Since the founding of Shrewsbury International School in Thailand, an emphasis on a holistic approach to learning and development has been at the forefront of delivering a British education fit for the international stage.
The attention given to Shrewsbury's academic and co-curricular excellence is evident. But what may be less obvious is the value placed - and time spent - on ensuring our students acknowledge, understand and develop the positive traits necessary to strengthen character - such as self-awareness, resilience, courage and collaboration. Our aim is to ensure a Shrewsbury student is equipped to deal with any and all of life's challenges, which they will surely encounter throughout their lives beyond school.
One such way these positive characteristics are reinforced is through half termly 'Character Strengths'. Each half term, a particular quality is selected, which we feel will help students become more well-rounded individuals. This character strength is reinforced in the classroom, on the sports field, on the stage, in the laboratory - and in all aspects of daily life at Shrewsbury - and serves to support the academic and co-curricular excellence that makes a Shrewsbury student stand out from the rest.
But what does this mean in reality? Let's use a real example - a real story from the Shrewsbury family which showcases the value of our current character strength, and the very real value of 'Respect' - which has helped one member of staff in particular.
Debbie Brown, Assistant Principal of the Junior School, discovered in November of last year that she had developed a medical condition called Bell's Palsy. Bell's Palsy is caused by damage to the nerves, which results in paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. This condition is often unexpected and unexplained, beginning suddenly without warning. There is no known cure. Men and women are affected equally and at random. It could happen to any of us at any time and the experience for sufferers is understandably one of embarrassment, anxiety and often extreme self-consciousness.
However, the physical effects for most are not permanent. It is not life threatening and recovery usually begins 2 weeks to 6 months from the start of the symptoms. Most people with Bell's Palsy recover full facial strength and expression within a couple of months. Unfortunately for Ms Brown, it has been almost a year and she still has a long way to go before complete recovery.
Ms Brown is a full time and dedicated member of the Shrewsbury team - and parent to 3 children - her busy schedule means she is constantly interacting with others via the daily ritual played out by any working professional and parent. The idea of hiding this condition was impossible.
And so, it was within Shrewsbury's supportive community of respect and tolerance - and the character strengths that define us - that Ms Brown felt the courage and bravery to reveal this adversity.
In a recent online Junior School assembly, Ms Brown read a story to children about difference. 'The Sneetches', a story by renowned children's author Dr Suess, tells the story about a group of birds who live on the beach, some with stars on their bellies and some without. In short, a story of equality and respecting each other's differences evolves.
While this may be a simple children's book, the message of respecting difference was clear - and with it, the key to overcoming intolerance. This is a trait which any future leader must ensure they take with them into the global arena and one which any student at Shrewsbury will always be taught and reminded of without fail.
Our Character Strength for Term 1A (2021) has been 'Respect' - and the very real support and respect Ms Brown has received from students, staff, and families is a testament to this virtue, held in abundance by our community. This is an example of a very real story which has helped define the importance of our character strengths and a credit to the effort which regularly goes into supporting and ensuring a holistic approach to learning and development for each and every Shrewsbury student. Without compromise.
In the moral taken from 'The Sneetches', those who seek to emphasise difference often do so for personal gain and not for community benefit. And in the words of Dr Suess himself: 'Sneetches are Sneetches, and no kind of Sneetch is best on the beaches'.
We may all be unique, but only with respect may we see there is no fundamental difference between any of us.