In The Country Magazine
In The Country

Throwing It Back To School!

Today we’re throwing it right back to school!

A couple of months ago, I was approached by staff at my old school and invited along to their End Of Term Prize Giving as their Guest of Honour. It is safe to say it was a huge surprise and totally unexpected.

Great Ballard School is nestled in the West Sussex countryside in an idyllic, quiet little village. It is here that I grew up and spent 10 thoroughly enjoyable years as a student. Starting in Nursery, aged 2 and a half, right the way up until Year 8 (aged 13) where the school finished.

When you spend so many years in one place, day after day, with the same people it truly does become a part of your life and many of the staff and students became like family. If you ask practically any ex-Ballard pupil, I am sure they would agree.

The number of students was never huge and it seems to have decreased since my time there but that is perhaps what makes the school so special.

Puplic speaking was never my strong point at school and it is something I have always found deeply terrifying. I even managed to work this into my speech in hopes that the crowd would go easy on me! I remember vividly having L.A.M.D.A lessons with one teacher in particular and we could NEVER do it. This essentially consisted of public speaking exams…. it was a big no from me.

However, 10 years on, I hadn’t really done any form of speaking in public and I had certainly never given or written a speech before and so I thought why not… what an opportunity.

How does the saying go? ‘Dream Big: If your goals don’t scare you, they’re too small.’ 

Well, the prospect of speaking in front of my old teachers, students and their parents most certainly scared me not just a little but a lot.

Given this is a bit of a throwback post, I thought I should share an image with you all of when I was a pupil at Great Ballard School. I am not entirely sure how old I was here but I was definitely in the Pre-Prep stages, probably about 6 or 7 maybe?

Quite a stark contrast with the picture below taken on Prize Giving day last month. I am sure many who know me will agree there are definite similarities between then and now.

 And so, with the help of my Dad – my right hand man – we set about writing my first ever speech. He has had ample experience in giving speeches and speaking to rooms and offices of people during his career and so his help and guidance was hugely appreciated. 

This journey, starting the business, becoming a business owner, blogger and entrepreneur has opened so many doors to me and presented me with so many incredible opportunities that keep on coming. However, this was probably the first time that I really have sat back and thought, ‘wow’.

This opportunity has presented itself to me because of what I have achieved. I have been invited back to inspire students as an ex-pupil due to the fact I have become the person I am today and that felt hugely empowering.

Almost a month ago, I was nervously awaiting my signal to stand up and deliver. Mum and I were invited to have lunch with the Mr & Mrs Evans (the school’s new Headmaster and his wife, the owners of the school and the new Business Development Manager.

Without doubt, it was lovely and proved to be a great distraction from what was about to come. For many of you – your school dinners were probably something to be forgotten as quickly as possible however for us, school lunches were unbeatable. Our school was renowned for having some of the best lunches and match teas around!

In a day of surreal experiences, to be sat down in what used to be the Headmaster’s study, having lunch with the owner’s of the school and the new Headmaster being kindly waited on by David (the school’s much loved Chef). Whilst some may feel it is a little OTT to be reminiscing quite so much, I spent ten years of my life here and my entire childhood. David’s lunches were a daily delight for an entire decade. We were treated to a delicious three course meal – a step up from what I remember at school on plastic trays. A big thank you to David for that!

Whilst the size of the school in terms of it’s students was much smaller than I remember, this perhaps was a good thing as I had less of an audience! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect and when I was told I would be presenting the individual prizes the nerves kicked in again and I had to try to calm to clammy hands.

 I am sure you can almost see the nerves etched onto my face sitting in front of an array of trophies and prizes. Some of which I remember from my time at the school including the big one, the one that everyone was waiting to know who had one; the House Trophy.

If you were lucky enough to attend a school that holds a special place in your heart then you will be able to relate to the significance of this experience. If not and you were someone who absolutely couldn’t wait to leave school then you will most likely be thinking that I must be utterly bonkers.

I can safely say, I have experienced both, my secondary school wasn’t quite so enjoyable as I made the transition from private to public school. Whilst I made some incredible friends that I know I will keep for a lifetime, the actual academic experience was an utter shambles in my case anyway, my two sisters managed to get through reasonably okay.

 I won’t go into detail with my speech but I was invited to talk about my time at the school, my adventures since leaving back in 2008, my business and some general words of inspiration for the pupils. When planning this, something I had never done before…. I wanted to speak to the pupils and not the adults. I remember as a student switching off during the seemingly boring and tedious speeches given by guest speakers on Prize Giving Day probably by men and women who were just as nervous as I was now but, they chose not to speak to us – the pupils and so I was determined that mine would be different.

The response from the parents and teachers was brilliant and hugely positive and I honestly couldn’t have asked for more.  ‘Refreshing‘ and ‘Inspirational‘ were used numerous times and that is exactly the kind of speech I had hoped to deliver.

Despite standing there, having to hold onto the stand in front of me to steady my nerves and barely being able to see the audience as they disappeared into a blur in front of me – I did it.

Despite my fears, my nerves and my worries, I did it. I had delivered my very first speech in front of a crowd of people and hadn’t died.

Thank you to Great Ballard for inviting me, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Also thank you to Hollie Shelton for the photos!

Onwards and upwards. TedX look out – here I come!

Until next time…

Lots of love,

Hollie-Ella Xxx

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