What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This was a question asked of me by five year old Ayomikun in RHS Reception’s class assembly last week. Do Headmasters ever grow up? Not entirely, I hope. One of the great privileges my working life has afforded me has been to work with children whose interest in the world around them and zest for life adds huge interest and variety to every day.

The theme of RHS’s assembly was ‘When I grow up’. The boys dressed in clothing worn by people in the careers they currently dream of pursuing, ranging from train drivers to dentists and policemen to palaeontologists. They spoke about how the school motto ‘Aspire, Endeavour, Achieve’ is going to help them try and realise their goals.

What was the Headmaster’s answer to the question asked by Ayomikun? When I was his age, my brothers and I were asked by our parents what we wanted to be when we grew up. My older brother said he wanted to become rich: he has worked in the diamond trade for over thirty years. I said I wanted to help the poor people in Africa: well I guess I have followed a vocational career of service to others. And my younger brother? He said he wanted to become an elephant!

Work forms a major part of many adult lives. All of us have a sort of idea of what other working lives entail. My brothers and I have pursued very different career paths. We are exploring the idea of spending a day at each other’s place of work this year, deepening our understanding of a part of our lives that has had a significant impact on our personal development. What an interesting experience that will be!

When Bickley Park governor and Head of Tonbridge, Tim Haynes spoke at Speech Day a few years ago, he told the boys not to think about what they were going to ‘do’ when they grew up, but what they were going to ‘be’. Year 8 and Year 3 in assemblies in the last week or two have touched upon this. Year 8 pupil Luke Saunders wrote and directed 8SH’s assembly which provided sage advice about approaches to life that bring reward and fulfilment, including the following quotes:

  • ‘Life is not about waiting for storms to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain’ (Greene)
  • ‘Success is no accident: it is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing’ (Pele)
  • Nothing is impossible; the word itself says I’m possible’ (Hepburn)

Perhaps the best advice for how to ‘be’ was provided by 4SBD when they recited the following poem in their assembly:

  • The more you give, the more you get
  • The more you laugh, the less you fret
  • The more you do unselfishly, the more you live abundantly
  • The more of everything you share, the more you’ll always have to spare
  • The more you love, the more you’ll find
  • That life is good and friends are kind
  • For only what we give away enriches us from day to day.