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    Hammersmith Academy
    25 Cathnor Road
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    W12 9JD


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News Categories Archives: Head's Blog

A resourceful person can see opportunity when others only see obstacles

Our thought for this week comes from Garrett Gunderson

Resourcefulness

Garrett Gunderson is the New York Times bestselling author of Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths That Are Destroying Your Prosperity and is ‘Chief Wealth Architect’ of the Wealth Factory, an organisation that promises a ‘comprehensive personal financial education and implementation program for entrepreneurs, health care professionals and small business owners.’

Resourcefulness is defined as having the adaptability and creativity to cope with difficulties. Resourcefulness often thrives when faced with a lack of something. When faced with a lack of money, a lack of time or a lack of resources, the Resourceful find ways to stretch what little they do have. This is presumably where the adage ‘if you want something done quickly, give it to a busy person’ comes from. Having plenty of time reduces urgency and, somewhat paradoxically, encourages time wastage. Little time can force focus and efficiency. Young people today do face a lack, when compared with previous generations. There seems to be a lack of available jobs, a lack of career stability and a lack financial independence. When even the most qualified can struggle to get the most basic of jobs, and when the one sought after commodity – experience – is the one that young people lack, a resourceful attitude is required to prosper.

Where traditional routes fail, and all the doors and windows to progress seem shut and bolted, it is the resourceful that seek out drainpipes to scale the wall. Obviously the journey to success can be significantly harder and more dangerous this way. Failure and setback are highly likely, and the ratio between effort and reward can seem lopsided and unfair. However, one of the benefits of going the hard way round is that the experience and knowledge attained whilst getting there is far greater. Anyone can walk through a door, but not everyone can scale a wall. Once on the other side, the wall scalers may have more bumps and scrapes, and have exerted a significant amount more energy, but when faced with an even bigger wall (and there is always a bigger wall) they will be the ones with the advantage.

At Hammersmith Academy we believe that simply showing our students the way to success is ineffective and may even let them down in the long term. The world and the job market are very different places now than they were a decade ago, let alone when I went to school. What we may think we know as adults is only part of the picture, and can end up equipping students with outdated tools, or unrealistic expectations. To a young person the world can be a place full of dos and don’ts. Do this and you will be rewarded, do that and you will be reprimanded. Of course this structure is important as we need to create a defined learning environment in which to operate. But within that structure there is plenty of room to breathe.

Garrett Gunderson’s has this approach to personal finance:

“It’s not about handing your money over to the stock market, or putting it in a retirement plan, and hoping it works out. It’s not about diversification, it’s about focus. And it’s not about complexity, it’s about simplification, minimizing risk, and optimizing cash flow.”

Personal finance and education are two vastly different worlds, but we can use this approach as food for thought. His approach is about simplification, creating a lack where there was none before. Instead of thinking about all the different ways of doing something, that can involve as many ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ as ‘haves’ or ‘cans’, sometimes it is better to be resourceful and use your lack to your advantage. Instead of thinking about what you don’t have, think about what you do have and how it can be utilised. I don’t have the skills but I do have the energy. I don’t have the time but I do have the inclination. I don’t have the right books but I do have friends that I can borrow from. A solution may not always be possible, but with a resourceful attitude the first thought is not ‘I can’t do this’ but instead ‘how can I do this?’

Gary Kynaston – Headteacher

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Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma Gandhi

‘Living as if every day was your last’ is an undeniably popular, if perhaps a bit morbid, sentiment that has taken hold as part of popular discourse over the last few years. It encourages a constant state of awareness and appreciation of life, and the soaking up of every minute as something precious. It feels to me that this is quite an unsustainable way to live, as no one can exist at that level of euphoria. It also implies that negativity, or boredom, or misery, are not as much a part of life as excitement or happiness. We all experience downs as well as ups, and having a good balance between the two is important. In fact, being down can be essential, forcing us to reconsider our life choices, analyse what has gone wrong or why we are unfulfilled and making us appreciate the ups all the more. Looked at sensibly this motto presumably assumes that those who know that they only have one day left, would make sure they enjoyed themselves but also took stock of their journey through life, realised that all those petty disputes and anxieties really meant little after all, and that they would tell everyone who mattered they were loved. If we could do this every day, life would be significantly improved.

