We were fortunate to welcome James Shone, an inspirational speaker, yesterday to give a talk to the Middle School (Years 9-11) during their personal development time. The talk formed part of Seaford’s Personal Development Programme which focusses on building self-awareness, personal responsibility and independence in our pupils. Kevin Rich, Head of Year 9 organised the talk and introduced James by saying: “I worked with James 20 years ago out in Kenya and he was always an inspirational teacher in the classroom. After a life changing experience he is now an inspirational speaker and I’m sure you’ll all get a lot out of the talk today.”
James (who has the charity icanandiam) was a wonderful communicator and shared his remarkable personal journey. Having discovered he had a brain tumour aged 39, it completely changed the course of his life. He spoke about looking up when life derails you, always looking forwards as there are always endless possibilities in life. He said: “The past is a teacher but not a great master, don’t hold onto the past, move on.” He then quoted Sir Winston Churchill; “In adversity you can choose to give up or get up and go and do something and not bow down to self-pity”. James summarised: “Look up forward and out and not down, back and in.”
James then discussed teenage mental health and the negative impact that social media can have. He then used the ‘icanandiam balloon’ to discuss the idea of inflating balloons of self-belief. He spoke about how our students can inflate their balloon through; feeling they belong, feeling valued, feeling good about something and feeling secure about their future. If you have an inflated balloon, it helps you navigate the ups and downs of life and ultimately builds resilience. He said that more than A* grades or First Class degrees, resilience is what employers are looking for in candidates.
He added that setbacks in life are a springboard to refine and reflect and to build resilience. His parting message was to have the right attitude, dream big, and make your goals realistic. Remember how many good things you have in life and look at what you’re good at, do what life made you to do and that the future isn’t just about making money. “The journey of life is our choice, choose to believe you can and that you are of value.”
At the end of the talk whilst thanking James, Kevin Rich added: “There are two stand out messages from today that I’d like you all to think about. Firstly, find your passion and act upon it. Secondly, work together to be part of a school that supports mutual encouragement, be supportive and collaborative with each other.” He later thanked James on Twitter, “for an incredibly impactful and authentic presentation, our students loved it.”
George Vernon, Director of Middle School reflected on the talk and said: “I have the greatest respect for James Shone and I found his talk utterly life affirming. He reassured us about some cherished morals, instinctive values and the importance of mental resilience, which are so easy to forget in this fast-paced modern world. The impact and influence that James had on both pupils and staff was literally mesmerising; the whole of the middle school sat totally transfixed by James’ story, one that taught them how to face the daunting prospects of some of life’s most brutal challenges. His speech was both heart breaking and harrowing, but ultimately James’ audience left the auditorium enraptured with a strange sense of elation. No matter what life throws at you, there is nothing that you cannot overcome. I can and I am! These lessons will no doubt become more and more clear to our pupils in the future, whichever route they have to take.”
You can learn more about James from his website http://www.icanandiam.com or find him on Twitter @JukesShone