On Tuesday 2nd February, James Shone visited St Edward’s to give a number of talks to groups of staff and pupils. James was a Housemaster at Monkton Combe School and was about to become Headmaster when he discovered he had a brain tumour; his world was quite literally turned on its head. He endured numerous difficulties, including the loss of most of his sight, but has managed to find the strength and determination to continue to live life to the full. Armed with his motto ‘I Can and I Am’ he now speaks at schools about human potential and overcoming adversity. Below, two Lower Sixth Formers write about their reaction to James’s inspiring words.
Izzy Barrand writes: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I sat down at the talk but when I came out I was amazed. Mr Shone talked about how his life was quite literally turned upside down when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was left with just 10% of his sight in only one eye. This coincided with his appointment as Headmaster of Monkton Combe Prep School in Bath — his dream job. He explained how he felt quite lucky because if he had not been a candidate for the job, he would not have undergone a health check, and it might have been too late. He talked about his new charity ‘I Can and I Am’ and how he came to be where he is today. One of Mr Shone’s main messages was that we should believe we can achieve anything. I liked the fact that Mr Shone related his experiences to us, using examples from his experiences at his former school. By the time we left, we all felt inspired to believe in our own intelligence and to take responsibility for our own lives. Mr Shone listed eight ways in which people can be ‘smart’ and showed us that everyone is smart in at least one area. One phrase stuck with me: ‘Don’t ask how intelligent is X, ask how X is intelligent’. He also talked about how we should try to develop a ‘growth mind set’ from which we can learn and develop any skill, and I intend to reflect on this, and learn from it.
James Moore-Stanley writes: Having been subjected to various academic talks regarding current pressures and aspirations, it was very pleasant to listen to a talk that was more inspirational than authoritative. James’s composed and collected voice set the tone for his talk on overcoming serious adversity.
After informing us that soon after his successful application to become headmaster of Monkton Combe Prep School, Bath, he was invited for an informal medical examination just before taking the reins. After failing to read even the giant letter at the top of the sight-test board, he was sent on his way to the optometrist. A problem was detected and he was sent for a scan. Ten days later, he underwent a 27 hour operation on a brain tumour.
Taking inspiration from others in a similar situation to his own, he proceeded to speak to us about how he started to live life with the motto: ‘I am therefore I can’. His point was painfully simple; there is no purpose in wallowing in self-pity because you are struggling; rather, one should focus on what one can do. Although days at the golf course, and watching the cricket, are now confined to memories, he is still able to go outside, interact with people, and quite frankly, do everything that is worth living for.
The academic requirements in the Teddies Sixth Form can be demanding, so the talk provided a much-needed injection of both enthusiasm and encouragement. Mr Shone provided us with a stark reminder: if someone in his life situation is able to find meaning and purpose, we must too in our respective environments. It is this that inspired me – and others – to resolve to value our own successes in our different ‘branches’ of intelligence, rather than want for others.