As we only have a limited life, it can, quite paradoxically, cause us to be less open to experiencing all we can. Yes we must be proactive to cram as much in as we can, but if you make bad choices, or things don’t turn out as you plan, then you may waste precious time involved in things that you do not enjoy, or cause you harm. Likewise, too much proactivity, investing heavily in anything and everything, can leave you vulnerable later when you have failed to secure yourself either financially or spiritually. For these reasons many people play it safe, settling themselves into a comfortable routine and never putting their heads above the parapet to see if there’s anything more.

Imagine, however, that you were to live forever? Suddenly the pressure would be lifted and you have all the time in the world – and more – to discover and explore new things. You could waste centuries learning the finer points of some obscure and relatively pointless discipline, and then aeons more just lounging around, and yet time would carry on. I think the message behind the second sentence of this quote is to say that, though we do have a finite life expectancy, perhaps we have more time than we think. And we certainly have the capacity to keep an open mind and take on a huge amount of knowledge and experience. Is it possible to take on too much? Of course, but even then you will learn something about yourself and your scope for juggling life’s opportunities. To play it safe early on, for fear of wasting time, may end up with the opposite of the intended outcome and ensure that you stay in one place for the majority of your life, closing down opportunity and imagination.

At Hammersmith Academy we teach our students to keep an open mind, that no matter how many opportunities there are, there will always be many, many more, and for as long as you are around, you can always take advantage of them.

Gary Kynaston – Headteacher

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It’s always impossible until it’s done

Mandela

Nelson Mandela

In order to think about this quote from Nelson Mandela it’s important to define exactly what we mean by ‘impossibility’. This may sound like an odd thing to do, as what could be more clearly defined? But, in my experience, no matter how rigid a concept, the further it is studied or considered, the more unstable it becomes. Just like bashing your hand down on a flat metal surface – what could be more solid and stable? – if we look closer, even if you have to go down to a microscopic or quantum level, suddenly, what was once immovably solid, evaporates into vibrating, invisible clusters of energy composed more of space than matter.

We hold on to definitive ideas like True and False, Right and Wrong, Real and Not Real, Possible and Impossible, because they give clarity and structure to our lives. A life without rules, although perhaps enticing – especially for our students – can also be overwhelming, chaotic, terrifying. If there are no consequences to anything, how can there be any meaning? One of the reasons, I believe, that society doesn’t dissolve into disorder and chaos, and that we are relatively happy to abide by rules and laws*, is that the universe in which we live is demonstrably governed by rules. We can see the consequences of certain actions every day. We know that we can be physically or emotionally affected by our own actions or the actions of those around us, even if we try and convince ourselves otherwise. No amount of ‘anything is possible’ will allow you to suddenly be able to jump unaided off a building and start flying. Life has limitations. There may be a whole range of philosophies and ideas and qualifying statements that seek to break down those limitations, but it doesn’t take much to have those limitations explicitly reasserted. As Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”.

