Written by Mrs Sally Weber-Spokes,
Head at Yarrells School & Nursery
As a Headteacher, it would be so lovely to write that the pupils at my school are happy all the time, but it would be naïve of me to make that statement. We do have a really happy school: it’s a gorgeous environment, we work hard and have great adventures, but I believe our culture of happiness comes from two central values we hold and work hard to maintain.
One of the songs we sing at our school is a familiar favourite: ‘One More Step Along the Road I Go’ and its lyrics remind us that the road of life needs navigating steadily; that at times, it is beset with bumps and obstacles which can hold us up for a while. This is something we speak of, and work on, a lot at school: that whilst life is immensely exciting and great fun, it is not always smooth. We do teach our pupils that there will be ups and downs; you won’t be happy all the time; there will be difficulty, disappointment, challenge and upset at times, but that these feelings won’t last forever and you can get through them. Knowing to expect some tough times helps us not to be knocked over by them when they overwhelm us at first.
The last line of each verse of ‘One More Step’ advises us not to ‘travel’ on the road of life alone. As teachers, we highlight, live out and remind the children at our school that in order to manage the bumps and obstacles of life, everyone needs the support of others. I believe creating a culture of open and supportive communication is a central ingredient of a happy school. We work hard on so many levels to encourage this: between pupils and their peers of all ages; between pupils and staff; between staff and their colleagues; and between staff and parents. This rich communication has created a vibrant, happy and supportive community; we know each of our pupils as individuals and as members of their family; we know the things they love, the areas they find tough, the difficulties they might be going through and it is this knowledge that allows us to provide the bedding and support for their growth across all areas of their lives.
As a parent myself, all I have ever wanted for my own children is their happiness and wellbeing. What parent wouldn’t want that? They are in almost adulthood, now, and when I look back on their school years, I know that on many occasions they were absolutely bouncing about with happiness, enjoying everything that life had to offer, but I also know that they experienced tough times (I went through those with them and it was painful!). These were important lessons and I know that their long–term wellbeing was in some part going to depend on them being taught strategies and skills to manage the turbulence that life offers as well as celebrating the absolute joy that the good times bring.
Featured in A+ Magazine supplement of Dorset Magazine – March 2020