Tuesday, 25 November 2014

"If you see BoB, tell him ... thanks"

You look at a lot of school vision statements (as I do … for a reason I can’t justify beyond good old fashioned nosiness) and you see lots of different words employed.  Generally, you see some bold statements about achievement and outcomes.  Then, you see the noble gases, such as pride, endeavour, diligence.  Some then try and get all new-age and include things like creativity and inquisitiveness.  More often than not, they paint a picture of an individual whom, if embodied of all of those traits, would by either a herculean super being or a cyborg.

Now, I’m not saying that these are inappropriate, or that hundreds of schools – my own included – have got it wrong.  These are all fine and dandy; full of aspiration, and surely exactly where we want our schools and the next generation of global citizens to be heading. What I’m attempting to say, very badly, is that we may be missing one.  Or that our children and communities do it so naturally that it goes without saying.

I’m not sure the latter is entirely true.  At least, not for us, and at least, not yet.

Let me explain further.

Although I have spent lots of assembly time boring our children about aspiration, collaboration, co-operation and other values that decorate our Vision statement and the stage in our assembly hall, generally our children and community manage to surprise us in a hundred different ways.  Despite everything we profess to hold as a value, the one that isn’t there is generosity, yet, just lately, I have seen such an abundance of this in so many ways that I am beginning to think it is a glaring omission.

Just before the break we’re no longer allowed to call half term, our harvest festival stage was once again crammed with the gifts of donations afforded us.  I have very awkward feelings about the celebration itself, but always enjoy watching how dried goods can spontaneously reproduce.  One tin becomes two. Two become four.  Four become six, and a packet of biscuits and a packet of golden rice.  A drip becomes a trickle, which leads to a deluge and eventually a flood.  A flood of overwhelming generosity. That can’t be bad can it?

In my first assembly back after that holiday, I spoke about poppies, and their true meaning.  I spoke about the horrors of that battlefield, and the stories behind the poppy.  By the following Monday, our poppy box was empty, and our money collection tin full.  Our remembrance service was full of green uniforms with a dashing and deferential dab of red.  And didn’t they look wonderful.

In the same week, not a few days later, they arrived in yellow for children in need.  Hulking great year 6 were unafraid of being seen in their onesie in the name of charity.  Then, at the end of that day, in a freezing cold playground, hundreds (at least it seemed that way to me) stayed behind for the cake sale, with a large bulk of the goodies donated by a teacher’s dad. When the cupboard was bare, an almost invisible army silently cleared away in the dipping, freezing sunlight without a sound.

This isn’t just a dip into whimsical prose – this is an important point.  You see, the backdrop to all of this has been the emergence of our amazing friends group: the Buddies of Badocks, who charmingly refer to themselves as BoB.  From small beginnings in the summer, they have gradually grown and grown, up to and including last Friday night’s Caribbean evening, which was packed, and wonderful.  (If you haven’t seen them yet, our twitter feed - @badocksprimary – will tell the story for you).

This is a different but by no means less important demonstration of generosity.  This is being generous with time, with effort, with skills, with resources, and, very often, with patience.   With this kind of generosity, it’s often others who reap the rewards.  But then, that’s the nature of giving, isn’t it?

As well as simply wanting to share the kindness of this community – and that’s more than enough of a topic for one of my erambles – I wanted to just draw a simple connection.  I’ve been telling the leaders and the governors that, despite some tough tasks at the start of this year, and a lot of deep reflection about outcomes at the end of the last, we have a number of signs that things are going well, and that some of our initiatives are starting to embed.

Things like the number of volunteers is on the up; breakfast club is packed; we have an ever increasing pool of people to call upon when we need them; I can’t recall a time when we’ve had so many clubs; the book swap for adults now looks like an outpost of Waterstones.  And BoB is going from strength to strength.  Add to that all the things listed above and you have to make a simple observation – people must really like being in our school. 

I think generosity is a bit like bacteria – stick with me people: it will only grow and thrive if the environment and the things going on around it are right.  Clearly they are.

So when we revisit our values some time in 2015, perhaps we need to think not only to what we aspire, but to what we have built, embedded, and what we hold dear.  After all, all these generous people can’t be wrong, can they?

Until the big Christmas blog in a few weeks, that is all.

PS To make it quite plain, thank you everyone involved in BoB, who have brought another dimension to our school.  Your generosity is a lesson for us all.