A Nintendo Switch, according to my Year 9 history class. A bagful of books according to me.
I’m sure that there are plenty of other objects of desire being requested at this time of year, such consideration of the age old question “what do I want” leads me to think about what we as a school have received this year and what we might wish for next. Excellence with compassion, intelligence with integrity and mindful discovery all seem to be things worth cherishing this Christmas and beyond. We have seen many good things happen this year, some have made the headlines in the newsletter and many have gone unheralded; small quiet moments of success, acts of service and periods of deep thought. As we come to the end of this most busy and fruitful term I hope that everyone in the school community can reflect upon their achievements and will take the coming holiday as a chance to recharge and refocus on priorities for the New Year. We are wise to heed the words of Winston Churchill that “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but reflecting.”
For some this is their last week as a pupil at the BSP. We wish them well as they move to new schools, countries and continents. I hope that they take with them the values that this school holds and they use all that they have learned here to make a positive impact in their new communities.
Whilst we are not quite at the end of term it only seems right and proper to wish you all a most splendid Christmas and New Year, may they both be filled with joy.
“You’re so near to Russia, So far away from Japan, Quite a long way from Cairo, Lots of miles from Vietnam”
Finland, Monty Python
Sisu? No I didn’t know what it meant either. Kudos to those who instantly recognise this Finnish word, particularly in this week which marks a centenary of Finland’s nationhood. Apparently sisu is an expression of the Finnish national spirit and though it has no literal translation in English or French we could see it as being somewhere close to grit, determination or resilience. In BSP terms their sisu is our endeavour. At this point of term everyone needs to be reminded that a little bit of sisu is a very good thing; we just need to carry on and keep making the most of school life despite this having been a long term, despite the weather turning and despite there seemingly being too many things to do in the last days of this Autumn term.
Mention of endeavour brings to mind the Finish architect, designer and artist Aalvar Aalto. It was he that said “The ultimate goal of the architect… is to create a paradise. Every house, every product of architecture… should be a fruit of our endeavour to build an earthly paradise for people.” This focus on creating the best environment can be seen in the Finnish approach to education, so often considered to be the best in the world. Whilst the Finnish educationalists have a great system, they are forever trying to improve it. Rather like Aalto’s experimental house in Muuratsalo the Finns are keen to embrace new ideas while preserving all that makes their approach so successful. They don’t teach to the test, they preserve an element of fun in their learning and look to develop productive teacher pupil relationships. I’d hope that many of these elements of successful education are to be found here at the BSP. In playing the game of famous Finns, I would be remiss not to mention the artist and author Tove Jansson. Well known for her Moomin books and perhaps less well recognised for her excellent writing for adults and her art Jansson speaks clearly of the Finnish mind in a way that resonates with all that we are trying to achieve here in school. In her book Fair Play she gives us the very wise advice “It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.” If ever we needed an explanation of sisu or indeed endeavour, perhaps this it. Never stop learning no matter what the obstacles put in front of you are.
As we slowly march to the end of term we should remind ourselves of all that can still be achieved, all that is still to be enjoyed and all that has been done. Happy Birthday Finland! Here’s to another century of Moomin Valley Madness, exciting architecture and sisu. We still have much to learn from you.
This week it has been about snow, next week in the Senior School it will probably be about assessment grades and the week after that is likely to be about the Junior School Christmas concert. Schools are always places of anticipation. Be it the twelve month long anticipation of a Year 6 looking at the move to senior school or the Year 13 awaiting a university offer there is always something to anticipate. Be it a short term count down to the end of the year or longer term “I’m thinking about the next stage of my life”, a school’s momentum is at least to some extent generated by looking forward. What we will do next lesson sometimes seems to be more important than what we are actually doing now.
As of Monday morning there will be 13 school days until the end of term. I hope that all students take time to enjoy what will occur in the moment over the coming weeks rather than solely looking ahead. Grades will be given and we are wise to reflect upon academic progress that has been made. There will be concerts, talent shows, parties and Christmas lunches. There will be both learning and fun; they should be savoured. For some these are the last few days before they move on to another part of the globe for their education, perhaps they more than anyone should take time to enjoy the special atmosphere of our school by the Seine. I hope that they leave with an understanding of what they have been part of – a community of young people who will use their talent in the future to make their communities better places.
Tomorrow sees one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the festive calendar, the BSPS Christmas Fair. Once again the BSPS Committee have surpassed themselves in organising a fair which will provide great enjoyment for our community, I do hope that you will come to the Junior School on Saturday to kick off our Christmas season in style.