Be Brave, Not Perfect

The Head's Study

This girl can

Three weeks into January and I wonder how you are getting on with your New Year’s Resolutions? The top ten this year were pretty familiar with one addition that in any other year would be top of my list but this January resulted in a rueful smile: travel more. Maybe, just maybe.

More certain is that by half term, 80% of resolutions will be abandoned. In a term when our focus is on being fearless (and, indeed, our theme next week is ‘learning to fail’) my first assembly to the School reflected on resolutions and failure. None of us likes to fail but perhaps that is because of the way that we couch it.

In amongst all the celebrations on Christmas Day it was easy to miss the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. This replaces the obsolete Hubble and comes with some pretty mind blowing facts: at least 100 times more powerful than Hubble; the ability to look 13.7 billion years back in time; a cost of $10 billion. Unlike Hubble, if anything goes wrong with the JWST, it is too far in space for engineers to fix it. Put simply, it either works or it doesn’t.

And this leads beautifully to how we frame the idea of failure. Bill Oche, one of the JWST project managers, commented – ‘We don’t talk about what we do if we fail. We talk about how we correct problems … and how we move forward from there.’ This example, like all black box thinking, takes the fear out of failure. Of course things will go wrong but using our energy to learn from this and improve is so much less frightening for us.

And for girls, in particular, replacing a desire to be perfect with determination to be brave is so much more empowering. Be brave and see where it takes you.

So, I talked to our students about what a brave and fearless resolution might look like this term. It could be:

  • being brave in lessons by contributing more to discussions or completing extension tasks, perhaps for our exam candidates it could be putting into practice some of the new revision techniques shared at our ‘Elevate’ sessions;
  • being fearless in extra-curricular clubs by joining ones outside our comfort zones, perhaps leading a club or getting involved in our EDI Undivided or Eco team;
  • being brave by speaking up in public and this week we had an impressive whole School assembly led by a team of our boarders discussing the difference between equality and equity and what we can do to make our community and society a more equitable place;
  • being fearless with friendships by reaching out to find new friends across the School, showing kindness to others we may not know so well, extending that friendship to our boarding community perhaps inviting a boarder home at the weekend.

So, it is not too late to think again about resolutions, for us as well as our children. And if that feels odd given that it is 21 January, you could wait ten days.

On 1 February we will be celebrating Chinese New Year across the School; a perfect time to decide on some New Year’s Resolutions. Again.