnant. I therefore think that we need to teach our pupils the right attitude towards risk. There is, and this is the crux of the matter, a huge difference between foolhardiness and courage and we need to dissuade people from taking stupid risks and encourage them to take ones which have a decent probability of success and where the possibilities of things going wrong are not too difficult to deal with should they occur. I was very struck by this watching the Worcester Choir Showcase last Friday and the Pre-Prep concert on Tuesday. At both events young musicians performed in front of an audience, in some cases for the very first time. Particularly in the Pre-Prep concert, I was so touched by the way in which very young boys were able to stand up and perform, often short pieces on the recorder, sometimes on the piano or hidden behind tiny violins, but in each case they held the attention of a large group of people as they did something which could have gone terribly wrong. But they all managed to summon the courage to do so and from these very brief beginnings come so many other public actions which could in various ways be essential for their future lives. Schools really are nurseries of life.
The Pre-Prep Mothering Sunday service in the Cathedral last Friday was a wonderful event. We heard many thoughts from the boys about the different ways in which their mothers were special. One boy said that he loved his mother because she made spaghetti WITHOUT MUSHROOMS, another that he loved his Mummy especially when she was happy, but what struck me most was that everyone thought that their Mummy was the best. That has to be very encouraging. It’s always worth being reminded about the importance of our roles as parents and the effect that we have on our children in these vital early years.
Probably the most rewarding part of my job is the teaching which I do. I was talking about St Paul’s missionary journeys to Form 5 when there was a reference to a group of philosophers. I asked the class what a philosopher was. The answer came back “Someone who doesn’t have a job but instead spends their time talking about things which aren’t real!” I did point out to him that Oxford is perhaps not the best place to go around saying such a thing but, having spent a third of my degree studying philosophy, it did ring a faint bell and reminded me of my first encounter with AJ Ayer’s book “Language, Truth and Logic” in which he defines metaphysics as something that isn’t real, though it took him a whole book rather than the pupils’ half sentence to do so! But what resonated most with me was the concept of a philosopher not having a job. So often in my life in schools I have thought about myself as not really having a job. Teaching has always seemed to me to have been a way of life rather than a job and in some ways I really have never had a job – instead I have a life full of rewards and pleasure. And indeed no day in a school like CCCS is ever dull….