So how do we marry the inflexibility of our day to day experience and the flexibility of the constantly changing state of things? I suggest that a key component is Time. Time is a fascinating and infuriating thing. It seems to be inconsistent and fluid – some afternoons drag on for ever, some weeks fly by in an instant – but we live every hour, every minute, every second whether we like it or not. Obviously Time – along with everything else – is down to our perception of it, and this may explain why it is so erratic, but it cannot be avoided. What’s gone is gone and this time tomorrow is always 24 hours away. (Although, ironically even this will change in time, as our days are structured by the movement of the Earth around the Sun, and one day these will too morph and shift). I feel like all statements like ‘anything is possible’ should be qualified with in time. Can I suddenly achieve everything I want to in life RIGHT NOW? Can I be a world class chess player, boxer or astronaut by the end of the week? Of course not. But given enough time – and effort – indeed, anything is possible.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers made infamous the concept of the 10,000 hours rule, that suggests that filling that amount of time with meaningful practise at any discipline, regardless of where you started from, will make you a master of that discipline. Never played golf before? Give it 10,000 hours and you’ll be the next Tiger Woods. This fits neatly into our school philosophy of the Growth Mindset, which rejects the idea of talent as a predetermined birth-right and instead defines it as something that is developed over time. Although it is tempting to see geniuses – Mozart, Federer, Einstein – as simply just Being, it is far more likely that they, from an early age, constantly worked at their chosen subject with an enthusiasm and an abandon at the expense of everything else. The reason that they excel is, basically, because they worked harder than everyone else. Of course it is more complex than that. Gladwell also argues that many of these ‘outliers’ had hugely advantageous backgrounds and fortune in terms of excelling in their field. He uses Bill Gates as an example: born in 1955 Gates was old enough to take advantage of the opportunities that opened up with the introduction, in 1975, of the Altair 8800, the first do-it-yourself computer kit, but he wasn’t so old as to be too settled in his life to take a leap of faith. He was also fortunate to attend Lakeside, a private school in Seattle with its own computer – almost unheard of at the time. Gates had access to something few others did, as well as the passion, and had thousands of hours of programming under his belt when the Altair became available, making him perfectly prepared to take maximum advantage of the PC revolution.

Can a single 42 year old mother of five living in the Sahara find 10,000 hours to be a champion Ice Skater? Unlikely. But is it impossible? Well, even with 10,000 hours of practise it’s pretty improbable. But it depends. It depends what you mean by ‘champion’, or even ‘ice skating’. It depends how you want to define anything about her achievement or successes. It depends how much she’s willing to sacrifice to achieve her goal. It depends who is willing to help her. It depends on whether someone coincidentally decides to open an ice rink a few sand dunes down. At the beginning of her quest it would obviously seem laughable. But then Jamaica did qualify for the Winter Olympics twice, finishing in 14th place in 1994, ahead of the United States, Russia, Australia and France, and winning gold in the World Push Championships in Monaco – despite it clearly being ridiculous and impossible for them to achieve any of that, given their starting point. So … who’s to say?

There are impossibilities in this world, but many of them come down to whether they can happen right now. Given enough time ‘impossible’ becomes ‘really quite incredibly unlikely and difficult’. But still achievable. Does anyone believe that, in time, we won’t find a cure for cancer? Or that war can’t be made redundant? There are many that are certain both will happen. Sometimes ‘impossible’ is short-hand for ‘inconceivable’. Could it be that a paraplegic could ever walk again? Or that a best friend may turn into a complete stranger? Or that the Sun won’t rise in the morning one day?

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years incarcerated as a political prisoner. If someone had sat him down in the middle of that stretch and said ‘you’re going to be president of this country’, he may have believed it, but nobody else would have done. Who would have thought, in 2002, a young, mixed race, senator from Illinois would become the next President of the United States? Who could have met Margaret Thatcher outside her father’s grocery shop in Grantham and said to themselves, she’ll be Prime Minister one day. It’s interesting how quickly what is remarkable becomes mundane. Thatcher is rarely thought of now as the first (and only) female PM, her name elicits, instead, strong opinions on how good, or how bad, she was for the country. She is characterised by her record, not by her gender.

Our students may look out at the world and see only certainties. It is our job to show them that, yes, there are rules and limitations, but no, given enough time and effort, it’s not impossible.

*Obviously this isn’t true for all societies, but the consequences of war and anarchy are loud and clear for anyone to see.

Gary Kynaston – Headteacher

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Failure is not falling but refusing to get up

batman

Chinese proverb

In the last blog I talked about the virtue of resourcefulness when faced with challenges or a deficiency in opportunity or a deficiency in … well … resources. I talked about scaling a wall if the doors and windows were shut, and how, though significantly harder, the resourceful will always be better equipped to take on the next wall.

