Head Teachers Forum
The Oxford Diocesan Bucks Schools Trust held their first Head Teachers Forum of the academic year on Tuesday. Paula Shaw, headteacher at Great Horwood Church of England School, led the headteachers and members of the Trusts senior leadership team in a wonderful reflection on Advent.
Her message was that we all need to exercise HOPE during this time of the year. She based her reflection on the carol “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” Hear the carol here.
Paula talked about the first two verses being about people in mourning and people who are lonely. The words made her consider where we are in 2021 and what we are going to be facing as we enter 2022. She talked about the next verses in the carol changing to show what God’s love is about – Hope! Love and Hope for the world. Regardless of whether we have a faith or belief, all humans need love and hope in their lives, especially at this time of year. If hope isn’t created for this time now in our modern world and times such as these for 2021 and 2022, then why have hope at all?
Paula concluded by explaining that the lyrics of the carol tell us God will give us Victory. He will cheer us through each day. The gloomy clouds will be dispersed, and dark shadows will be sent on their way. God will open his home, his heart, lead and show us the way to safety.
Thank you, Paula, for lifting our spirits and for getting us to exercise HOPE!
Advent - Paula Shaw
Advent is one of my favourite seasons – I love the colour purple for a start and for those of you in CE schools I am sure you have changed your colours to purple. (If not – just a gentle reminder!)
The one thing I most look forward to about Advent is being able to sing “O come O come Emmanuel “– one of my all-time favourite carols and one which I had the privilege and honour to sing in Canterbury Cathedral as a music student. It sums up the waiting for Advent – waiting to hear and perform this carol. It has a most haunting melody and Canterbury Cathedral is an awe inspiring building to perform in. It has helped me spiritually through difficult times and kept me going! It’s not jolly or fun, it’s not full of the baby Jesus or sheep, kings, donkeys and celebrations. There isn’t a tambourine, jingle bells or tea towel in sight.
The opposite in fact – the first two verses speak of being in captivity, people in mourning, people who are lonely, in the grips of Satan and in the depth of hell. The words made me consider where we are in 2021 going into 2022
Covid -19 has hit the world like a plague, hungry children are ignored, refugees from around the world are fleeing their homes and countries are divided, people are unable to live in peace, global warming continues to impact on the world and the health of the planet, all it’s creatures and the global community. I am sure we could carry on and add to the list but that isn’t helpful and it isn’t what Advent is about.
The next verses in the carol change to show what Gods love is about – Hope! Love and Hope for the world. Regardless of whether we have a faith or belief all humans need love and hope in our lives, especially at this time of year. If Hope isn’t created for this time now in our modern world and times such as these for 2021 and 2022, then why have hope at all?
The lyrics of the carol tell us God will give us Victory, he will cheer us through each day, the gloomy clouds will be dispersed, and dark shadows will be sent on their way. God will open his home, his heart, lead and show us the way to safety.
O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
So now it is time to do some exercise. I am going to ask you to exercise your Hope muscles. During Advent we are called upon to exercise Hope. The first candle representing Hope on our advent ring. There are many things in the world that need Hope but in our small corner of ODBST we can make a difference a bring Hope to others
So this Advent lets practice a hopeful way of being in the world.
- Sing the songs and carols out strong and loud. (even if that is outside in the garden and cold)
- Ring the bells and be joyful (even if the notes are not always played at the right time or in the correct order)
- Put up the decorations and have fun – and hope the cards don’t fall down like last year.
- Tell the nativity stories to your children, grandchildren or school children
- Give what you can to all sorts of worthy charities – time is most precious!
- Open your home/school to those who need welcome; pretend that each one of them is the baby Jesus, born on the road and needing your help. (Remember to lateril flow test them!)
- Use your creative gifts that you have been given: to write, bake, paint, act, make music,
- Join the neighbourhood or the family party – even if it is at a distance or remote.
- Listen to the children and welcome their very selves.
- Don’t leave pets out in the snow. Be kind to our creatures.
- Don’t give up on prayer because life feels raw and scary.
- Don’t hurry through Advent because you’re not terribly good at living it; just let it live in the real life you have here and now.
- Find a space to pray or reflect – time for you to rest, recharge, think, (listen to my carol – it’s 5 minutes and 20 seconds – find a space, candles and darkness - I promise you will feel renewed and calm - refreshed)
- Don’t forget that God loves you.
- And please don’t forget that God loves everybody else too.
So with love these are my very hopes for you and our schools at this Advent time:
For those of you who are ill due to thoughtful sharing of kiddy bugs, coughs and colds I hope you get well soon. (Have a drink or two for medicinal purposes!)
For those of you in schools with no heating I hope you get warm soon,
For those of you trying to manage staff shortages– I hope you get this sorted – remember we are all here to help – so just shout
I hope that the preparations you have made for Christmas in school can go ahead safely – and that parents appreciate the hard work, the difficult decisions you are making. Remember you can’t please everyone but God is with you every step of the way.
I hope that everyone remembers to brings warm clothes to events as we open up those doors and windows to ventilate the schools once again.
I hope that Mary doesn’t drop the baby Jesus and that the camels go in the right direction – and if it goes horribly wrong it doesn’t matter because they are children of God and we love them all regardless. (It will probably make us all smile anyway!)
I hope the Christmas tree lights last until the end of term – because at least this year we remembered to get them PAT tested in time!
I hope the children enjoy their Christmas parties, DVD, and carol services in whatever format they take – we are creating fond memories that they will share with their families and future generations.
I hope that for you all your Advent and Christmas is full of love, hope, joy and peace.
Lastly, I Hope that as head teachers we get to the Christmas holiday’s knowing we did our very best for all the children in our schools – we have done our best to provide learning to meet their needs, we have fed, clothed and changed nappies, we have supported parents and staff, we have been there for those children with safeguarding needs or mental health issues. We have provided food, care, love and learning to those that need it and we have laughed and cried together.
So together, At this Advent time again we wait for the holy child, which is just as it should be. We have a season ahead of us in which to tell one of the worlds most famous stories – the nativity. God Is on the Way! God Will Soon Be with Us in the Most Extraordinary Way!