The summer term is a time of great celebration. Often these celebrations take the form of traditional events: sports days; musical productions; graduation events and so on. Sometimes the cause for celebration is less immediately obvious – especially in end of year examinations which offer, along with the associated revision and stress, the opportunity to shine and celebrate all that has been learned. The summer term of 2020 was largely experienced remotely and even this year, with a return to more normal times, our older pupils will not experience the bitter-sweetness of public examinations and some of the associated rites of passage. Nonetheless, we are determined to make this term one of true celebration, in part because, quite simply, we are grateful that we can.
As it happens, gratitude is the character value for this month and out of this was borne the idea of a gratitude festival to celebrate all that is vibrant and good in our school. When thinking of how this might feel, I was drawn to one of the few Shakespearian quotes in my memory bank:
‘If music be the food of love, play on.’ (Orsino, Twelfth Night)
The gratitude festival will run over two weeks and offer our pupils the chance to share their achievements in art and science, drama, public speaking, music and the sports field. From the very youngest children in nursery to sixth formers, they will have the opportunity to ‘play on’ during the festival weeks. Just as the best learning should be as engaging as play, so can play offer the chance to perform and make new interpretations of the world and that learning. Preparing for their festival performances will encourage our pupils to examine and truly know the play, piece of music or sporting skill and to engage mindfully with these experiences, as well as to quite simply enjoy the moment.
Mindful engagement and thankfulness are attitudes which can be practised and developed. Earlier this year, we introduced the concept of gratitude journaling as a means of cultivating a thankful and positive state of mind. Research shows that writing down three things for which you are grateful each day reduces anxiety, leads to greater optimism and improves sleep quality. Saying thank you to someone each day improves your own sense of belonging and cheerfulness. Finally, engaging in the essence of a moment – turning off the phone and all the distractions – and savouring the experience is shown to lead to an increase in happiness and a reduction in negative thought.
Just as we are enjoying the planning and anticipation of opening up the school and welcoming parents and relatives to share the experiences of our pupils, so we hope that these events will be part of their gratitude journals, metaphorical or otherwise, and spread a sense of joy and celebration.
Play on, indeed!
Mrs Helen Hutton-Attenborough
Head of the Preparatory School