My assembly from this Friday to my S3 and S4 pupils.
RESPECT | FAIRNESS | ACHIEVEMENT | HAPPINESS
Today we are going consider the second of our school values, that of Fairness.
I often hear people declaring that “it’s not fair” when they are disappointed or frustrated or feeling resentful about something that has happened.
But one of things we have to accept as we grow into adults is that life is not always fair.
I know from the feedback you gave recently that some of you feel it’s not fair that learning is interrupted for some of you because of the disruptive behaviour of others. And that is probably a fair thing to say.
It’s not fair that some children are born into abject poverty in the third world when others seem to have it all.
But it’s also not fair that Prince George’s dad lost his mum at an early age and had to grieve for her in front of the world.
It’s not fair that children in our country are subjected to sexual, physical and emotional abuse on a daily basis. These things can cause people to suffer for the rest of their lives if we don’t talk about them.
It’s not fair that Laura Macintyre from Barra went to an Ariana Grande concert and was injured in a bomb attack. But it is amazing that she has gone back to school this week.
It’s not fair that her friend Eilidh Macleod did not go back to school because she was killed in the same attack.
It’s not fair that some of us are born with brains that worry or stress or think differently to those of other people and that some of us experience poor mental or physical health.
Life, by its nature, is sometimes unfair. We are not robots made in the same mould and in the same factory and of course this is what makes us unique and wonderful and interesting.
But it also means that life presents different opportunities and challenges for all of us.
As humans, we try as hard as we can to make life fairer. There are some unfair things that we can change:
Maybe by giving money to charity.
Maybe by taking action and speaking out when we see people in our community being treated with disrespect or hatred.
Maybe in school as teachers by finding out about who you are as individuals and making sure you get extra help if you need it. It is not about treating you all in the same way but about treating you in a way that meets your individual needs. Sometimes that might not seem to make sense to you as you may have grown up thinking that equality is about treating everybody in the same way.
But I find that talking about equity is more helpful talking about equality and this picture can help us to understand what that means. All of these people have a right to watch what’s over the fence. Because of their differences some of them have barriers that get in the way. What we need to do is make sure that each one of them is given the assistance …or a box.. in order to be able to see and to have the same opportunity as others.
Sometimes the fairest thing can be to treat everybody differently.
Sometimes it may seem to you as if things that I do are not fair. “She lets him or her get away with things that she would not let other people get away with…..” I hear you cry.
But you can trust me that there will be times when my unfairness is part of making life fairer. Because there are things that you may not know about that mean that some people in this school need to have a box or a different approach in order to be able to have the same opportunities as others.
Sometimes though, you can … and do…help me see when things aren’t fair for no good reason and could be different and I listen to you and learn from that. Your voices are so important to me.
Hopefully you can see that life sometimes is not 100% fair, even when we try to make things as fair as we possibly can.
If you are someone who often sees the unfair in life more than the fair, it might be helpful for you to try and shift your thinking a little bit.
Now I have to be honest and confess I am probably somebody whose brain likes to focus on the unfair more than the fair in life. If I am asked whether I see the glass as half full or half empty, I tend to be a half empty type of person. If we look at the story of Winnie the Pooh and the characters in it, I guess I’m more of an Eeyore than a Tigger.
I have spent time trying to work out why this is and I have found out that it’s probably to do with some of the things that happened to me my childhood. But I’ve also tried very hard to change this way of thinking and to make my brain focus first on the positives and the fairness in life, rather than the opposite.
A really helpful way of doing this is to use a technique from the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that many people have found useful in helping them to become more in control of their thoughts and their lives and to give them more of a sense of contentment with the world.
There are lots of parts to mindfulness and some involve physical techniques. For example as I came up to do this assembly and my mind was feeling anxious and nervous and stressed, worrying about what I was going to say, I focused on putting my feet flat on the ground and taking some deep breaths. It helped.
But another really useful tool is to find three positive things about your life that you focus on every morning when you wake up. This means that before your negative brain can start shouting about the unfair things in life….like the rain and all the things you have to do, or the fact you have no want to go to school disco with…..you get in there with three positive things that set your frame of mind for the day.
You know but I’m very enthusiastic about brain science and what’s great about mindfulness is that neuroscientists have proven that it makes a difference. They have found that people who do mindfulness and remember three positive things each morning, gradually begin to feel more positive in themselves. Mindfulness can help you shift a bit more towards being a glass half empty person to being a glass half full person.
So here are my three positives from this morning:
1. Living in beautiful Argyll and having the most fantastic drive to work, watching the colours and the mist hanging over the fields and celebrating the fact that it wasn’t raining.
2. Having the technology to connect with my dad every day. You will know that he has cancer and lives very far away and that my first thought after his diagnosis was that I was going to have to move back down to live near him. But the ability to text or phone or FaceTime him every day means that I feel connected to him in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to 20 years ago.
3. Working with amazing young people every day (yes, you) who all have something to teach me.
Life will not always be fair.
But we can work together to fight unfairness whenever possible and to focus on the best in life and on sharing that best with others.