“It is the combination of reasonable talent…”

“It is the combination of reasonable talent and the ability to keep going in the face of defeat that leads to success.”

Martin Seligman

One of the perks of my job is that I move between the Senior School and Junior School campuses. How lucky I am to experience the riverbank (albeit briefly) and the shrub lined, bird filled access road up the side of the Junior School. This morning, in the fine drizzle I saw the tiniest of snails on the large green lamp post by the back gate. If the snail was endeavouring to reach the top of the lamp, then I thought he was being just a fraction optimistic.

In educational literature there has been an awful lot written about grit and determination in recent years. Authors such as Paul Tough and Angela Duckworth have written extensively on the topics and in doing so have had bestsellers on their hands. Another subject that is also mentioned from time to time is that of optimism covered admirably by writers like Martin Seligman. The current school year has thrown up so many questions and interruptions that we could very well be forgiven for looking ahead with a real lack of cheer for the future, for chucking away any pretence at grit and giving up on determination. We could all be snowflakes… parts of the media would have us believe that our young people already are. That is not what I see.

This morning I had the great pleasure of reading one of my favourite books to Nursery. When I say I read it; I was only allowed to after I had answered two important questions. Thus, having admitted to a favourite colour and identified my favourite flavour of ice cream we made a start on The Gruffalo. If you ever want a definition of optimism and confidence that life is most definitely being lived to the full you will find it in our Nursery class and perhaps in The Gruffalo we find a useful example of how to negotiate the coming weeks and months. The central figure of the mouse shows all of the other animals of the wood that whilst caution is a very good thing, we need to be careful of how far we allow that caution to define our actions. The mouse remains optimistic despite the danger being faced. When put in a difficult situation the mouse finds a way around the threat. Ultimately the mouse remains safe because of his sensible precautions and a thoughtful approach to the peril faced.

Today’s Junior School assembly dealt with determination and endeavour, two of our school values. Mr. Potter talked about crossing bridges. We have some rickety old dangerous bridges that we have to cross and we have others that feel far safer. These two values will serve us well as this long term continues. Back in Nursery I saw the fantastic work that has been done creating butterflies from coffee filter papers by the children. Bright symbols of optimism in this world. This is a difficult time for our young people, many of them remain optimistic despite the threat of many activities they enjoy being curtailed, their resilience is inspiring.

Nicholas Hammond