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Pollyanna & Eeyore

As we come to the end of an incredible term, I have barely registered that it is in fact also the end of the academic year.

There are many clichés I could utter at this point about the term we have all just lived through, but what I really wanted to say was Thank You. To say I have felt well supported by our community would be an understatement. I will be grateful for people’s kind words, understanding and devotion to their professional duty for a long time to come.

I will look back on this term as a strange sort of career highlight.

What colleagues and pupils have put together has been remarkable. Please do listen and watch the wonderful work of the Music Department’s Summer Festival on Firefly. I think my words to Dr Collisson and Mr Beecroft and the rest of the department who did so much of the editing was that these videos were ‘gold dust’. They capture the South Hampstead spirit brilliantly. The online Art exhibitions from our pupils in Years 7 to 9 is equally impressive – please do have a look at the summer projects the girls have produced. And please read about all the other achievements too – from all the new electives courses we designed to entrepreneurial competitions to debating championships to partnership work to creatively reimagined sports events.

There is much to celebrate, not least the anticipation of our full return in September. We can all be collectively proud of what South Hampstead has achieved during lockdown. But to focus only on our collective experience would be to deny the very real experiences that some of you have had to face over the last few months. Bereavement, unemployment, mental health challenges, loneliness, worry about the future, stress and exhaustion. The lived experience of an individual member of our community may be very different from the collective experience of the community, and we must not forget this.

All of us have had different experiences of lockdown. In some cases, the difference can be explained by differences of circumstance with some of us facing what would be huge challenges for anybody. In other cases, the difference is one of disposition. Some of us are more like the fictional character Pollyanna who can find a silver lining in every cloud. Others are a little more like Eeyore, the gloomy donkey in Winnie the Pooh. But let’s not knock Eeyore. He is a very kind-hearted donkey with much to offer any woodland community.

Diversity of thinking is now prized in any modern organisation. Matthew Syed’s brilliant book Rebel Ideas eloquently explains why organisations need diverse thinking. Any community needs its Pollyanna types and its Eeyore types, and lots of types in between. Reopening schools is an excellent example of why we need both types of thinking. We need some Pollyanna energy and determination to get schools open again. We need Pollyanna thinking to find solutions to the endless problems thrown in our way. But we need an equally healthy dose of Eeyore thinking to consider every possible risk and to anticipate the challenges which lie ahead. Perhaps a comparison between Eeyore and Tigger would have had more pleasing literary coherence, but perhaps it is also time for me to end this management conceit, and to wish you all a happy and restful summer.

Mehr Licht to you all.

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