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It’s no joking matter….Confessions of a procrastinating Headmaster as he approaches Speech Day

By Gerry Holden, Headmaster of Dover College

Posted on: 02 Jul 2013

Categories: Independent Sector

As we approach the end of term [really?] most of us heads in the country are probably turning our attention to our end of year school review, whatever it may be called Prize Giving, Founder’s Day or Commemoration. The serious content of this review is the easy part, particularly if you delegate some of the material to your Heads of School. In fact, I have just received overnight, two outstanding first drafts from my Head Girl, Millie and my Head Boy, Merlin. Millie accompanied her draft speech with a cheeky email. “And how is your speech coming along headmaster?”. “Superbly”, I replied. “It’s almost finished”. Well headmasters are permitted little white lies, occasionally. In fact, with less than 5 days to go to the big day, I have yet to put pen to paper or finger to lap top. And the reasons? Having mastered the art of procrastination over many years, the part I have always found challenging is that opening paragraph, particularly if you want to grab the attention of your audience…..and especially if you want to be funny. I shared such a confession with Mark Eagers, the distinguished Headmaster of Box Hill School, on the golf course at a conference earlier this year and we both decided that it would be a jolly good idea if we could provide a service for other Heads who suffered from a similar affliction.

A couple of weeks ago, while a number of colleagues from The Society of Heads accompanied by the great and the good from ISI and ISC were cruising up The River Thames on a paddle steamer, I floated the proposal of a Society of Heads publication, entitled Laugh Your Heads Off. We would ask members to share their favourite joke or anecdote suitable for retelling at a whole school occasion, with an age range of approximately 2 to 97!

I have been overwhelmed by my fellow heads’ response, probably because I have offered a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape from my own cellar underneath the dungeons of Dover Castle for the best entry.

Consequently, my “writer’s block” has been cured and although writing this blog has diverted me from the number one priority on My Things to Do Today List [writing my Prize Giving Speech], I am almost on the point of starting. Honestly.

My new dilemma? I now have so many funny stories to select from, which one do I chose ?

Gerry Holden is Headmaster of Dover College a 3-18 Day and Boarding School built on the site of a twelfth century monastery. He is also Chairman of The Society of Heads’ Professional Development Committee.


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