There are some things that are so serious that you just have to laugh at them…

“There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.” Nils Bohr, Nobel Prize winner for Physics, 1922.

It was only the other day that I was talking to my brother Richard about life in school and what it is like to work in a school*.  You see, he is at something of a loose end following the cancellation of his latest series; apparently unforeseen yet entirely predictable consequences were to blame. One of things that I said to him was that the British School is a great place because of the attitude of the whole community. In particular one of the joys is that there is a spirit of fun and good humour. 

On reflection, it really is the case that good humour is what makes a school run successfully during a long and busy term.  Not laugh out loud, crack a gag good humour but more humour in the classical sense, or at least the sense of one of the Greek humours. The Greeks believed there were four humours, with the one connected with carefree joy being the humour of the heart, its associated season is the spring. 

According to the philosophers and medics of Ancient Greece the moment your humours became unbalanced, trouble lay ahead.  Balance was all.  The same is true of a successful school term.  A good balance; academic work, sport, friends, challenges, success and even a little bit of well things not going so successfully.  We live in an age of extremes and we run a very real danger of unbalancing the delicate equilibrium.  We are entering the exam season.  Just as the miserable weather abates we ask our young people to lock themselves away and study.  We pile on the pressure, load on the expectations. We lose the balance.  April is indeed the cruellest month.

Fortunately, in the coming weeks we have the opportunity to build on the recuperative benefits of the recent holiday and we can plan to ensure that there is balance in the school week. Students should revise and relax in the right measure.  All work and no play does indeed make Jack and Jill dull children.  It may also lead to them being stressed out and unhappy.  Similarly, too much relaxation will lead to another form of similarly unhelpful anxiety. 

I hope that this long weekend proves to be both a productive one and a relaxing one.  I’d urge all those facing exams to make sure that they are properly prepared.  Their teachers will be ready to assist; the key to success is balanced study and relaxation. Ultimately, it is important that they work effectively with managed periods of relaxation in between. Just imagine, if my brother’s colleague had been properly balanced and decided to order a pizza rather than deliver a knuckle sandwich then we’d have an (even) smugger presenter who had averted a culinary disaster, a producer without a bruised jaw and there would still be something mildly funny to watch on the BBC on Sunday nights.

Nicholas Hammond


*This could be a feeble attempt at humour

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