Head Master's Start of Trinity Term Address
23rd April 2019
"I hope you have all had a restful holiday and are enjoying being back in this wonderful building. Important indeed to hear the crucial Eastertide verse given to us in today’s reading: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you”, especially after a holiday with a number of upsetting stories such as the recent news from Sri Lanka.
I am sure I was not the only one here to bring this space to mind when watching the distressing images of another cathedral in flames, Notre Dame in Paris. Witnessing such significant damage reminded me of the historical, religious and cultural value of these shared spaces. Our cathedral is big enough to allow us all to meet and it is built attractively to catch the eye, particularly with the quality of its decoration, whether in glass, stonework, embroidery or artefacts. Yet it also humbles us because we are instinctively aware that so much has happened here and the building has borne witness to significant events (just think of the baptisms, weddings, funerals, sermons, concerts, charitable projects, royal visits). We are bound to those who have used the building for over 900 years before us, particularly because they came for the similar purpose of gathering and reflecting. For me, part of the sadness of watching Notre Dame burning was the damaging of this collective memory.
You may remember that I was also talking about spaces at the end of last term and the need to keep balance between different educational activities: the campfire of absorbing information and knowledge from those who know more than we do; the watering hole of exchanging and testing ideas with others; the cave of quiet, personal reflection. Education and development require elements of all three and each of us needs to work out an effective combination for ourselves. Now that we return to a new term at school, the balance between the three types of learning approach will change.
However, balance remains a key word, especially as assessments come into view. There are different activities and functions in these different spaces, but each plays an important role. Do remember amid the revision to keep to the routines which have helped you up to this point: continue to be physically active; keep up with your music; be creative; remain as a volunteer or activist.
Taking up this last point, you will be aware that there has been a good deal of media focus on young adults in the public eye recently. One thinks of Manchester City and England footballer, Raheem Sterling, becoming the leading advocate in a player-led drive to take on racism in football or Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old from Sweden who has inspired a global political movement to raise awareness of the harmful effects of climate change. People like this have led the media to dub your age-group as Generation Expression and it is a phrase I encourage you to reflect on. A desire to be engaged in the world around you, to find your cause and express your voice seems attractive. It also might serve to give you something on which to hang the hard work which awaits us all this term, a longer-term purpose to motivate you. I was certainly struck when I talk to the L6 during the Lent Term that there is exciting ambition among you, usually based on a desire to make a positive societal contribution in the future. My hope is that everything that you do at Norwich School, both in the classroom and elsewhere, is building knowledge, skills and most of all values which you can take with you into the wider world.
And yet in all this, do not counsel perfection. My final point is to be gentle with yourselves emotionally in the coming weeks. Things will go wrong; it is to be expected and can be repaired. I learned a little during the holiday about the beautiful and ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, sometimes called “golden joinery”; it refers to the craftsmanship of mending broken pots with gold lacquer. The eye is drawn to the cracks (or "scars") filled with gold – to the bits that were broken, the bits that are far from perfect. If you have not seen it, do google the phrase so that you can see what the final product looks like; the overall effect is strikingly beautiful, not in spite of the breakages but precisely because of them.
So, have a purpose this term, both short-term academic and co-curricular targets but also perhaps some idea of how these might help you in the future, how you might express yourself. In doing so, keep balance in your perspective and portfolio, not being afraid for things to break and be repaired. That process will serve to make the final product even more lovely. I hope you all have a good term."