- Whole School
Mrs Bennett writes about Speech Day and leaving an imprint at school.
Coming up at the end of term is Speech Day. This tradition of the School gathering together at the end of a successful year is one that Stonar has had to forgo in recent years, and it is lovely to see it back on the calendar again. As part of the preparations Mrs Coutts and I have been delving into the trophy cabinet to retrieve, engrave and polish the cups presented to the School by long forgotten names. As a fairly long serving member of staff I am able to read the names on the cups and shields and remember the pupils who were awarded them. In some cases I even know the person who dedicated the cup, but in many cases the notable old girl, member of staff or local dignitary is long forgotten, but none the less an important part of the history of the school.
As my Upper Sixth are about to finish their A Level exams and leave Stonar, I have been thinking about the legacy we leave behind in a school when we head off to pastures new. This was brought into focus a few weeks ago when I attended a reunion at my old school. A group of my school friends had decided that we would go to the reunion this year as it was 30 years since we had completed our A Levels (and didn’t that make us feel old!)
We were greeted at the school gates by our Headmistress, who must have been much younger than we realised when we were at school, or else she had aged exceptionally well for someone who we would have thought was close to getting a telegram from the Queen! She welcomed us all by name, even before we had stuck on our labels to identify each other, 30 years older and not in school uniform. We then went into the School and to a display from the archives. Great excitement then ensued as we tried to find pictures of ourselves, see if we were mentioned in the school magazines, discover long lost friends and laugh a great deal about some particularly hideous school uniforms we had been made to wear along the way and dubious fashion choices in the Sixth Form.
I was particularly gratified to see on display a selection of cups that had been awarded in the past, about which the school archivists needed more information. Scanning the display, I caught sight of the cup for the ‘Senior Athletics Champion’ and there on the back was engraved my name – proof that years of slogging away at the 800m and 1500m at various running tracks in the South West had at some point been worth it. But there was more to come!
In the 1986 edition of the school magazine was a splendid poem I had written about a visit to the dentist, in later editions there was a write up from me about the County Cross Country championships (where sadly I’d had to leave the field in an ambulance having concussed myself falling off a stile), a photo of a young Mrs Bennett, sporting an unexpected pixie cut, in the 1st XI hockey team. The evidence of my time at school was there; I was part of the history of the school and so were my friends.
(As a side point of interest there was also a lovely article written by our school riding team about how they had fared at the Stonar ISODE that year and an article I believe Mrs Malenki and Mr Kamm would appreciate about the school acquiring its very own CD ROM that contained as much information as an entire encyclopedia!).
As we chatted together, we all remarked how impressive it was that our much revered Headmistress still knew all about us, so many years after we had left the school. What was the secret of her encyclopedic knowledge of her girls? Looking back I think I have an idea; as each of us go through our school careers we all have the opportunity to leave a legacy of our time behind us.
Some of us step lightly and leave only the faintest trace, but it’s still there; your name on the list of top merit scorers for the week, a record set at Sports Day, a photo from a school trip, but all there, kept in the archives of the school so that one day, you, or someone else, can look back and say, ‘Yes, I remember them.’ Other people leave a much firmer footprint, sometimes one that is even engraved on cups or written on honour boards of notable pupils, but everyone is playing their part in creating that history.
Our Headmistress probably didn’t remember every pupil that had been through her school, but she did remember those who had left something of themselves behind – something they had given to the school.
I have often spoken to my Sixth Form about what the photo album of your time at Stonar would look like. I’m not talking about just the hundreds of selfies of you and your friends (although these are important too), but the team photos, the trip photos, D of E, Ten Tors, gourmet dishes from Leiths, expeditions to Iceland, public speaking competitions, Globeducate events, DT projects of note, essay competitions, and so on. The list is endless and every pupil has the opportunity to create a ‘photo album’ stuffed with memories that they can not only take from the school, but also leave with the school, so that they become part of the history of the school.
At Speech Day some pupils will make an indelible mark on the history of the School by having their name engraved on a cup, but many, many more of you will have made an equally important contribution to the School this year so that hopefully when you return to school in the future and Mr Way greets you (with a joke about his hair) he will remember you for the contribution you made to the School and its history.
We may not be the chapter heading in the school history book, or even a footnote, but we can at least have written something in the margin, or spot our face, peering out from a black and white photo 30 years in the future.
I hope that you have a lovely weekend.
Head of Sixth Form