Thursday Thought - 2nd July 2020
A GOOD ENDING IS VITAL.
A good ending is vital to a picture, the single most important element, because it is what the audience takes with them out of the theatre. Walt Disney
Our lives are full of beginnings and endings. Appreciating this, many cultures pay very close attention to beginnings and endings in the form of rituals. If we look into these rituals we find the essence of them is to start and finish well. When we get it right it provides benefits that can go unnoticed so it is understandable that we might not realise how important good beginnings and endings are. Endings are important for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it often frames how we look at the future.
As we approach the end of this COVID-19 interrupted school year we feel it is important to acknowledge the end and provide all of our children the opportunity to come into school and reflect on their experiences during lockdown, celebrate what they have learnt and look forward to moving on.
Life's most important lessons are learned through reflection. Reflection is a great way to consolidate learning, process our feelings and share about ourselves. In terms of emotional closure, we can provide meaning by looking to the past and also to the future, encouraging the children to consider their positive memories from their current class and what they are looking forward to over the summer break and next academic year. By doing so, we help them remember that the world was once better than it is now and that it will, once again, be better in the future. Providing this time to pause for reflection as the school year winds down and celebrate the successes of the year helps ensure that they can end the year, and start their summer, in a more refreshed mental and emotional state.
Even though many of our children have not been in school for the past 4 months, they still need a break over the summer so they are refreshed, ready for the next chapter in their school journey. They need time for free, unstructured play. They need time to be not in an adult-driven or an adult-led situation; they need time to lead and take initiative and create their own games and play and be with nature; to read and immerse themselves in other worlds and discover new and interesting facts. The summer holidays enable them to relax and reflect on the educational experience they have had, preparing them for the beginning of a new year in the Autumn.
Endings are the best time to set the stage for better next beginnings.
Monday Message - 29th June 2020
Football and friendship
Some of you might know I have been celebrating ;-) And those celebrations are all the sweeter for us having waited so long to win the premier league. So long in fact that this is the first time we have won it, it was League Division 1 back in 1990! I have been unusually attentive to the Sports pages in the Guardian and Observer this weekend and my reading about my club has got me thinking how being a football fan and being a friend have many similarities.
Fans like my family, over 100 years of being mad Liverpool supporters, know that win or lose we will always support our team. My grandad was more proud of the fact that Liverpool saw more fans rock up at Anfield in the 1954-55 season, when we were relegated to League Division 2 than he was of the victories at Wembley and coming top that we were enjoying when I was a girl. My grandad celebrated those fans who stuck with their team through thick and thin and turned up even more often on a Saturday to cheer them on. We have friends like that too and when something does go wrong in our lives we see more of them not less and I have heard many times, people in crisis saying 'You find out who your friends are.'
The opposite of these thick and thin folk are the 'fair weather' friends, in football we'd use the term 'glory hunters', thoise folk who come along when a club is successful and disappear when success becomes elusive. It is usually meant in a pejorative sense: fair weather friends are bad friends and glory hunters bad fans. But I suspect it's not this black and white. I can think of around half a dozen people I have loved and known for decades, been friends with for decades. But I can think of other folk too; people I had great times and lots of fun with but when lives changed and the fun was less prevalent, drifted away. I remember these with fondness too, not bad friends but friendships that didn't stand the test of time.
One thing many children can obsess about is their friends; we are a social animal and most of us crave social interaction. This is a big part of life and learning in school and the impact of lockdown for children's social wellbeing is, at the very least, as important as them not being in school to learn new stuff. Before lockdown many children would come to discuss their friendships: worries over their friend playing with someone else; a new person 'taking' their friend off them, falling out over games. As an adult I would try to guide rather than tell them and try to resist the temptation to helicopter in and solve their problem by telling the other person something or other. Like all other relationships, friendships are messy and sometimes can be as much a cause of anxiety as they are joy. I wonder if today's assembly might help some to think more deeply, embrace other people not yet their friend, and be more sanguine about human friendships with all their strengths and frailties.
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 25th June 2020
WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS. SOME PEOPLE HAVE FORGOTTEN THAT.
This summer sees the celebration of two 72nd anniversaries – the creation of the National Health Service and the docking of the Empire Windrush, bringing with it the symbolic arrival of postwar migrants from the Caribbean. On the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush the NHS is marking the contribution of staff from more than 200 nationalities who have played a critical part in the shaping of the health service, and remain a crucial part of our NHS workforce today. These anniversaries are especially poignant as we come to terms with the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
It underlines the importance of taking decisive action to make changes that will tackle racism and address inequalities in our society. The NHS, like so much of postwar Britain, was built by immigrants and could not have survived in its current form without them. The National Health Service is one of the largest employers in the world, and is the largest employer in Britain itself. It relies on a very wide range of professions and occupations to keep its doors open – from the highly visible doctors and nurses to the often-forgotten or undervalued porters, cleaners, cooks, carpenters, electricians, and managers, among many others. The NHS has long had a voracious appetite for workers from abroad. This has made it, almost since its inception, one of the most diverse workplaces in the UK.
The NHS makes us proud to be British but if there must be patriotism then let it be for a collective institution set up to care for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, and paid for by everyone who is able to contribute their taxes. However, some people’s inability to understand immigrants as people who stay and contribute, rather than as people who come and take, remains a central obstacle to any meaningful debate about immigration. The nation will throw its arms awkwardly around a group of people it has relatively recently decided to revere – older Caribbean migrants – even as it seeks to avoid any substantive discussion of another, albeit related group that some people continue to revile – immigrants in general. Our bigotry is both selective and fickle, but no less passionately felt for that. We pride ourselves, simultaneously, on being both tolerant and hostile: those we deport today we may dedicate a commemorative day to tomorrow.
