With the end of the school year fast approaching, we’re all in a bit of tail-spin of activity; madly trying to tie up loose ends if our children are moving off to new schools in September, and also, somehow trying to ensure that the connections that have been built over many years are somehow shored up, and plans made to keep in touch.
There is an art to ending things off on the right note. Ensuring that relationships are intact, and that we are remembered in the way that we would want to be, is the key business of finishing in the right way.
I spent last week in Belgium with our Year 8s, and we had an excellent time away. Our boys were provided with a wonderful opportunity to learn about an epoch when the world was a very different place to what it is now. The abuse of power, a growing sense of nationalism, and winning at all costs, were some common themes that emerged during our travels, and the consequences of all of those things has left an indelible mark on the Belgian landscape. When ideology and the desire for power supersedes the importance of loving our neighbour as ourself, things fall apart spectacularly.
W.B. Yeat’s poem The Second Coming, which was written right after WWI, comments on that moment where the cost of man’s lack of feeling was felt so keenly the world over. He refers to the falcon no longer hearing the falconer, and things falling apart, as man’s ‘gyre’ has spread so far from the voice of the Creator. Within us lies the capacity for deep connection, sincere faith, protective love, and unwavering loyalty. We are able to be immeasurably kind and compassionate, all the while challenging each other, in the most positive of ways, to be better versions of ourselves. This is what relationships are designed to do.
I am so aware that many of our leavers will be experiencing a range of emotions in the coming days. There are those who have been ready to leave for some time, having outgrown the small school, and keen to embrace life somewhere bigger, and more grown up. There are those boys who I know are genuinely sad to leave – they feel unsure of what is to come, and uncertain how to navigate the way forward. And then there are those boys, full of bravado, with no chink in their emotional armour, who will suddenly be overcome by the realisation that change has met them off guard, and it will no doubt take some time for them to adjust to the new state of affairs: having once belonged somewhere, only to find themselves in limbo for two months. This is the way of things… A pattern that repeats itself throughout our lives.
The things that endure though, are the relationships we have invested in over time. Ending well means putting things right where they need to be put right, building bridges where they need to be built, and saying goodbye to those who cannot journey with us any more. It’s a reflective time, and a moment where we too need to consider our impact on the place that we leave behind. There needn’t be sombre reminders of the past, but rather hopeful imaginings of a world that lies before us. As Tennyson put it:
Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset… strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Navigate this time well, boys.
Assistant Deputy Head/Director of Wellbeing/Head of PSHEe/
Deputy DSL/ Assistant Housemaster