Headmaster’s Assembly – 12 July 2019

Be more like you

I am aware that some of you don’t understand my assemblies sometimes and what I am trying to say. I am aware that many of you ignore them and zone out, waiting for the end so you can go to break! But I am also aware that some of you do listen – some of the time. My role at these assemblies is to inspire you in some manner, to get you to reflect on something, your personal habits and actions, or to challenge your thinking. There are 1550 of you and one of me – tricky odds I know. But if you have approximately 30 assemblies per year and five years at school, that is 150 assemblies of which you will be a part and where I have a chance to reach you. That means that all I have to do is reach 10 people per Friday which are far better odds for me! And not only do I have to inspire you but I have to motivate you.

I heard a saying recently about motivation – perhaps the biggest challenge parents and teachers have with teenage boys. It said: “Don’t let motivation become a hostile takeover. Don’t make it a “Be more like me and less like you” scenario.” There are four things about you I want to focus upon as we unpack this saying. You are unique, you are special, you are known and you are loved.

You are unique. There is only one of you and there will always be only one. Even identical twins are different despite sharing the same genetic makeup. And you have unique genes and a unique character and personality, developed over time as you have grown. In the nature/nurture debate – I fall in the camp that says we are a combination of the two. We have our genetic makeup that gives us things like physical appearance but we have experiences, both good and bad, that build character and develop the other side of our beings: the “who” we are rather than the “what” we are.

You are special. Despite you feeling sometimes that you are not as good as others and despite the world saying to you that you need to be like this, wear that, listen to this and so on. You have your own strengths, some of which have become apparent already and some which will in time. There is someone who values you and looks up to you.

You are known. Even if you think you are invisible, if I don’t know your name – someone does. That person could be your classmate, your teacher, your coach, your housemaster. Someone knows you – and not just your name. There is someone you have let know you a little better – someone you have shown a bit more of yourself to – and that person knows you.

You are loved. On Tuesday I spoke of the importance of human connection which, at its deepest form is called love. Love takes on so many forms. There is the love of a parent for a child, the love of siblings for each other, romantic love of couples and then there is the love that many are scared to talk of for fear of being labelled. The love of friends. These loves are all completely different yet all meet the requirements of a deep form of human connection. Many times I have heard cried from the stands “We love you (so and so)!” What does this mean or is it just a mindless shout and a means of attracting attention? No – it is an emotional connection that is felt at the time. A connection with a fellow human being who has made you feel something – joy, sadness, sympathy, elation.

And so back to my thought about motivation. If you are indeed unique, special, known and loved, why is it that some may try to make you into someone you are not? Why do they impose their dreams upon you? Why do they want you to be “more like me and less like you?”

You may see an action modelled in someone that inspires you to want to try to do the same but you should never want to be someone else. I want to be me with all my heart but with all my faults, my strengths. With all my good bits and the bad ones too. I want to be me – unique, special, known and loved. But I also want to be the best version of me that I can possibly be.

And that leads me to my last point today. For the 10 hopefuls that are still listening. Be yourself but be the best damn version of yourself you can be. Be authentic and true to yourself. Follow dreams but make them your own dreams. Reach for goals but set them yourself. Seek help from others along the way but cross the finish line yourself.

And so instead of “why can’t you be more like your sister?”, “why can’t you be more like your friends?” rather “Why can’t you be more like you – the best version of you that could possibly exist?”