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Progress is impossible without change

It’s a new year and the celebrations witnessed on New Year’s Eve around the world were again centred on spectacular fireworks displays and a feeling of optimism and hope. So why do we always feel so optimistic on New Year’s Eve? What is it that prompts us to make decisions that, we hope, will change our lives for the better?

I’ve only ever made one new year’s resolution which was really measurable, six years ago now. It was to stop eating crisps. And I succeeded – I have not eaten a crisp for six years. A rather weird resolution perhaps, but I felt I was eating too many, and a resolution to eat less was unlikely to succeed – it wasn’t measurable. And that’s what any of my other new year’s resolutions have been: unmeasurable and often extremely vague – easily forgotten.

The reason I think we feel so optimistic on New Year Eve’s is, as humans, we like change. We always believe we can make improvements and that things can be better. Working in a school is all about change. One of the reasons why change is so central to the way schools operate is that we are trying to prepare young people for the future, and we don’t quite know what that future will look like. As a result, we’re always looking forwards, scanning the horizon for what’s next. Well, that’s at least what I feel a good school should be doing. And what’s more, this is what makes a school an exciting place to work.

Of course, the children and young people in our schools are growing up, and changing, before our very eyes – though I’ve always been surprised by pupils’ fear of change, especially as teenagers. At an age when we think of people as being at the cutting edge, they often suffer from a paralysis of conservativism. And this is a challenge for schools in building resilience. Resilience and adaptability are key skills pupils need to develop to survive (and thrive) in the modern world, where things change fast. Just think: the first iPad was released seven and a half years ago. Smart phones have only existed for ten years. The DVD first rose to prominence in the year 2000, yet now it is virtually obsolete. Many of the jobs which the school pupils of today will have, have not been invented yet. The way today’s children will work is so far removed from their parents’ ideas of carving out a career.

Whether it’s fast or slow, change is inevitable and has been so since Charles Darwin identified evolution as the key to nature. In evolution, change leads to improvements and we embrace this philosophy in school as well. The opportunity for change is the opportunity to find a better way of doing things, to build on the work of others. It’s that old adage, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ – even the work of giants can be improved upon. It was George Bernard Shaw who said, ‘progress is impossible without change,’ and certainly progress is a central tenet of our modern world.

As teachers within an institution like Truro High School, we need to ensure that we are humble enough to recognise that we are custodians of something which is much bigger than us and that others will be able to contribute something which we cannot. We are building on a legacy which stretches back 138 years and we hope will stretch forward at least 138 more.

I have enjoyed the period of change which I have been part of at Truro High School. I have no doubt there is still much more that can be achieved. I plan to do as much as I can in the next two terms, and then beyond this I am looking forward to watching the school evolve, thrive and flourish from afar.

Published by: Dr Glenn Moodie
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