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Webinar with James Shone from ‘I Can and I Am'

This week James Shone from ‘I Can and I Am’ virtually hosted a webinar for the Fettes Staff, Parents and Pupils. He has previously talked at Fettes and his presentation was extremely well received by the community and we were delighted to welcome him back.  

Following a 16 year teaching career and having been offered a job as Headmaster in 2012, James was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Following 27 hours of brain surgery James unfortunately lost the majority of his sight.  However, James is a man who embodies a positive attitude to life and a determination to turn setbacks into springboards. As a teacher, this was at the heart of his pastoral message and his focus now is on spreading the messages of ‘I Can & I Am’ to as many individuals across the UK and beyond as possible.  Put simply, the heart of his charity is to inspire confidence in every individual to enable them to know who they are and what they are able to do, rather than focusing on what they can’t.*

Last night James spoke about key messages that revolved around four pillars; belonging, growth mindset, intelligences and hope

For belonging, the boarding environment at Fettes is a perfect opportunity for people to support and encourage each other. James’ experience as a Housemaster was particularly relevant here as he encouraged students to prioritise collaboration and not competition with your school peers (although competition on the sports pitch is still vital!). We should all, as a community, encourage each other, embrace individuality and give authentic, meaningful praise. 

“Encouragement of others costs you so little but the recipient gets so much”. 

Having a growth mindset, is about sticking at something, making small changes and taking small steps. James’ recovery has in part come from a growth mindset, taking things one day at a time and making the small changes he could. All too often we have an in-built fear of ‘I can’t’ simply changing this to ‘I can’t yet’ can change the outcome. In a world of immediacy influenced by social media and the technology that IGen are surrounded by, can sometimes hamper the slow, steady steps needed to change but, we can do it!

A particularly insightful element of the talk was about intelligences and the appreciation that academic intelligence is only one part of what students can offer their community. We all have different skills and abilities all of which are valuable - find your intelligences and play to those strengths. The all-round education at Fettes where students are seen as individuals and praised for a wide range of achievements supports this theory. James summed this up beautifully: ‘You all have gold within you’

Finally James spoke about hope in its many forms. Don’t let yourself be defined by your errors, reflect on them, refine your strategy and move on. Any setback can simply be a springboard to something new if only we let it. Have hope for the future and belief in yourself. 

We thank James for his insight, courage, determination and clarity of message- it is a talk we will not forget. We also thank Sue Bruce, Headmistress of College West and Head of PSE, who organised and hosted the evening. Below are some quotes from the Fettes community which demonstrate the positive impact his talk had.

“I’d just like to say thank you so much for tonight’s webinar. James put his finger on everything that’s actually important for us all just now (and at all times.) We’ve just had a really good conversation with our daughter about many of these issues. What an amazing encouragement and springboard for us all as we think about how we interact with each other and approach each new day. We really appreciate everything you are doing for the Fettes community.” 

“That was the most humbling, talk I think I’ve ever listened to. I’m quite speechless I will definitely watch it again he is an inspiration, I don’t feel my rambling words can express my admiration. It was huge privilege to be invited to listen. Thank you so much for organising it."

“Thank you so much for organising the talk this evening, we all watched/listened and found it really thought-provoking. He’s definitely an inspirational person. Hopefully our boys will think about some of the things which were said and take them to heart. Well done on keeping things like this going, was obviously well-received, with so many people logging on!”

For more information on James and ‘I Can & I Am’ visit here.

* excerpt and photo taken from