“You’re so near to Russia, So far away from Japan…”

“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.

Nicholas Hammond


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