I think I have pretty much shared this with everyone I have come into contact with, but just to put it on permanent record (or at least- as permanent as it can be when it has no actual tangible form!), I took a looong break from teaching to raise my children before coming back to Swiss Cottage last year. In that time there were quite a few things I did that helped me to become who I am today. One of the things was to head the Parents’ Support Group of St Anthony’s Primary School. Yes- I was Chairperson from 2004 to 2008, so some of you who are from that school may have found my face familiar when I stepped into your classroom. In this role, I learned a great many lessons about how to get things done efficiently while allowing people to retain their self-respect, how to handle conflicting demands on time and energy, and how to manage people and situations such that opposing viewpoints do not mushroom into a threat to the organization as a whole. It sounds like heavy-duty stuff, doesn’t it? Well, I am not going to pretend that it was on the same level as running the country or anything (after all, no one from the government has approached me to run for Prime Minister yet!), but it gave me valuable experience in many areas, and I have no regrets about taking on the job.
The best part about the whole thing was that I got to meet very special people. The children we read stories to and jumped around with in the hall while the teachers were having contact time, the other parents I made paper lanterns with and decorated the school with for festive occasions, the teachers we planned events with and the principal, Mr Thomas Koh, who gave my team so much support and whom I respect and still approach for guidance and advice about so many issues.
I made lasting friendships with women of compassion, courage and wisdom. Even today when I am no longer with the group, I know that I have only to ask, and they will come to my aid, just as I would to theirs were they to ask it.
I have just stepped down from the School Council of which I was a member for the last 3 years. It was with difficulty that I cut the last ties with the school. I spent very happy years in a school that, with characteristic generosity, allowed me to be a part of it. Everytime I come to work at Swiss Cottage I look up at the St Anthony’s building, and when I see the words written there, I am comforted: “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.” I don’t think it matters which god you believe in. Divinity is something that is in all of us, and the more we share it, the more it grows.
The staff, students and parents of St Anthony’s are blessed because they live this important lesson everyday.