WEEK 31 - Friday 20 May 2022
Last week, I held assemblies with the students. The subject I chose to talk about was ‘aspiration’ and I wanted to explore what I feel this word really means. It can often be interpreted as meaning a desire to achieve a particular status in life. I used to aspire to be an airline pilot, before that I wanted to play rugby league for Hull FC and cricket for Yorkshire. But in these fast changing times, it is almost impossible for students to visualise the type of jobs, careers or places they want to be when they are ten years older, let alone for the rest of their lives.
To me, and to us at Hessle High School, ‘aspiration’ means setting yourself the highest standards and taking no shortcuts. It also means being prepared to step outside of your comfort zone and taking a controlled risk. This was my life journey, and it was the story I told the students. I started by showing them a picture of myself aged 12. At that age, I told them, I was the most awkward, shy boy you could imagine. I had no real confidence in myself and, apart from being quite bright, I had no aptitude for sport, music or much else. And that was me, for several years. Until I met a teacher who said that I ought to go to university. My parents knew that I was clever but they had never been to university themselves and had no clue how to make it happen. Thankfully, they found a way to back me and, aged 18, I left home to go and study at Leeds Polytechnic (it wasn’t even a proper university, back in those days!). At first, I shied away from student life and even once I had made new friends, it still didn’t give me much in the way of aspiration for achieving anything significant. But, crucially, because I had taken a controlled risk of leaving home, I had built some confidence and was able to take the next step in my life. Which was to travel.
In the years to come I travelled more and more, often travelling alone, and delving deeper into Asia. In between trips, I also took the step of setting up my own business. The combination of solo travel and running a business gave me independence and self-confidence that I never had as a child. And then came teaching and school leadership.
My message to the students is that we are all capable of growth, and of moving ourselves out of the situation we find ourselves in. All it takes is a little ‘aspiration’ to be better, and the preparedness to take a small risk. Once you take those first steps, you are on your way.
Of course, I didn't know that when I was 12. Which is why we encourage our staff to have these conversations with our students. Recently, Mrs Davison talked to students about her experience of growing up in poverty in Poland and making a life for herself in the UK; Mr Scott spoke emotionally about his experiences at the hands of bullies at school and how he handled the situation and used it to make him stronger. As well as teaching them English, Maths, History or French, we also know the importance of just talking to students about life, and our own lives are endlessly fascinating to our students. We can all do this with young people, sometimes our own children but those of others. It is powerful to a young person.
The first week of external exams have gone very well and Year 11s appear much more relaxed than they were a week ago. Next week is especially busy and I am grateful not only to parents of Year 11 students but to all of you for ensuring that all of our students are fully supported with uniform, equipment and the like. When our younger students are ‘on track’, it allows the staff to give that extra bit of focus to Year 11 and 13 students when they need it most.
As the weather warms up, please ensure that your child always brings a drink to school (water is best). We have a number of locations for them to fill this up throughout the day and not only does this save you money in buying bottled water but also ensures that they stay hydrated.
The weather looks fine for the weekend; I hope you enjoy it.