With four children, I had the joy of celebrating the 21st birthday of my second (the eldest daughter) over what seemed to be a never-ending series of events, culminating in a theatre visit and party this weekend. It is a cliche of course but ‘where does the time go?’ with our children. One minute Sharla was a three year-old, entertaining seated customers awaiting their purchases at Argos, the next, she is in her final year at university and considering what she might light to do to make a living (now that she is old enough to hold a pilot’s licence for a helicopter :-)). On the day of the party, I was reminded by a close friend of the immortal words of the wonderful writer, Kahlil Gibran who, blending the thinking of many great religious and philosophical traditions over the years, in his book , The Prophet (one of my favourites), said of our children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
As a father, an uncle, a soon-to-be grandfather; a teacher and simply as a human being these words resonate completely with me. Our job as adults is quite simply, I believe, to prepare the ground for the young around us to not merely survive, but to thrive. To enjoy greater opportunities to make a real difference in the world than ever we did. We should set examples but not expect our children to simply follow in our footsteps – they must do better than that. To work in the service of the next generation – in any way – I think is the most wonderful privilege of all. And of course, in the current post-information age, I think we also have to counter the potential hazards of the mind-controlling and attitude-twisting world of much of our mass-media, advertising and rogue politics. A challenge we have to meet head-on.
As I come to the end of my time with the Avanti Schools Trust and therefore, Avanti House School, I also effectively come to the end of a 33 year career in teaching (my new role in the Emirates, is one of Senior Inspector of schools; a government position). I look back with really fond memories of working with children, with their families and dedicated, hard-working staff, all with one goal in mind – a better future than our past. At Avanti, my final destination, we put academic results, character development and philosophical/spiritual reflection on an equal footing. We are clear that it is not enough for the next generation to amass qualifications. This idea of a truly holistic education is very close to my heart. And my short journey with Avanti House has been to build on the excellent work of my predecessor, Gareth, who with his team, opened a fine school but (and through no fault of the school’s) on not the firmest of footings (quite literally ‘homeless’). I now hand over two over-subscribed, extremely popular, high-performing schools – one primary and one secondary . Both look forward to a very bright future – on every level and in first-class, excellent facilities. I wish the two new Principals, Simon at secondary and Shriti at primary, the very best of luck; they have great teams of staff; senior, teaching and non-teaching, really supportive families and most of all very wonderful children.
Friends of Avanti House
A group of the most supportive family members are of course our very own Friends of Avanti House FOAH (our PTA) and I would like to make a special mention of their work. The fetes, evening workshops, meals and other fund-raising activities alongside their support at our major events has been some of the best-organised and freely-given I have come across in all of my schools. On behalf of the staff, students and all of our families, I would like to thank them for their efforts. The most recent two ‘events’ are of course the FOAH dinner and dance – details and pictures can be seen here and the hugely successful drive to secure the top award (£12,000) in the Tesco Bags of Help project – details of which can be found here.
As I head into single figures for days left in what has been my most enjoyable phase of work in my career, I wish you all that you would wish yourself. And leave you with another wonderful piece from The Prophet; a reminder that we are ‘alone, together’ and our strength perhaps comes from intimately knowing this at our core whilst knowing the strength borne of both independence and togetherness. As teachers, parents and partners, there is much to learn here.
Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
With a great deal to do in my remaining days, handing over to a new Principal and in preparing to move country, I shall sign off the blog here and wish the Trust and all of our children, families and staff all the very best wishes for the future. This I offer with genuine gratitude for allowing me to play a small part in bringing two schools to life.