Seven years ago, when our neighbour in Burton asked me if I would be writing a blog, I decided that I would do so, but only under the following conditions:
- I would regularly update it.
- I would write in my own style with references to my favourite poets and writers:
- I would attempt to write to multiple audiences of students, staff, parents, Corporation members……
- I would refer to my beloved Leeds United because I believe that there are many parallels between leading a football team and a College.
- My blog would be celebratory and transmit key messages and values.
“All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and entrances
And one man in his time plays many parts
…. (in the fifth age) And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part….”
In my ‘fifth age’ during the half-term week, we travelled to Hay-on-Wye, to stay with friends and attend the annual Hay Festival. Whilst the festival was certainly stimulating with many renowned world “experts” and authors, (and convinced me that a second referendum or vote in Parliament on Brexit is essential), our most memorable moments were with our friends. Their generosity, humour, support and intellectual challenge were life-affirming. The opportunity to think and reflect is so important and I feel incredibly privileged that my role enables me to do so.
We travelled to the Festival after attending our Sports Presentation evening on the Friday. It was amazing to see so many of you (staff, students and friends), looking so beautiful, ready to party and celebrate your amazing achievements. I was truly humbled by the presentation and achieved a “first” for me. I have always wanted to have “minders” and in Chris and Andy, I had the very best. To be serenaded by Toni, Kate and Hollie from the PE Department was unforgettable and the words rang back to me as I drove home to Burton:
“We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high….
We’ve come a long way
But we’re not sure where we’ve been
We’ve had success, we’ve had good times
But remember this….
Never forget where you’re coming from
Never pretend that it’s all real
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream”, Take That
Thank you to Mark and the team who made it so special.
When I returned to College after half-term, it was clear that the examination season is truly underway. I was delighted to learn about how so many of you came into College for revision, support sessions and to use our facilities. Thank you to all of the staff who came in specially to support you and put in the “extra mile”. This is what makes our College so special. Long may it continue.
As we approach the end of an academic year and (for me), the end of an era, the starting line from Dickens comes to mind:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,….” A Tale of Two Cities
So many things have happened at our College (in the short and medium-term): the amazing academic success that you have achieved; the range of national accolades for so many of you (academic, intellectual, sporting, musical, dramatics, dance), the success in competitions…. The reputation that we have in the local, regional and national arena is phenomenal. It is a testament to the superb work that takes place day in and day out by every one of you. It is therefore no surprise that some of you spend over an hour travelling into College and that our College has ‘grown’ from 1300 to just under 2000 full-time students.
I maintain that the range of trips, visits and residentials, is truly unique: Iceland, Italy, South Africa, Thailand, Germany, Belgium, France, Tanzania, New York, Washington, Spain, Poland; all in the last few years. There are very few colleges that can boast such a range and I believe that the ‘sorts’ of experiences that are gained from such visits are ‘life changing’.
I hope that you will retain very fond memories of our College, the trips, the visits, the staff, the colleagues, the fun, the laughter, the friendships that exist and the hard work of everyone around you. Remember that all of us have to work hard in order to enjoy the success that follows.
“You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits that is real joy”, Arthur Ashe
So what of my beloved Leeds? We have changed managers (again) and are likely to ‘buy’ an ex-Tigers goal scorer. I believe (with James, my Leeds compatriot in the History Department), that this will be the year. We will hire an outstanding coach, spend the much-needed money to win in the Championship and get the right team balance between youth and experience. This will be our year. (Did I say this in 2017?)
Like my beloved Leeds, I believe that whilst we will be losing some of you, we have appointed an outstanding team of staff and created the right structure to take us to the next level. Exciting times indeed.
My advice, as always, is to believe in yourself and take control of your life.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate
version of somebody else”, Judy Garland
Love conquers all, so enjoy and don’t run away from it. Look for beauty in so much of what happens around you in our College. As Khalil Gibran wrote:
“When love beckons to you, follow him.
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you, yield to him.
Though his sword hidden among his pinions may wound you
And when he speaks to you, believe in him.”
Remember that there are no easy solutions, and the “grass is not always greener”. Beware of the easy fixes. As Buddha said:
“If you find a man who points out faults and who reproves, follow such a wise person as you would a guide to hidden treasure”.
As the time approaches to “pass the baton” for others to lead our College to the next exciting step, remember that we have all played our part in the journey. I would like to use the metaphor of the cedar:
“The heart, with its ramified feelings, is like a cedar with spreading branches. If the cedar loses a strong branch, it suffers, but does not die. It carries its vital energy to the neighbouring branch, that will grow and fill the void with its young green twigs,” Gibran
I leave with really fond memories where “we have danced the clumsy dance and sung the sorrowful song”. Such bellicose laughter, fun and exhilarating moments discovering the power of a team. Thank you to students, staff, friends (near and far) and family for believing in me.
The very best of luck to all of you and to the continued success of our College. As Bobby D sang,
“The times they are a-changin'”.