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An antidote to tedium

Being a teacher for nearly 28 years means you think a fair bit about years, terms, months, weeks and lessons and occasionally even remember being on the receiving end of things.

I will always be very grateful to Birkenhead High School GPDST, as it was then called, for offering me an entrée into Classics, my calling, and so on to teaching, my vocation. In between I had four mostly wonderful years at university and one pretty ghastly year as an articled clerk to a notary public in the City of London. I’m sure it wasn’t much fun for them either. 

I think I know, therefore, not only the feeling of doing what is fulfilling and empowering, but also the reverse, dragging oneself through tedium. Neil Boulton, now retired, once observed in one of our weekly conversations when he was Director of Studies that I had clearly spent a good deal of my own time at school being bored. And his implication was that I was not very good at being bored. It was only then I put the various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to realise that, not only was he spot on, but that the last thing I would want for any pupil at a school in which I’m involved is for them to be bored. 

This weekend has seen the joyous ‘bonkersness’ of the A3 Festival, in which one year group entertains the rest of the school for a whole weekend. Some Gradgrinds might argue that these pupils should be slaving away at their books instead of preparing for and taking part in this weekend of huge creative activity. My view is that those who work hard in the classroom can afford to spend a weekend having creative, extra-mural fun. And those who don’t find it comes naturally to them to slave away in the groves of Academe can learn how to do so by getting stuck in with their peers in an active joint enterprise. This particular weekend helps most A3s to learn to be outside their comfort zone, whether on stage, or directing; whether creating outstanding art installations or modelling for the fashion show; whether performing in the classical, acoustic, or rock concert. And this year it was Niamh Simpson (A3 Hn) who followed the impressive annual A3 Festival tradition of being the pupil brave and talented enough to write, direct and perform her own play, The Princess Initiative. Old Bryanstonians often tell me that they feel the Festival enriched their lives not just for one weekend, but in some cases for much longer as it showed them the way ahead for beyond Bryanston. 

An abundant life, as former Bryanston headmaster Thorold Coade would have it, is about a range of opportunities and a depth to those in which you decide to specialise. It is the prescription for a happy and fulfilled life and an antidote to tedium. I think it’s an essential constituent part of education and I hope it lasts for life.