We live in a time where entrepreneurship is increasingly celebrated as a means of getting ahead. The concepts of welfare and support are being looked at as, in some ways, counter-productive and encouraging of laziness or inertia. If there is always a helping hand to pull you up, no matter what, why bother trying? We are all being persuaded to not expect ‘hand outs’ and instead pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make our own way in the world. This may seem admirable and in tune with building self-sufficient individuals confident in their own agency and power to change their lives and those around them, but there are some important nuances to this philosophy that I feel should be addressed.

The idea that those with the boldest and best ideas succeed, that anyone can reach the top if they put their mind to it and encouraging those with challenging circumstances that nothing can stand in their way can be very positive. But success is often celebrated in vacuum – shorn of context. Those who have achieved something are admired, regardless of how they got there. Put bluntly, some people will find success will come relatively easily. Others will not. Someone learning the piano, who have musically minded parents, a piano teacher relative and a piano at home to practise whenever they need, may find their road to proficiency smooth and straightforward (though this of course does not negate their achievement). Another piano learner may have no access to a piano, parents who do not recognise music as a viable career opportunity and actively discourage it, and little money or contacts for lessons. If both students manage to get to grade 8, can it be said that one achieved more or deserved celebration it over the other? It’s difficult to say.

How then, does this affect how we look at failure? If that second piano student were to try everything in their power and fail, does that necessarily mean that they were not capable? Entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency and resourcefulness are all admirable qualities, but a life solely built around those can be brutal and unforgiving. A life in which there is no support, no encouragement, and failure is treated wholly on the terms that ‘you simply did not try hard enough’ can move into the realm of unfairness, and even discrimination. At Hammersmith Academy we expect our students to take ownership of their learning and their success, but we are with them every step of the way. We give as much encouragement and support as is required, but, importantly, we do not carry the students for them. We strongly believe that no matter what your circumstances, everyone has the potential and opportunity to succeed. In my opinion, to fail is not simply coming short of what you set out to achieve. Failure is instead using the challenges you face, or the setbacks you have experienced, as an excuse not to try. To have a dream of becoming a virtuoso piano player, but not quite getting there due to circumstances beyond your control, is one thing. Shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘well I don’t have a piano, so I can’t play’ is quite another. Resourcefulness enables us to find a way, even if it’s not quite as far as we perhaps are capable of going. Sometimes circumstances are just too unforgiving. But you will never know how far you can go if you don’t try.

Gary Kynaston – Headteacher

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I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with purpose

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He entered the NBA directly from high school, and has won five NBA championships. Bryant is a 17-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team.

When it comes to progress, there is some controversy over how important the past is to future success. Some would argue that the past is the past, and it should be left where it is – there is no use in regret or dwelling on things long gone. Others would say it is impossible to move forward unless our mistakes or failings have been fully addressed.

I believe the answer is, as always, somewhere in between. Nobody can possibly live a life free from error or misjudgement. However, ignoring our flaws and looking only to the future will create the impression of a life constantly in the present moment, without context and without direction. Challenges will be met as if for the first time, and we create cyclical patterns in our lives, approaching the same situation with the same solutions again and again (Einstein’s definition of insanity, it is said, is exactly this behaviour).

Dwelling on those mistakes, on the other hand, being consumed in them, can paralyse us with a fear of repeating them. They can become an anchor, dragging us backwards.

At Hammersmith Academy, we teach Reflectiveness. Where this differs from merely thinking about the past, to dwelling on it incessantly, is the ability to gain an awareness of why we do the things that we do. Many decisions, especially bad ones, will be made in the heat of the moment, where emotion and passion overtake our reasoned thought and blind us from thinking long term. Reflecting on things can help us to go back to that moment, with an objective viewpoint, and analyse different approaches we could have taken. When a similar situation arises, therefore, we are better able to focus on reason, in the moment, and see the potential consequences of our actions – both positive and negative.

