At a senior leadership team away day last Saturday, we focused amongst other things on memories and emotions, some of which were happy and some sad.
The poet and prophet Kahlil Gibran writes in his poem “On joy and sorrow“ :
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
To read the rest of this poem please follow the link http://www.katsandogz.com/onjoy.html
At this sober time of year when we reflect on the death of so many in war, perhaps it helps us to understand more if we remember that pain and pleasure are interdependent.
We cannot understand loss fully unless presence has been enjoyed.
So we were saddened to hear of the death last week of Father Paul Cox formerly Headmaster of St. Michael’s Prep. To his wife Jenny and his daughter Tamsin we extend our deepest condolences. They remain in our prayers at home and at school. The poem resonates as I think of all that Paul and Jenny gave to St Michael’s. My sense of loss is very great and I am sure that I am not alone in this feeling, but it is good to know that this loss is measured In the myriad ways he changed and shaped and developed the school and for that we will be eternally grateful.
Paul was Headmaster here for a decade till he retired in 1990 and before that, coincidentally, was House tutor of my husband at Tonbridge School. We have been delighted to welcome Paul and Jenny to every Prize Giving for four years and only a few weeks ago they were here again for Old Michaelians’ Day.
Jenny founded the Pre-Prep with just three pupils in 1982 and during Paul’s tenure the P&F was born, under its original name “The Friends of St Michael’s.” Paul increased the numbers here, developed weekly boarding, introduced girls to the school and fulfilled a much more widely ranging role then than Heads do now, which included cleaning, hoovering, mowing the grass and organising everything that happened. So when the stable block was converted to become the Pre-Prep they were the manpower along with trusty colleagues. When Paul has visited the school with Jenny lately, they have always offered some new insight into the life they loved here. This was their home and their passion for ten happy years.
Paul spent his last day at home, gardening and finishing a project with Jenny. He became ill quite suddenly and died at home. As a community we mourn Paul’s passing and offer to Jenny and their daughter Tamsin, our deepest condolences. We will hold them in our thoughts and prayers and we will be happy to pass on any letters and cards for them and hope that just as they were upheld in their life by their faith, that at the time they must now be parted that this faith will keep them strong.
A memorial service will take place on Friday 24th November at 12.30pm at St Richards Church, Upper Station Road, Heathfield TN21 8DS and will be taken by Paul’s twin brother, Archdeacon John Cox. Parking will be limited. Donations to the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research.
It was good to last week to spend time at the Independent Schools Council‘s special educational needs conference, where a range of stimulating and enlightening talks and workshops filled my day. One of the striking slides in the afternoon presentation was a graph of different coloured undulating lines travelling horizontally, parallel to each other. This graph represented the ups and downs of everyday life within a group and the point was made that children need to learn that the graph of life does go up and down and that down is okay and it will become up. Understanding which activities can make you feel good is an important part of teaching children to self-regulate and look after themselves, whether that be through sport, running around, playing an instrument, creating a work of art or dancing.
I am certain of the importance of being outside in developing well-being and we are lucky that at St Michael’s we have so much space to enjoy.
Children, of course, have the power to lift one’s spirits and I am always better for spending time in classrooms, watching children, listening to them and talking with them.
I was delighted to walk two Headmasters around the site this week, firstly Craig McCarthy from Russell House down the road and secondly Martin Collier, newly appointed Headmaster at Haileybury School. Whilst, psychologically, for some families considering boarding, Haileybury may not be an obvious choice because of its distance, in reality it is only an hour away and as it is an excellent school, it is worth considering for our families at St Michael’s. Haileybury is looking for the abler child, and provides an excellent, broad and rich education. Do go and see what they have to offer.
As we head into the preparations for Advent and Christmas, for some there will be a mixture of joy and sadness. Our human frailty and the wonderful way in which community can offer strength and support lies too at the heart of that story, to which we will turn our attention in the weeks to come.
I look forward to seeing some of you next week at the St Cecilia’s concert.
If you haven’t already, please do prioritise taking part in our well-being survey. Your views and responses are crucial to building an effective plan for growth and improvement.
Have a great weekend.