Principal's Assembly 18th May 2021

FA Cup Final Day is no longer the national tradition it used to be, but what a goal it was to win the cup last Saturday! That was the stuff footballers’ dreams are made of.  In fact, what Leicester City has achieved over the last 5 years in winning the premiership and now the FA Cup is beyond the wildest dreams of most the Foxes’ fans.

Less noticed, over-shadowed, I think, by the events at Wembley, was the achievement of Daniel Jebbison.  The 17-year-old scored a goal within his first 7 minutes of his debut in the Premier League for Sheffield United.  More than he could have dreamt of.  Closer to home, many congratulations to Ellis who his starting his own way in professional football from September.  He’s living my dream!

3 years ago, in my very first assembly at Fulneck, I started by telling you about the MacArthur Foundation’s ‘Genius’ Grants.  Each year, the American organisation rewards some of the most creative and inspiring people on the planet.  Winners this year included:  

  • Damien Fair, a cognitive neuroscientist, who has advanced our understanding of how regions of the brain communicate and develop.
  • Paul Dauenhauer, a chemical engineer, who has developed new techniques for converting renewable materials into chemicals used in plastics, rubbers and detergents.
  • N. K. Jemisin, a speculative fiction writer, whose unconventional style explores deep questions relating to race.
  • Cecile McLorin Salvant, a singer and composer, who has infused jazz into modern, vibrant, global, Black, feminist music.  Yes, I am quoting from the website and no, I don’t really know what that means!
  • Forrest Stuart, a Sociologist, who has challenged assumptions about the causes of poverty and violence in urban areas.

The great thing about being a teacher is that I know many of you will have a similar impact on the world.  You might not know how yet, but you will. As I said 3 years ago, I don’t really like the term ‘Genius’; it somehow implies that these people fall out of the womb ready to make this impact and ignores their dreams, goals, plans and sheer hard work.

There is, of course, a significant difference between dreams and goals.

(i)  Goals are realistic. 30 years ago, my dream was to play cricket for Yorkshire. I went to a cricket-mad school and did well enough to be picked for the local representative team – though York and Selby has no-where near the population size of towns and cities around here. I played well enough to be selected for North Yorkshire – though as there are probably more sheep than people in that area, it’s no great shakes. I played ok, though, so I got picked for a Yorkshire trial. I remember that vividly. I’m a batsman and, when it was my turn in the nets, I got ready to face my first ball. It was that quick, the first I knew was when the ball hit the back wall! In that split second, I realised that I was never going to be a cricketer. And I’m fine with that. I played the game at a very amateur level and love the game as a spectator. And I found, eventually, a career that I love more.

(ii) Goals are actionable – you need to have plans. Successive Leicester City managers and the owners knew exactly what they could achieve with their limited resources, Daniel Jebbison’s progress through Sheffield United’s Academy will have had every element of individual skill, teamwork and fitness planned to the nth degree, and years go into academic research and I don’t necessarily mean to the level of those people granted Genius Awards– ask Mrs Gleeson about the planning required in her current post-graduate study or Dr Neuberg about how she achieved her doctorate or Mrs Carver about how the Extended Project Qualifications are planned and executed.

I want to finish with a task.  I want you to pretend that it is your 21st birthday tomorrow.  What would you like to have achieved by the age of 21?  What would you like people to be saying about you?  What is realistic and how do you get there?

Remember, it’s ok not to be sure, it’s not ok to not be thinking about it.

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