In a departure from that which is fast becoming the norm for this piece, I wanted to begin with a note received last Sunday morning. Following our visit to Portsmouth Grammar School (PGS), their Director of Sport wrote the following:

“Regarding my email I would like to mention to you my coaches were very impressed with HCS students on Saturday both during, and more importantly post-match. We have had many schools here at PGS and none of them have left the facilities quite like your team on Saturday. The changing rooms, I was informed, were left cleaner than what they were when you arrived and this has never been the case in my time here at PGS or any other school I have worked in.

“Our catering team were very impressed that the tables and chairs were left as if they had not been sat on and tables eaten on as your boys cleaned up after them. We had a very busy morning with over 14 matches being hosted at Hilsea and our catering team did not have to do anything other than set up for the next match after you had left. 

“The players are a credit to you and HCS and this is something that we at PGS will look to promote and follow your example.”

I share this with you reader as a source of collective pride. There is no moment of the week or the term when I am not proud of our community, there are of course moments of wonder when I wish better choices were made and that the naïve excesses of the young might be tempered with the wisdom of ages. But that is unrealistic and one of the joys of the role is the opportunity to enlighten the minds of the errant and to bring them back to the fold.

The comments from PGS are significant for me because they strike at the heart of what we are working towards for the children. That each pupil develops the quality of character that takes pride in every aspect of what they do but that they equally recognise that the pride in themselves is born of the humility that means no one cleans up after them: everyone is prepared to sweep the shed.

In setting out the agenda for the school with our new Director of Sport, we were absolutely aligned around the value of service and humility. Wherever HCS goes, we look after each other and we leave a legacy of quality that respects others. It may seem counterintuitive to connect pride and humility in this way.

For classical antiquity, hybris is often translated as pride, but this is unfair. Hybris is more an exaggerated sense of ones place in the scheme of things, such that the gods knock you back down to earth. It is an arrogance, a defect that allows the arrogant to think themselves greater or superior to others. The ancients saw hybris as a flaw of character, hamartia (μαρτία). Interestingly enough, Christian theology picked this up and ‘hamartia’ (which means to miss the mark) became what the early church understood to be sin. Hardly surprising then that pride found its way onto the list of seven deadly sins. Setting aside post-Augustinian theology, I may be stretching an observation but there is a connection worth unpacking between an appropriate pride and the virtue of humility.

I am not so sure that they have to be in binary opposition to each other. If we disassociate arrogance from pride by illustrating that arrogance is a mistake because it places the arrogant in an exaggerated position relative to others, pride does not necessarily do the same thing. Pride is an appropriate confidence or acceptance of the quality of effort. To be without pride is as mistaken as to be arrogant, why? Because it fails to recognise the truth of the human condition.

I may try hard, give my all to a project and still lose out to another, but surely that is a source of pride, not so much the losing but the approach I have taken. I have more to learn, skill to craft, but I am rightly proud of what I have done. This is not arrogance merely the objective recognition of effort and result. Humility is about the same objective recognition; that I am not greater nor lesser than others, that I have much to learn and that I should be disposed to be open to this.

There is much more to be unpacked in looking at both pride and humility. But for now, they are about an honest appreciation of ourselves, a commitment to the disposition that we share a common humanity and as such we are all proud to sweep the shed.

Cliff Canning, Headmaster, Embley (@HeadmasterHCS

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