Basketball is a fast paced game that requires physical and mental agility. Kobe Bryant needs to be able to rely on his in-the-moment decision making skills. Without reflecting on the past he will be constantly adrift in the present moment, relying on inefficient and ineffective gut reactions. The past can provide a context, a basis on which to learn from and develop. But whilst we reflect, we must also concentrate on what’s coming and what’s happening right now. Reflecting with purpose stops us from becoming stuck in the past, and allows us to lay the foundations of a more considered and wise approach to the challenges we face. Our past mistakes instead become a guiding hand, gently ushering us away from pitfalls and in a better direction.

Gary Kynaston, Headteacher

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Be a reflection of what you’d like to see in others!

If you want love, give love; if you want honesty, give honesty; if you want respect, give respect. You get in return what you give! – Anon

celebrity-marx-brothers-shake-hands-poster

This week’s thought is a simple but deceptively powerful idea that is widely taught, but perhaps rarely acted upon.

There seems to be a curious contradiction when it comes to our self-consciousness and our reaction to other people. On the one hand, we are all too aware of our own insecurities, our need to put on a ‘front’ to the world that is, perhaps, very different from how we feel, but then we seem to always take everyone else at face-value and assume everything they say and do is exactly what they feel and think. We also project our own insecurities onto others, further confusing the relationship between the way a person is acting, how we think they are acting and what it means to us. Some people may see confidence and attractiveness in bravado, whereas others may see obnoxiousness and vanity, and in fact that person may be incredibly insecure and using a false ‘persona’ to hide their true self. This complex nature of human interaction can be confusing, difficult to navigate and lead to all sorts of communication breakdowns and problems.

Our quote is from an unknown source, but Jon Ronson – the author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, a book about how some people’s lives have been ruined by the backlash they’ve received on social media after ill-judged tweets or posts – raises an intriguing point about the nature of social interaction.

“I’ve noticed all year this weird psychological thing going on that people who love finding faults in others for abuses of power react with a fury when it is pointed out that they are abusing the power of social media themselves. Time and again on Twitter we act like the thing we purport to hate”.

In the world of social media, the normal rules of politeness and social etiquette seem to dissolve behind the protective barrier of the computer screen; whatever stops us from reacting with our first thought is removed, sometimes with devastating consequences.

What’s less talked about, however, is that what is far more likely to trend on social media in large numbers aren’t the vitriolic ‘Twitter storms’, but, in fact, positive news stories – those that make us laugh and fill us with warmth and with pride. Even in the darkest of times, messages of support and solidarity (#blacklivesmatter, #youaintnomuslimbruv, #illridewithyou) are the most tenacious trends. #faithinhumanityrestored.

However, there does seem to be an expectation of cruelty in human nature, an assumption that humanity will always act in the worst way possible, even if facts and evidence irrefutably deny this, so when a person acts kindly, it is as if a wave of positive energy has washed over everything. It is always unexpected, but always welcome, and welcome with a voracity only those with a famishment are capable.

That same assumption, that people will react selfishly and negatively to everything, perhaps stops us from reaching out, anxious at having it thrown back in our face, or being mocked for naïve idealism in a cynical world. But, as we can see on Twitter and in real life, the overwhelming response to positivity is to react in kind. An argument can be diffused, tension lifted, rage quelled, and even a Twitter storm held at bay, if the response to an action is positivity.

At Hammersmith Academy, one of our four core values is reciprocity. What we receive, we should repay in kind. If our school, and our society, is to function in a progressive and constructive way, our students need to learn that positivity is cultivated through giving back, rather than simply being given. It takes a small gesture to be kind, to be positive, but it can set off a snowball that can be just as powerful as any Twitter storm.

Gary Kynaston, Headteacher

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The mind is everything. What you think, you become

Gautama Buddha, commonly known as the Buddha, is recognised by Buddhists as an enlightened teacher who taught that suffering could be prevented through the elimination of ignorance and craving.wall decal buddha s

wall_decal_buddha_s

The thought for this week is commonly attributed to the Buddha,

however as this article points out, probably erroneously. The article cites a more accurate quote, with a similar sentiment:

“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.”

Both point to the well-known concept of mind over matter.

