Part of the furniture

As I packed up the last few things in my house on 29th August 2019, the realisation that we, as a family, were moving away from the surroundings that had been so familiar and secure for a decade suddenly dawned on me.  This was it and, though I think I just about managed not to appear panicked, I was certainly preoccupied with what could be on the horizon and whether the right decision had been made.  It made me realise that, however much reasoned discussion one has about anything and whatever exciting things might have been awaiting us at Vinehall, any change is daunting.

Fast forward a few months and life in East Sussex has become the norm.  Busy days with talented colleagues and eager children have taken over and the exuberance of young (and old) that is palpable in every corner of the grounds has a familiar air to it, as though I’ve been here for years.  It got me thinking as to how this had all happened so naturally and why I didn’t feel like the new boy any more.

At Vinehall a lot of emphasis is put on instilling in the children the confidence to operate successfully in life by using a set of dispositions.  Pupils are encouraged to be inquisitive, collaborative, resilient, reflective and courageous in everything they do and this system begins right at the start of their time with us here.  My two year old daughter knows all about ‘Terry,’ our resilient tortoise (in puppet form!) and how he works hard at things, whatever life throws at him.  It is often said that, as teachers, we are readying the children in our care for a world that will look very different.  In endeavouring to instil in our charges a sense of purpose via these dispositions, we are preparing them for the challenges they will face and it is a system that I have come to grow very fond of in a short space of time.  As a result, the children here are full of confidence and love to overcome challenges.  It occurred to me that it must then, surely, be this innovative outlook that made me feel so at ease?  However, the more I thought about it and, despite the obvious value that such skills afford individuals, it was still hard to pinpoint how any one of these, or even a combination of them, could have impacted on me enough to feel as at home as I did.

As everyone knows, if you want the answer to anything in a school, you should probably ask the children.  So, in a bid to understand, I headed to the Pre-Prep.  It was listening to a young lady called Florence in Kindergarten talking about her friends when I realised I probably should have worked the answer out for myself all along.  She explained that her friends had helped her to build towers and how kind that had been and how it had made her feel happy.  I realised that is exactly what my own experience had been about.

In everything I had done since my arrival, there had always been a helping hand (ranging from the very small to adult-sized) to point me in the right direction and, whilst I had not yet had an opportunity to play with the Lego in Pre-Prep, I felt sure that there would be many willing helpers to aid me in constructing a tower or two as well.  The school’s motto is Pro aliis optimum agere (to do our best for the benefit of others); such benevolent sentiment today conjures up images of grand charitable acts for those less fortunate than ourselves.  These gestures are absolutely of the utmost importance and the school engages in such activities throughout the year.  However, it was the day-to-day embodiment of this motto that I’d looked beyond without realising.  In a rapidly-changing, fast-paced world, it is always a great comfort to know that someone has ‘got your back’.  It is, it goes without saying, an even greater comfort to know that an entire community is looking out for you and making sure you don’t do anything stupid (particularly in your first term!).


Article prepared for Kudos magazine January 2020