My (virtual) opening assembly this term was on the subject of kindness (Be Kind – to yourself and others) and this message follows a similar theme.
I have recently been re-reading a book by a former Head of OHS – Rosalind Mabel Haig Brown. She was the 5th Head (1902-1932) and the book is a collection of addresses from her time at OHS. It is interesting to read these addresses now and realise how much still resonates today. One address (1910) is on the theme of friendship and friendliness. The following is an extract:
I wish to mention a matter which always seems to me to be of great importance but whose importance is apt at times to be overlooked in the activity and hurry of School life – and that is the value of the feeling of friendliness which every member of a community such as this should be ready and willing to extend to all its other members. I purposely say the feeling of friendliness, not the feeling of friendship, because the latter would involve an impossible demand: it is impossible for all to be friends – circumstances, characters, tastes, inclinations, are all too various and too varied for such a demand to be possible. But the existence of the friendliness to all, which does much towards making the conditions of work pleasant and agreeable, is not only possible and desirable, but it is necessary in order that the community may produce its best work without friction or waste.
One definition of friendliness is ‘the quality or state of being friendly – such as a disposition to goodwill, warmth, or kindness to others’. We are lucky to have a community where friendliness is valued, encouraged and embedded but we do not take this for granted. It is important to take time to reflect and consider ways in which we, individually, can ensure this valuable and underlying quality is preserved. On the rare occasion when friendliness is not shown we should, as individuals and a community, have ways of recognising and acting on this. The pastoral team at OHS have trained in the ‘Girls on Board’ approach to navigating the often troubled waters of friendship problems. This approach helps girls, their parents and their teachers to understand the complexities and dynamics of female friendships. The language, methods and ideas empower girls to solve their own friendship problems and recognise that they are usually the only ones who can. The approach will be rolled out by the pastoral team later this academic year.
Another underlying quality of our OHS community is respect for one another and celebrating individual differences and achievements. We have great respect for the diversity of our community and we are exploring ways to raise greater awareness of this aspect and embed it within our educational offer. This higher profile of diversity will enable our students to be aware of past, present and future events in the wider world and how this shapes opinions and actions. An example of this is our recognition and support of Black History Month which we launched this week with a short video message kindly recorded for us by Baroness Valerie Amos (the new Master of University College, Oxford). The work we do in Black History Month will be a catalyst for further ongoing work throughout the year.
I would like to close this message with another quote from the address referred to earlier:
… since it is often in school-days that the sacred possession of friendship is first realised, it is necessary that while still at school you should try and understand that friendship cannot be the passing whim of a moment, that it has its duties as well as its privileges, that it demands sympathy, trust, forbearance, and truth on both sides, and that it is indispensable because no life can be complete without it.