There are a variety of different ways this sentiment can be taken, but it fits in with our growth mindset ethos very well.

We now know that the brain creates connections between neurons, whenever we learn something new, creating what are called ‘neural pathways’ that shape and guide our perception of the world. The more something is repeated to us, the stronger these pathways become. Just as the same path in a field, trodden every day, will create a visible muddy line, which encourages people to follow and tread it down further, so neural pathways become imprinted in the mind. When we’re young the brain is firing on all cylinders, with an overwhelming degree of new experiences. Our mind is a grassy field. As we get older these pathways become set and we become less flexible in our ability to replace them with different or conflicting information. This can have both positive and negative effects. The positive is, evidently, how we learn and retain information. By repeating an activity consistently, we can acquire new skills and talents. Through hard work and persistence, a person can become ‘talented’ at almost anything. This goes against our common perception of ‘talent’ as something that is magically handed down at birth, with little to no effort at all.

However, as we get older we also start to cement attitudes and ideas about ourselves and others. This is why it is thought to be difficult to pick up skills later in life, especially ones that are vastly different from your everyday experiences. Learning a new language, a new musical instrument, or changing your attitude of the world, require considerable time and effort because you are not only trying to create new neural pathways, but you are also competing with already existing and much stronger pathways. Negative attitudes, built up over time, can be a real hindrance to progress. Attitudes such as ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m stupid’, ‘nobody thinks I am capable’, for example, can become strong neural pathways and discourage any other possible pathways from use. Picking up a guitar for the first time, you are not primed to start learning straight away, but are instead numbed by the little voice that says ‘put that down, there’s no point’. It would be like constantly walking a different route across the field every day, in the attempt to create a new path in place of the old one, whilst others are still walking along the old one, imprinting it further.

Some people have interpreted Buddha’s words as saying that, with the power of the mind the body can do literally anything. I don’t believe that; flying, for example, is clearly not possible, no matter how much you tell yourself it is. However, there are what seem like impossible feats that only certain people can ever reach, whereas in fact the only thing stopping you from achieving similar feats yourself is your mind. Creating those negative neural pathways, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘there’s no point in trying’ early on, imprint the muddy path away from progress and learning. However, if we can instil positive attitudes in our children, when their minds are at their most accepting and flexible – that ‘I can achieve great things’, ‘I believe in myself, first and foremost’, ‘ the world is a better place for my talents’ –  then whatever our students think can become, they can become.

Gary Kynaston, Headteacher

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Motivation will almost always beat mere talent

Our thought for this week comes from Norman Ralph Augustine

Norman_Ralph_Augustine

Norman Ralph Augustine is a US aerospace businessman who served as Under Secretary of the Army from 1975 to 1977 and as chairman of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee. He has received the Department of Defense’s highest civilian decoration, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, five times. He holds 34 honorary degrees and was selected by Who’s Who, on their fiftieth anniversary, as one of the “Fifty Great Americans”. He has travelled to over 111 countries and stood on both the North and South Poles of the Earth.

Our thought for the week reiterates that, again, talent is not the be-all-and-end-all, but the precursor to greatness, which can only be achieved through hard work and effort.

Motivation is a key component of hard work. The will to put a large amount of effort into something struggles to exist without motivation. But what is motivation and how can it be obtained? Is it simply the desire to achieve something? It is well-observed that if someone desperately wants something, they will do almost anything to get it. It is also true that enjoying an activity can inspire a huge amount of production and progress, without it seeming like any work at all. The difficulty arises when a goal is set, but the desire, or the intrinsic love for an activity, isn’t readily available, or perhaps does not exist. How can someone harness motivation under those circumstances?

At an early age many opportunities for development can seem forced upon us. Discipline and mandatory activities, such as school, can seem unfair or oppressive. These are not conditions into which motivation easily grows. The challenge, therefore, is to create an environment for the student that cultivates an aspiration to succeed. However, where motivation can fail is in the perception that it is just not worth it – that circumstances dictate our lives and the odds are overwhelmingly against us. There has been a lot of focus and anxiety in the last decade over rising inequality and an unfairness over who has benefited and who has lost out in difficult times. Young people are more and more exposed to the troubling and unjust realities of the world, through widely accessible media, and this can be incredibly demotivating – even from an adult perspective.

