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Lessons in life – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 27th July 2016

July 27, 2016

Lessons in life

As part of my holiday reading, I have been tackling a book by the Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, called “A survival guide for life”. A significant theme in the book, with plenty of autobiographical insight, is around the topic of ‘failure’. He quotes from Winston Churchill frequently (‘Never, never, never give up’) and stresses the importance of learning from our difficulties and setbacks. As a former SAS reservist who broke his back in a freefall accident in Zambia (and came within a whisker of being paralysed for life), Bear Grylls knows what it means to overcome disappointment and hardship. He also knows what it means to face difficulties himself rather than look for someone else to intervene and protect you at all times from any sense of failure. That’s not to say he doesn’t feel it’s not important for us to help others but simply that we do well to face our fears, to embrace risk and to grow through adversity.

Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls on the set of Discovery Bear Grylls: Breaking Point – Mexico

A recent ‘Times’ newspaper has an article featuring Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of “How to Raise an Adult”, which addresses ways parents can give young adults life skills. She calls for a reduction in well-meaning over-involvement. She urges parents to teach youngsters critical thinking; encourage them to find a mentor that is not their parent; and refrain from giving them money.

Julie Lythcott-Haims on TED Talks

As a parent of three children myself, and a schoolmaster of thirty-six years’ experience, I know how difficult it can be not to step in and ‘take the hit’ for those we love or care for deeply. Clearly there is a balance to be achieved and a sensible approach where risk becomes irresponsibly dangerous and freedom slips into recklessness but I do understand what Bear Grylls and Julie Lythcott-Haims view as ‘well-meaning over involvement’. I have seen it in the way a few parents just won’t let go and trust those who are caring, sensible, professionals with years of experience in taking school trips (for example) and do know how to deal with the inevitable upsets over sleeping arrangements or in how to arrange groups for activities! There is pain involved and upset and whilst no-one wishes this to be so, there is much to be learnt from coming through such disappointments, even aggravations, and (with the right mind set) then to emerge more strongly and resilient.

I make mistakes all the time but seek to embrace these as best I can so that they are indeed ‘lessons in life’ rather than to be regarded as ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ which can cause resentment, undue criticism and may even stunt growth and maturity.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

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Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here




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