I LOVE SPORTS DAY! In fact, this was very nearly the title for this weeks’ blog. It is my absolute favourite day of the academic calendar and I regularly rearrange things to ensure I can be out on the field all day enjoying every moment. Now, I fully appreciate that I probably enjoy it in part because I am not the one organising it, and I must therefore take a moment to thank and praise the sports faculty once again for the tremendous amount of work that they put into the planning and delivery of sports day each and every year. This year was no exception!
However, my message this week is a little broader than just sports day. I want to talk about being young, and how wonderful that really is. The biggest reason I love sports day is that it reminds me of being young. I have hugely fond memories of sports day when I was at school and it all comes rushing back when we hold one here at the High School. The camaraderie, the sportsmanship (or sportswomanship!), the laughter and the celebration make me incredibly nostalgic and also incredibly proud when I see this in our students.
In our fast paced world, there is a tendency to accelerate the process of growing up for children. Perhaps it’s the fear of ensuring that they are fully prepared for the world around them that pushes us to hurry them along, or perhaps our expectations of children have changed over time. I sometimes worry that as a society, we are encouraging them to abandon their innocence and embrace adulthood prematurely. I worry that the influence of social media and the seemingly limitless access to the internet is exacerbating this further still. And I worry that sometimes we forget the beauty and value of childhood, for it is a period when young souls can thrive, explore and find boundless joy. Do we, the adults in the room, therefore need to take a breath and resist the urge to push them into adulthood too soon?
Childhood is a time when imagination knows no bounds. Young minds possess an ability to create, be it their use of vibrant vocabulary or their use of colour in their art work. Younger children have magical adventures, far away from the confines of adult reality, they make potions and dens in Forest School, or fly on magic carpets across the playground, or lose themselves in musical or theatrical composition. They think beyond convention. By encouraging children to retain their innocence, we provide them with the freedom to nurture their creativity and fully explore the limits of their imagination. It is through imaginative play that children develop problem solving skills, learn to express themselves and cultivate a lifelong love for learning.
Children also possess an insatiable thirst for knowledge. This is good news for me and my fellow teachers! They also often have an unyielding sense of wonder about the world around them…. A double bonus for me as a Geography teacher!! By allowing them to remain in the realm of childhood, we nurture their innate curiosity, encouraging them to ask questions, seek answers and explore the world with enthusiasm. This sense of wonder often lays the foundations for learning, critical thinking and an appreciation for the complexity of life in general. If that is taken away from them too early, the implications for our future generations are perhaps a little bleak.
As pastoral lead, it would be remiss of me to not mention wellbeing as part of this. The pressure to grow up too quickly can have detrimental effects on a child’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. Childhood offers an escape from the pressures of reality and the responsibilities of adulthood.By allowing them to savour their youth, we offer the a protective bubble where they can develop emotionally at their own pace and gain experience of the world and all it’s demands whilst ensuring the safety net will catch them when they inevitably fall at some of the hurdles or challenges that they face. As they move through their school years, these challenges become greater and of course culminate in the public examinations of GCSE and A Level. Successful students are often the ones who have been given room to gain independence, whilst also being encouraged not to rush to the finish line.
Childhood friendships are also extremely important for well-rounded social development and long term happiness and often form the basis for life long success in forming positive connections. If you have ever heard me talk about the complexities of girl’s friendships, you will have heard me say just how vital they are for girls to be happy. I am sure the same is also true for boys, but the importance for girls to feel secure, and accepted amongst their peers outweighs almost all other factors and often drives them to behave in ways that might be less than ideal (a topic for another time perhaps). By encouraging children to embrace their youth and innocence, we can create environments that foster genuine relationships that are authentic and offer a genuine source of pleasure. In turn, these bonds help children navigate challenges, build empathy and learn valuable lessons in social etiquette. Rushing this process, or the negative impacts of social media in the mix of navigating the tricky, and often turbulent, waters of friendships, may hinder the formation of deep and meaningful connections that could last a lifetime.
Childhood is synonymous with playfulness.Preserving childhood allows children to engage in unstructured play, linking back to the fostering of creativity, problem solving, emotional development, etc. On the last day of the half term a few short weeks ago, we organised discos for the students for the first time ever in this way. I have to admit that I was a little nervous that this might not really be their thing, despite it being a direct request from the Student Council. The pastoral team mulled over this for several weeks before agreeing to organise it. We worried that perhaps it would be a bit ‘lame’ or maybe wouldn’t meet their expectations. It is, afterall, a long time since any of us went to a teenagers disco or party! However, I needn’t have worried. I was delighted at just how delighted they were. They danced, they sang, and best of all, they played. They were inclusive and they were kind. They showed every possible positive characteristic that I have come to expect of a High School student in those few short hours and I could not have been more pleased.
Childhood is a fleeting and precious time in one’s life. It is a phase filled with innocence, playfulness, and endless possibilities. Resisting the rush to grow up too quickly allows children to savour the joy of being young, nurturing their emotional wellbeing, building lasting relationships, and promoting their dreams. Let us embrace and protect the magic of childhood, because I truly believe that childhood is where the foundations of a happy and fulfilling life are laid. By allowing children to be children, we gift them the priceless opportunity to grow into well-rounded individuals who carry the spirit of youth in their hearts, even as they embark on the journey of adulthood. Events like the discos, or sports days, or the multiple and wonderful House events that they take part in, are constant reminders of the value of youth. We must, and do, treasure that at this school. So I must finish by thanking all of you, our parents, for encouraging and fostering that sense of youth at home. It really is a collaborative effort and as a result, our students make me proud every day.
Assistant Head Pastoral