Enjoying the moment

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As a result of the pandemic, many people feel unable to look ahead and plan with confidence. But we need to refocus on the present, explains Fionnuala Kennedy, Head of Wimbledon High School GDST, and find the joy in the here and now.

Looking ahead to this Summer Term, I confess that I didn't feel what has previously been customary to me to feel: it used to be straightforward, didn't it, knowing that the slightly daunting prospect of public examination preparation would be balanced out by longer days, hazy and balmy weather, cricket matches and joyful leavers' celebrations?

But, probably like many readers, I don't trust myself to look ahead anymore, and I can't help but feel that so much has happened in the last two years that making plans of great import has become irrelevant, foolish almost. We educators are notorious for charting our course, mapping everything out and knowing what's coming next; and that's been taken from us by the pandemic, leaving us feeling cast adrift somewhat.

But I have learned as a result of this two key things, which have made me a very much better leader. The first is that, even without being able to look ahead with certainty, we can certainly look ahead with positivity; and the second is that if you're always looking ahead of you, searching for the path towards joy, you miss out on the joy all around you. It's been quite easy of late to be ground down and I've found my – what I had thought to be inherent – optimism wearing thin. Perhaps you have, too, and perhaps that's entirely understandable when living through a pandemic and more latterly a war. But the ability to look ahead positively is a key one to hang on to, and the ability to be light and to laugh absolutely essential to being a human.

And I'm not talking about some sort of unwitting, banal or trite 'everything's gonna be ok' mantra, or an inane and incessant grinning in the face of difficulty, or even a deliberate burying of one's head in the sand whilst all around you crumbles. I'm talking about gritty optimism, a lightness that sits knowingly alongside discomfort. The author Adam Grant calls it 'informed optimism' which, he says, 'doesn't mean you only look at the bright side. It means you don't overlook the bright side. The greatest antidote to fear is grounded hope'.

Fionnuala Kennedy is Head of Wimbledon High School GDST.