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Mr Irwin's Thought of the Term: Reflections

Posted on: 02/07/2021

Thought for the Term: Reflections

Reflect (1)

As I thought about what I would write for this edition of Thought for the Term, I was struck by Ms Hopkins words from last week about how she goes about reflecting upon aspects of her life. Like her, I too have a routine that I turn to in order to contextualise my thoughts and try to gain perspective on what is happening around me. I turn to my favourite poem, one that I share annually with the Year 11 students at St. Birinus, Invictus by William Ernest Henley. 


Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
I am the captain of my soul. 

In our increasingly hectic lives, it can often feel as if we find ourselves ‘done to’, I find it helps to remind myself that I have the power and opportunity to set my path through whatever good or bad times I am experiencing. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” – this passage in particular is one that helps me find the balance that can often seem elusive. This passage encourages me to take the time to step away, really think for myself about whatever is on my mind and take deliberate, specific actions to take control of and improve my situation. 

I’m also struck by the fact that no less an individual than Nelson Mandela would use this poem during his 27 years of imprisonment to reflect about his beliefs and channel his resilience to not only survive but, in his own words, ‘grow as a person’. I too aspire to be a better version of myself and take comfort that making time for reflection is a key to that journey.   

Graeme Irwin
Deputy Headteacher, St Birinus School

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