Principal's assembly 6th October 2020

I noticed last Thursday that it was International Day for Older Persons. I texted my Mum straight away but sadly cannot repeat her response. The calendar is now littered with these events, from Healthy Eating and Bike to School weeks to Go Sober for October and World Vegetarian Day, from World Mental Health Day to World Values Day. Yesterday was World Teacher Day and it’s not too late to show your appreciation.

I actually really like the national and international awareness days, weeks and months. Our committee is now well on with its planning for Black History Month and I am looking for the best way of celebrating South Asian Heritage Month which sadly fell during the summer holidays but was very important for very many of you.
I would worry if the awareness days were the only times that we actually considered the issues; in fact, the events would have failed miserably if that was true. In the case of Black History Month or the general raising of bigotry in society, I don’t think it is the case here at Fulneck, given what we learn in PSHE, History and Religious Studies. Next time you’re up at the Junior School, have a look at what they’ve done to their classroom doors.

I couldn’t have been happier to discover that Year 8 are currently reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm in English Literature. The book that first got me interested in politics, many of you will know that it is arguably the greatest novel in the dystopian fiction genre. Perhaps most famously, the dictators argue that “Four legs good, two legs bad”, driving division and drowning out dissent. There may have been no better time in recent history to read that book than now.

I’ve also looked back over assembly themes of the last three years. Subconsciously I can assure you – and certainly no comment on the attitudes of the Fulneck community – so many have been dedicated to the mission of, as Harry and Meghan put it last week, rejecting hate.

My favourite remains the story of Father Alec Reid, the Catholic priest who administered the last rites to two British soldiers killed by the IRA, but we’ve also featured Maya Angelou, both Barack and Michelle Obama, Dame Kelly Holmes and Jackie Robinson, all of whom became generals in the battle for equality.
Today’s story is about someone who has had to fight a very different kind of battle.

Mollie King is well-known to you as a member of The Saturdays, a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing and now a Radio 1 DJ and part-time presenter on This Morning. To us, her life looks spectacularly easy and successful – she seems to have it all: the beauty, the fame and the wealth.

The Saturdays have sold over 5 million records worldwide, had 13 top ten singles in the UK and 5 top ten albums. Their primetime TV series “Chasing The Saturdays” aired in over 40 countries, including the US. Mollie King’s transition to tv and the radio has been seamless, including hosting The Greatest Dancer, and she even made the semi-final of Strictly with partner AJ Pritchard.
I have talked to you before about the illusion of effortlessness. Many of the people that you most admire – teachers, sportsmen and women or business leaders – seem to succeed with such little effort. I can tell you – it is simply not the case – success has a twin in struggle - and Mollie King is a classic example.

Mollie had always found reading very difficult and was, at the age of 10, diagnosed with dyslexia. As she says, the diagnosis came as a relief because, for so long, she just hadn’t been able to understand why she found something so difficult when her classmates seemed to find it so easy.

In her words, she says that “It’s definitely something that does still affect me in day to day life but I think my main message is to not let it ever stop you and to realise that you might find some things harder but there are so many benefits to it. I think that you become a naturally hard worker.”

This is Dyslexia Awareness Week and therefore a chance to both celebrate the work of our brilliant dyslexia-specialist Learning Support Unit and challenge any misconceptions that dyslexia is an obstacle that cannot be beaten. Clearly, there are barriers but, with the support of our expert staff, the learning process can be turned on its head and into a life advantage.
The theme of the Awareness Week is “dyslexia creates”. It seems to me that Mollie King and coincidentally her dance partner AJ who is also dyslexic are excellent examples of the power of creativity that refuses to be dulled, and may even be ignited, by the challenge of dyslexia.

I’ll leave this week’s thought for the day with Mollie King:
“I do think that with people who are dyslexic, there is something where we just have that drive inside of us. I don’t know whether it’s because we’re used to having to work that little bit harder but everyone who I’ve ever met who is dyslexic always has that fire in their belly and they always want to strive to succeed.”

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