Walking into work at the start of November, I was struck by the contrast between the feelings of hope and uplift generated by the crisp air, sunshine and the autumnal colours of the trees and the gloom of the news bulletin I had just listened to: the unknowns and anxieties of Brexit; increasing dissatisfaction with the political system and divisions among the people it is supposed to represent, in the UK and abroad; and the apparent ‘heating-up’ of the world, as conflicts flare around the globe. As I tried to reconcile this current reality with the optimism inspired by my surroundings, I was reminded of just why I chose to become a teacher in the first place. Yes, the world is an imperfect place but the solution to society’s problems has always been education.
A young person considering their future today may feel less than optimistic about what it holds. Certainly there are many unknowns ahead and it is understandable to feel fearful in times of uncertainty and change. But, as Franklin Roosevelt famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Personal experience and wider history have taught us that rather than give into fear and allow it to cause division and hatred, what is needed in difficult times is understanding, empathy and courage.
This is why education is so important. Of course education provides the knowledge that will form the foundations on which our children can build practical solutions to the challenges we face, but a good school will turn out young people with more than knowledge at their disposal. Education should also teach important human values, creating young people who are motivated by more than self-interest: young people whose compassion and courage will help them to build a positive future.
Education is the greatest tool we have to help ensure that the next generation is equipped to deal with the challenges that will face them. It is a privilege to be involved in shaping their futures and to know that they in turn will influence all our futures as they move on into the wider world. This is why I am so fortunate to work in education. When the world around us seems a little bleak, being surrounded by children within a vibrant learning community is to be reminded daily of the lives full of promise and the many great opportunities which lie ahead of them.
Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School