It was such a pleasure to be a part of our annual Festival of Learning and meeting all the guest speakers and hearing their messages. It is always useful to stop and reflect on why we do the role that we do despite how hard we have to work and what setbacks we encounter. The message of Jaz Ampaw- Farr powerfully explained the impact that one teacher made on the life chances of one student who has subsequently gone on to influence many thousands of other teachers and children. Listening to Jaz describe the multiple issues in her personal life as a child, the tragedies and challenges she had to encounter every day was a powerful reminder of what many of our students face on a daily basis. The power of her story, however, was not in the fact that she overcame all of these challenges to go on to be an incredibly successful speaker and author but in the way that she overcame them. Jaz could not have become the person she is today without the input of teachers, in her case one in particular. She remembers the daily conversations with that teacher, the sense of being valued and as Jaz describes it’s herself, ‘he believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.’
Jaz’s story could be replicated in all of our Trust schools every day and I believe it is. Those youngsters who face the most challenges in their lives invariably bring those challenges into school and give us their challenges to deal with. Coping with the daily struggles of these, our most vulnerable students, can be exhausting and emotionally draining. Sometimes, especially on the wet cold days of the winter term it can feel like a hill that we simply do not have the energy to climb and yet we know what a difference we make. Our steadiness in the face of volatility, our calmness in the face of anger, our determination never to give up with youngsters for whom adults are generally a negative rather than positive influence, will and does make a difference.
This year’s Festival of Learning reminded us that those small, daily actions we take to nurture, encourage and build up our students can make all the difference in the world. In Jaz’s case it made the difference between life and death – surely nothing could be more important.