Principal's Assembly 9th July 2021

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Welcome to the last in the series of assemblies about great leaders. Those words of Theodore Roosevelt – The Man in the Arena – allude to several of the characteristics that you looked at a few weeks ago before making your nomination and displayed by Marcela Bielsa, Baden-Powell and Elon Musk in our previous stories: the passion and commitment that Bielsa demonstrates in eating, sleeping and breathing football; Baden-Powell’s enthusiasm for developing the personalities and skillsets of young people; and Musk’s sense of ambition and willingness to make mistakes.

What I think Roosevelt is saying to us really, though, is that it is too easy to sit on the sidelines and snipe; to be a true leader, you have to take that first step of putting yourself forward. That isn’t always easy because it comes with an inherent chance of failure. Four of you applied to be Head of School and didn’t get the role. Entering a competitive process brings risk and requires good grace and willingness to accept feedback when you don’t win. I know that those four of you will get opportunities to lead in other ways next year, not least in supporting Maya and Harvey when they do take up their roles in September.

Teddy Roosevelt assumed the US presidency at the age of just 42 following the assassination of William McKinley in 1901.His time in office saw many changes at home and the need for great diplomacy in foreign affairs, especially in bringing peace to the conflict between Russia and Japan for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

At times of crisis, we need people to enter the arena. It is certainly my experience of leading a school through the last 18 months that some people have struggled, understandably, and others have risen to the challenges magnificently. The people that I want to highlight in my final assembly are those currently sat at the front of your classrooms.

Our teachers have coped magnificently with all that has been thrown their way by Covid-19. Some have suffered from the virus, many have families affected by it. I have total admiration for the way that they switched to remote learning. If a school ever really wanted to implement a system like Google Classroom, you’d probably have a year’s lead in of training; your teachers did it last year with mere days to get used to the system. I am sure that you will be aware that many of them taught you from home at the same time as trying to manage their own children’s education.

I am very proud of our staff – teaching and non-teaching – just as I am very proud of what you have achieved. I am proud of the ways that you conduct your lives, proud of what you achieve together as one big team and proud of how you accept each other for who you are. The new Principal, Ms Smith, inherits a very special community.

I’ve said before that life does not always progress in a straight line and nor do you always achieve your goals, but I will always be very proud to have been Principal of Fulneck School.

If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
   And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
   If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling, If.

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