Falling Forwards

Last Friday I attended the farewell dinner for the 2017 cohort of Upper Sixth IB students. It was a joint occasion for the IB boys at Bedford School and the IB girls at BGS.

The evening marked the beginning of a number of events where we reflect upon the achievements of our pupils as they make the transition from one stage of their education to another.

As a Head, these occasions cause you to think what message should the different cohorts hear to help them make a difference to the next stage of life they are moving onto. What advice can we as adults give to them to help them mature into the much needed, balanced citizens of the 21st century. On YouTube there are numerous clips of valedictory speeches and guests of honour sharing with audiences what they have learned on their much travelled routes to adult hood.

Denzel Washington, in his valedictory speech to graduates of University of Pennsylvania, urges students to fall forwards. Everyone at some point in their life will fail, at some point in their life will lose or embarrass themselves but with every failed attempt, he argues, you are one step closer to success. By making mistakes, embracing failure and not quitting, not falling back but falling forwards, will bring you greater success in the future. Everyone has the talent to succeed but do they have the strength to fail?

In schools we focus on success but we also need to recognise failure. Coping with failure is as important as striving for success. Resilience and perseverance are skills that need teaching and encouraging and it is only through failure that these skills can be learned. My pride in this IB cohort is that in their two years they each have experienced their own disappointments, their own personal setbacks. Their resilience has been tested but they have fallen forwards not backwards, they have picked themselves up and become stronger.

As Aldous Huxley said: “Experience is not what happens to you: it’s what you do with what happens to you”. The 2017 IB cohort have certainly learned from their educational experience, they have been tested and come through. On Friday night they were rightly proud of their achievements and appreciative of what they had learned in the process. I could not ask for more.

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