From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

Last week I wrote, as I have done often before, that we do our young people a disservice if we over-diagnose and pathologise normal human emotions and create a community of worried well, that it is important to understand the role of coping with hardship, challenge, disappointment, anxiousness, and stress play in helping young people develop resilience. Almost five years ago, at what I recall was his first address to a Year 7 Father and Son breakfast, the Head Master opined that having ‘happiness’ as our goal in life was not a helpful mindset, an idea echoed in a 2021 opinion piece by Jennifer Tzeses, Why Pursuing Happiness Makes Us Miserable. His thesis was that if we frame happiness as a goal, by definition we are always striving to grasp it, and, by definition, we are doomed to fail because we know from experience that we cannot be happy all the time.

As parents and educators, we have to remember that failure (disappointment, hardship, stress and so on) is often how we learn and how we grow, and that wrapping our children and young people in cotton wool in an attempt to shield them from the vicissitudes of life may, in fact, have the opposite effect. Our School Ethos makes it clear that it is our intention to challenge (and support) your sons. To take them out of their comfort zone in order to strive for the twin goals of growth and the formation of good character, and, whilst it may seem a semantic or esoteric distinction, it is my view that your sons are the beneficiaries if we have a shared understanding that the challenge comes before the support, not the other way around. Let’s not rush to roll out the metaphorical safety net, because that assumes an inability to rise to the challenge.

To that end, and in the context of this Term’s Life Skills Programme’s focus on psychoeducation and wellbeing, I was very impressed with the occasional remarks that Noah Giacoppo (12He) shared with your sons this week.

It would be fair to say we try and live our lives with little to no regret. I certainly do, and you have all heard speeches from School Officers, who have stood at this very lectern, about why you should make the most of your Trinity experience. Why you should involve yourself in as much as possible so you can walk out the school gates for the final time, look back on your journey and be able to say you’ve had no regrets.

I happen to think this is a worthy aim. That we should study hard to ensure and throw ourselves into the opportunities the School offers, but I think we need to scrap the idea of no regret. Daniel Pink, wrote a book titled, The Power of Regret, in which he argues that the concept of “no regret” is dangerous, and “dead wrong,” because there is much to learn from regret. And, like Frank Sinatra, if we can learn to harness our regret, we can grow from it, and perhaps come to understand ourselves and the world around us better. I encourage you to believe that regret is not something to be feared. It’s not something for you to push to one side and forget about and that there is a potential power in harnessing those feelings of regret.

Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

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