At Hammersmith Academy we set a level playing field. We show our students that growth and development can be hard, but there will always be reward for those that strive to achieve. Our curriculum is both traditional and designed to involve and inspire our students. Our teachers are not here to simply impart information, but interact with our students and act as role models both professionally and emotionally. We expect everyone to model a positive and professional attitude at all times. It is not simply about preparing our students for exams, but preparing them for a competitive and challenging world. We set high standards by exposing our students to successful entrepreneurs and ambassadors from a variety of different cultures and professions, both business-linked and creative. By showing our students what the world has to offer, and what it takes to make the most of it, we hope to create a desire within them to succeed, and a pride in their success. Talent is not given, but earned. With that in mind, our student’s develop the resilience and the knowledge that they can get to where they want to go. And that is the biggest motivation of all.

Gary Kynaston, Headteacher

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I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented … where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic

Our thought for this week comes from Will Smith.

WS

Will Smith is a hugely successful and well respected actor, rapper and producer, ranked in 2014 by Forbes magazine as the world’s most bankable movie star. He has been Oscar nominated twice – for his performance as Muhammed Ali in Michael Mann’s biopic ‘Ali’, and for ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ [purposefully misspelled] – and he is very vocal about methods for success. The quote chosen for this week is one of many concerning reaching your full potential, through single mindedness and drive, that are attributed to him.

Our thought for the week says that success is less about how naturally talented someone may be, but more about how much effort and time they put into what they’re trying to achieve.

There is a joke in which a duck watches her fellow ducks gliding gracefully passed in the pond and wonders to herself ‘how is it so easy for everybody else, when I’m having to paddle like crazy?’. I think that’s what it can be like for people, especially young people, when they see someone as successful and seemingly effortless as Will Smith, and to think to themselves “he is so talented, I can never compete with someone like him”. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily matter how good you are at something, if you have a great work ethic and try very hard then there are few limits to what you can achieve.

At Hammersmith Academy we have high standards and high aspirations for all our students, who we expect to make outstanding progress during their time with us. We develop a growth mindset, which means understanding that capability can be developed and it is not based on how ‘clever’ or able you are to start with. Everybody has skills and abilities in different areas, but through practise and encouragement, almost anything is possible. We also ensure our teachers develop in this way and progress. Regardless of their experience or how long they stay with us, we want all our staff to flourish in their careers.

Will Smith’s attitude is very closely aligned to the American dream and I think a part of Mr Smith’s popularity in America stems from the audience’s appreciation of him as an embodiment of that dream – that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you started, you can be as successful as anyone as long as you’re prepared to do what it takes. Where I feel this is problematic is that it perhaps glosses over the more extreme hardships and boundaries that some people can face and puts the responsibility of failure squarely on the shoulders of that person, when there may be valid reasons for falling short that are beyond their control. Will Smith’s vision can also come across as quite singular and inflexible. He says “There’s no reason to have Plan B because it’ll distract your Plan A”. I think it’s reasonable and healthy to have a realistic and adaptable attitude towards achievement. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may not achieve everything. It is also important to manage your expectations; how reasonable and achievable are your goals? How much are you willing to sacrifice to get there? And, most importantly, is your goal as important and worthy as you think it is? These are important questions that need to be addressed and for every Will Smith, there are many others who have not succeeded as he has done, though they tried every bit as hard. Failure should not discourage from succeeding at different things, or in different ways, to how you set out.

However, the positivity of this message is clear. The world is a big place with a lot of fierce competition. We look up to those who have succeeded as though they have always been this way, that they were somehow born successful. This is a fallacy and, as Mr Smith has pointed out, hard work and effort is a big – perhaps the biggest – part of success.

Gary Kynaston, Headteacher

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