The below was read out by our Head Master, Steffan Griffiths in our first online assembly of the Trinity term:
Start of Trinity Term Address - Monday 20th April 2020
Starting a new term
Having been very grateful for the Easter break after the challenges at the end of last term and our week of the remote learning model, I find myself now excited to be back in term-time after three weeks of holiday, but not holiday as we are used to it.
You might ask why this would be, given that almost all of us have been at home for almost all of the time and that is not going to change for at least the next 3 weeks.
Well, I am looking forward to the return of greater structure in our new timetable; to the exciting intellectual and academic ground you are going to cover; and to seeing how you are going to exploit the many other educational opportunities made available to you.
Yet there is no doubt that you will still have more flexibility over your time than during a normal term. The school will certainly be providing shape, expert contact and materials for you to progress your education in academic and co-curricular spheres, but your individual attitude to the situation is going to be key to make the most of the remote learning model.
This is regardless of whether you are: U5 and U6 returning to a term’s worth of rich learning without the limiting hurdle of public exams that none of us have ever had the chance to experience; or you are M5 and L6 in the engine room of your public exam courses; or you are L4, U4 or L5 with the freedom to explore a wide range of intellectual interests.
How might you structure your thinking to be in the right frame of mind to progress your overall development at the start of this new term? Here are a few ideas; I hope at least one resonates for each of you.
I believe the 5 ways to wellbeing discussed at the end of last term are still applicable: keep learning; be active; give; connect and take notice. They represent the holistic approach in which we believe at Norwich School and encourage you to retain balance in the weeks ahead.
Is your cup half-full or half-empty? At this time particularly, there seems to be something of a binary division between passive acceptance, or even endurance, of the current restrictions or a proactive desire to be grateful for what we do have and make the most of the situation.
As one of the Red Gowns has said to me, the question of “What did you do during the coronavirus outbreak?” is going to be standard in the times to come. So how will you answer about this defined period which we will all remember? I certainly hope that there will be a number of skills improved and new skills acquired.
Paying attention and giving attention
A related thought to these modes of approach is to do with attention, another way of expressing the “take notice” theme I spoke about at the end of last term.
Clarissa Farr, the former High Mistress of St Paul’s Girls School, said that a revelation to her came in understanding that attention is a gift. We tend to say “Pay attention” as if there is some sort of cost to it, a penalty. A better phrase would be to “Give attention”, to provide one’s time and concentration. She felt that the single biggest contribution she could make to her school as Head was to give time and attention to members of the community.
I am reminded of it because it seems to suit well the MS Teams model which we shall be using extensively during the coming term: Pupils will need to give their attention to get the most of the interactive sessions, while teachers will need to give time to make themselves available, both in and out of lessons, to ensure that pupils’ learning is positive and secure.
Let's make the most of it
None of us would choose the situation in which we find ourselves and I am already anticipating with joy the day that our school community can be together again, in the Cathedral and then around the Close.
However, the next period of time will be different and I encourage you to be positive about it. For it to work, pupils, parents and staff need to buy in and support each other.
I should like to finish a poem which points to the positive mindset that I hope you will bring to the coming days and weeks. The gendering is rather masculine, but the female used such vocabulary to fit the metre.
Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh
Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.