School mottos are emblazoned on uniforms around the world, but I wonder how many of us remember them or their meaning. My own school has long since been demolished – St Edmund Arrowsmith Roman Catholic Comprehensive School – but being a teacher, I do remember ‘Fortes En Fide’, Strength Through Faith, which adorned my blazer pocket badge for seven happy years.
The Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year for 2021 is 'Perseverance', which of course happens to be our school motto, although we do use the Latin interpretation, ‘Perseverantia’. The choice for 2021 comes as no great surprise given the global challenges we are currently facing. Irrevocable climate damage, the Mars exploration programme, COVID-19, Brexit and ongoing political conflict, and the impact of these and more on our mental health.
Of course, perseverance helps us to face these challenges, but on its own I fear it is not enough. I could wax lyrical about historical figures who have persevered and conquered in the face of adversity, but I suspect most of them were surrounded by family, friends, colleagues and even bystanders who provided much needed encouragement and support. All of this leads me to two things I have asked our school community for throughout this awful and life changing pandemic: teamwork and kindness. Surely these, and many more positive traits, help us to persevere when giving up feels like the only option.
I am in no doubt that the school has faced the most challenging times in recent years. Whilst coping with the worst thing to can happen to any school – staff and pupil bereavement – who could have predicted that only a few months after announcing the merger of Solihull and Saint Martin’s, that COVID-19 would change all of our lives immeasurably? If there ever was a ‘perfect storm’ then very sadly this combination must be the strongest of contenders. So, how have we coped? Well, we ‘dug in’, we planned hard, worked hard, and whenever necessary, we improvised. But it is the community’s response to my repeated requests for kindness and teamwork that has facilitated our impressive perseverance and resilience.
In life there are things we can control, things we can influence and others we have neither control nor influence over. And there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from turning on each other when external factors, whether scientific, medical, governmental or other, dictate how we must run our schools. Whilst relationships may have at times become fractious, the community has pulled together to make the very best of a bad job.
I regularly anonymise parental emails of support and share them with all staff. Countless colleagues have stated how these kind words of appreciation have kept their spirits high even during the darkest of times. Praise and gratitude have nothing to do with age. We all like to know that others ‘have our back’ and value the long and arduous slog through the quagmire of ever-changing national guidance and political rhetoric, which is sometimes baffling and often lands on our desks with little to no notice at all. Put simply, we all like a pat on the back from time to time, so thank you to those who have communicated with us in this way. We are deeply grateful.
Finally, turning to kindness, I have been struck by the way members of our community have looked out for each other during this unpredictable and unprecedented period. Parents, pupils, Old Sils and staff have regularly checked in with friends, pupils and peers, striving to ensure that none of us feel isolated or unloved. Successive periods of lockdown have taken their toll on our health and welfare, and reaching out has arguably become more important than ever before. Technology and social media have helped and the speed with which the community upskilled and used these facilities to meet and chat has been nothing less than remarkable.
I feel immensely proud to be part of the Solihull community and never before has perseverance been more applicable. However, without camaraderie and human kindness we would have been far less able to cope with the many ‘curve balls’ thrown at us in recent years.
Thank you to each and every one of you, stay safe and God bless.
David EJJ Lloyd