Most practising Catholics know what is expected and required of us during the season of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We talk about giving something up for Lent, we want to make Lent special. I would imagine that I am similar to most Catholics in that I find this quite a challenge. If it was not a challenge then it would not be worth the endeavour!
This Lent I have taken it upon myself to improve the spiritual journey for our students, at the moment we are without a chaplain to provide resources, so I have stepped into the void. Each week I source a video clip which I hope will help students focus on the relevance of this important season. I have also made a commitment to double the number of ‘Headteacher’s Blogs’, I know many parents like to read these. (This is now the third since the beginning of Lent, I am aiming for Six.) For me this presents a challenge; I am not a natural wordsmith. I have met scholars who can bash out 5000 words before breakfast, unfortunately I do not fall into this category!
The 5th to the 10th March is marked as National Careers Week, in advance of this a number of speakers have worked with students during our assembly time. My thanks to those visitors who have come into school. The subtext to many of these talks has been about finding a career that excites the spirit. I have always believed that there is something in following your dreams.
Education and qualifications are very important, they provide youngsters with choice and opportunity but they do not provide the armour plate youngsters need against the headwinds of life. A youngster’s future will be influenced by the qualifications they have, but not set by them. What will influence a youngster’s future and certainly get them out of the starting blocks, is the level of faith parents have in him or her. What message does it send if we pour water on a youngster’s passion, dreams and aspirations?
A few times every year my Senior Team have a one-to-one with KS4 students to talk about careers and aspiration. Do we tell students to pursue their passions or dilute their aspirations with a dose of adult scepticism? Live their dreams or live in reality? What do you do when a student tells you they want to be the next Chris Boardman, Jessica Ennnis-Hill, Alan Sugar or Deborah Meaden, or they want to be movie stars, rock stars and games designers.
As a teacher and a dad I go back and forth on the subject of how and when to push youngsters towards or away from certain plans. Telling youngsters it won’t happen is clearly not true, or we would not have our own grown talent who are at the pinnacle of their game. The danger is that we try and suppress their enthusiasm because we believe we have something better, or have a preconceived idea of the journey a child must take. In the past, many children did what their parents did because this was the envelope of their parent’s experiences, which is why families had generations service personnel, plumbers or even priests. A conversation that starts, I think you should become is doomed to failure. The conversation that starts have you considered is more likely to bear fruit.
The choice for youngsters now bears little significance to that of 30 yeas ago. Now there are countless career options, more than most of us can keep track of. Youngsters are driven by experiences and role models, they want to be what they see and can imagine. As adults we have a responsibility to provide guidance, but pouring water on something that excites a youngster is not only wrong it can crush self-esteem during the most vulnerable teenage years.
The words of the poem by W B Yates should resonate in our years when we listen to a the dreams and aspirations of our children.
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams