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If Heineken made assemblies? Getting grit across.

I love giving assemblies.  It's a real privilege. At Patcham, we believe that grit is an important area to talk about and develop if our students are to do well.  We've distilled character down to this one trait. We have research evidence that is showing signs that we are doing the right thing too, but that's for another time.  Although Carlsburg may make the best stuff, only Heineken reaches the parts that others can't.

What follows is my assembly, the slides are above.

Our assemblies at Patcham are very special. Each one has three features:

  • A piece of music, dance or theatrical performance by our students
  • The Patcham News - our way of ensuring that our messages get across:

  • A reading from a book to support our culture of reading for pleasure and our aspiration to have every student reading at their chronological reading age.
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to my House - a quarter of our school with two tutor groups from each year group.  We also invite the support staff who are also attached to a house.  The topic was grit, however I felt that the school has had plenty of theoretical assemblies on this topic.  I wanted to share a story.  I asked the staff for help and one of the team suggested the following video.

Learning to walk reminded me of this photograph. I first discovered this in a National Geographic editorial Walk to paradise garden. I urge you to read the editorial.  You see,  Eugene Smith was having a tough time of it and seeing his children walking through the woods with a sense of wonder reminded him that life was worth living.

Imagine if his children has given up trying to walk?

This in turn made me think of what I do when I feel like giving up. You see, I have a copy of the photo in my office at school and I used it during my interview for the job I have.  I remember a colleague giving me a proper grilling that day. I often feel like giving up. I didn't that day at the start of the interview. 

One thing I do is listen to my leadership playlist:

It's the playlist that I listen to when I feel like giving up. I played a little of each (thanks to our awesome IT tech team) and said a little. The great thing about music is that it says different things to different people.  It doesn't matter if others disagree.

  • Johnny Cash HURT - To me, I don't want to be looking back and have major regrets. If I give up I may let down my family, friends and loved ones.
  • D.L.i.d Colour in your hands - This speaks to me. I'll never give up, never give slack. I'll stay on the side of justice and, like Will Smith, if I'm on the treadmill I'll win.
  • Amy McDonald The furthest star - There's no point in having GRIT if your principles are wrong.  I won't sell my should to achieve my goal and would giving up mean that the dark forces win? (Ofsted and stuff)
  • George Ezra Blame it on me - Most of the time, when I'm in a pants situation whether personally or in the classroom, it's my fault.  It's not the governments fault, or Ofsted or Ofqual. It certainly isn't the child. Life is about making choices and taking the consequences.
  • Manic Street Preachers A design for Life - I'll never forget where I've come from. I'm Welsh and grew up in deprivation. My father was a violent abusive man. What's the point of giving up now when I've come so far?
  • Florence and the Machine Shake it out - I felt like giving up at Patcham early on and I remember being t the back of our hall, listening to one of our students belt this out.  I used to play a lot of rugby, when we were knocked back we got up and played on.  Whatever your demons, shake them off. I also used the image of Steve Jobs in the Jungle.
  • David Bowie Space Oddity - to me, he's isolating himself from the world and rescinding control of his destination.  I plan to stay in touch with those that can help me and I am in control of where I go.
  • The Killers All of these things that I've done - If you can hold on. If you can hold on. Hold on. Damn right.
Assemblies: all I can do is tell stories. Grit is important and we are developing it in our schools, but let's step away from the rhetoric and figure out what does stop you from giving up? 


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