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28 November 2022

The Monday Briefing: Fight From the Inside

The Monday Briefing: Fight From the Inside

“If this [points to heart] is empty, this [hits own head] doesn't matter.”

Dicky Fox in the film Jerry Maguire, 1996

It was in the second-ever edition of the Monday Briefing, entitled ‘Hello, Goodbye’, where I shared my liking for the film Jerry Maguire, and particularly for the minor character Dicky Fox within it. He is the mentor of Jerry - the main character, played by Tom Cruise - and he pops up in the movie every so often to give his nuggets of wisdom on life and the business of being a sports agent.

One of his best quotes is the first line of the blog today, and it forms the basis of the piece. 

I see this sentiment happening in practice on a daily basis in my job.

The College intake is formed of an incredibly wide variety of students, from a multitude of backgrounds and with a range of motivations - both in terms of the limits of their ambitions and their desire to make those aims a reality.

Whatever that ambition, one quintessential question always determines the success of a student in making progress towards it: how far is your heart set on it?

I saw this summer how a student so hell-bent on getting into medical school made it happen - even when she was faced with apparent heartbreak when she was so close to it. It would have been easy to give up, to admit defeat, to delay or postpone it - but she simply refused to yield. She made the best of the support we provided and she made it. What had really happened was the culmination of at least 5 years of hard work. A long held ambition to make her dearest wish come true. The drive and desire to achieve came from within.

As we have every year, we have another cohort of Medicine hopefuls, none of whom, for a range of different reasons, have anywhere near the longing to become a doctor. One in particular comes to mind. Perennially late, a constant fixture in extra sessions at the end of the College day and regularly missing homework assignments, he tries to convince others, and perhaps himself, that it will all come together before the exams. The fact of the matter is that his lack of passion to show absolute commitment to the cause makes the fulfilment of the goal an impossibility.

Conversely, we have a student in the year below who is on track to get there. Outstanding GCSE results already secured, as well as a range of valuable experience which will adorn her personal statement in application have given her a good chance. She knows in her heart though, that a good student does not rest on her laurels, or take it easy, at any point. One sees her in supervised study sessions making the very best of every moment she has. One hears of her in lessons asking all of the right questions. One speaks with her around College and knows that she believes, in her heart, that she can and will do it.

Up and down the year groups in the College, there are students who try to mask their limitations with excuses. I see it every day. Those who can’t get in on time in the mornings often blame their lack of sleep or the London transport system but the reason is their lack of desire within to make the very best of the chance they have.

There are challenges to be faced every single day - some more difficult to overcome than others. What frustrates me most is when I see students fall at the very first hurdle. They give themselves so little chance of success, wasting the golden opportunity they have here to progress. The number of students we have which fit this caricature is fairly small, but it can be hard to take when they fail so abysmally to meet the expectations which we set. Interventions are often well thought out and targeted carefully at these individuals, but they find a way to avoid facing up to them, suddenly struck down by a mystery illness or locating another excuse which, they think, will buy them more time down the road to nowhere they happily coast down.

We never give up on these students, no matter the reluctance, on their part, to face the consequences. That is because I always retain the belief that every student can achieve, no matter the barrier, and I know the staff share my dedication to this philosophy.

That is why we have placed such emphasis this year on building student resilience - on helping them to understand that it is inner strength that really matters: determination needs to come before intellect; purpose precedes brainpower; ‘why’ matters more than ‘what’.

It’s a long term approach, and one in regards to which we must show patience. The hope is that the penny will drop for our students - it may take a longer time for some than it will for others - but eventually there will be a realisation that motivation matters most.

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