For all the talk of national culture, ethnic diversity and racial difference, we are all human. Whatever sense of racial or national superiority one may harbour, it is likely to be tempered when the black foreigner in the white coat is the one charged with keeping you alive.
Monday Message - 22nd June 2020
marking time and a place for everyone
With the Summer Solstice marking the longest day of the year nature provides us with a physical reminder of marking time. Natural events like the Solstices in Summer and Winter mark the longest and shortest days. New Year is marked around the world and broadcast live as it happens into homes around the globe and, like the solstices and Autumn and Spring Equinox (with equal 12 hours of daylight and dark), marks the Earth's movement and relationship to the Sun. Marking time is common to all humans though we do it in many different ways. As well as linked to the seasons, events like World Book Day are marked across the globe. Other ways we mark the year are more particular to certain peoples, their religion or culture: VE Day, Chinese New Year, Easter, Diwali, Eid or Passover. Music lovers will be enjoying a very different BBC Proms music festival this year as the biggest music festival in the world has had to morph into a virtual event with concert halls closed and orchestras unable to travel.
Assembly was about a couple of things today: marking time with rituals and events and also the importance of everyone. I read from Moominsummer Madness, just one of many masterpieces for young and old by Finnish write Tove Jansson.
Summer solstice marked the longest hours of daylight yesterday and it was Father's Day this weekend too. People with fathers were mindful of a relationship with someone most children see or hear from daily - the banality of intimacy. For children, parents, carers and staff in school, the rhythms of the school day, week and year is something else that is everyday and mundane. But its loss has nevertheless (and perhaps because of it's mundanity) been keenly felt by many. This makes it something to celebrate that today children in Reception, Year 1 and 6 are in school, learning and achieving and having that all important community and connection with friends and teachers.
My communication last Friday [https://www.kingsmead.cheshire.sch.uk/communication-letters-home/covid-19-communication-and-information-about-school] talks about how just a day or two be so important for our mental health in marking time and events. For this reason Governors will tonight be discussing on how we can give all our children an opportunity to reconnect with friends and teaching staff before the end of this school year, to mark it and put this Very Odd year to bed. All children will then, even if only in for a day or two, be better prepared to mark the new year in September, one that I hope will be much more like Old Times!
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 18th June 2020
NOT EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE COUNTED COUNTS
'Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.' Albert Einstein
Hopefully some of you have seen the article posted on our Twitter account from Adoption UK around ‘The myth of catching up after COVID-19’. I know many of you will be concerned about the impact of your child’s ‘missed education’ during this pandemic so this article is really worth a read. I want you to take the time and think about the many important things your child will have learnt during ‘lockdown’ not just the academic progress they have made. While they may not be taught in a traditional classroom, there are plenty of lessons that our children are currently learning. They are watching us all work together and cooperate with one another for the greater good. They are participating in the kind acts that are happening in our world right now, and witnessing the compassion, the care, and the giving that is taking place, often among total strangers.
‘Missed learning’ is a problematic concept. What we really mean by this term is a concern that children will not have made progress through a specific curriculum, towards specific attainment targets and, ultimately towards a set of terminal exams, the results of which could determine their futures.
As a society, we have decided that such learning is important, but we cannot assume that children have not been learning during lockdown, even if that learning does not correspond to the usual curriculum. Children are always learning.
For our children, this is the first national adversity they’ve ever experienced but from an educational perspective—all is not lost. This time is ripe to help our children learn a few emotionally intelligent concepts from the COVID-19 crisis.
Humans are born with eyes facing outwards, and typically start looking to the outside world for validation. This is normal, but not helpful for the long-term. At some point, a child gets the opportunity to “see” that within them is the power to overcome any obstacle. They’re beginning to really see, and experience how inside of them is everything they need to help themselves—as well as others.
Helping a child see the “bigger picture” and that today’s inconvenience and discomfort is temporary is going to help them move through this time. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but helping your children recognise that in life—there are challenges, but they come and go is important.
They may have learnt the importance of helping others. Every child that turns from “me, me, me” to “we, we, we” will have learned an invaluable lesson from this pandemic. A lifelong lesson. Children will have hopefully understood that they aren’t the center of the universe, that there are limitations on what resources they should be consuming, that they can fight the very forces their ancestors seeded and be a part of healing this country’s moral wounds.
So what will we have learned once this pandemic has passed? Will we continue to build strong homes so our children will have a solid foundation and know how to build one for their children? Will we continue to show the same day-to-day compassion, love and sacrifices?
I hope that the life lessons we are all learning now will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic is history.
Monday Message - 15th June 2020
can reading make you kinder?
In his book The Better Angels of Our Nature (a great long read for adults who like lots of data and graphs BTW!), Stephen Pinker makes the argument that for most of history (when humans have lived in large groups) life for most people has been hard, brutal and short. He argues that over time the world is becoming a kinder, more tolerant place. He writes how, while far from perfect, the world we live in today is better than the world of our parents and grandparents. Poverty and war are still with us, but there is less; some children still work long hours in factories and some people remain enslaved but in most countries child labour and slavery are illegal. He goes on with examples from across the world. At length!
Pinker argues that one reason for civilization becoming kinder is the rise of reading and writing (literacy). In the past most people were illiterate but now everyone in the UK has the opportunity to learn to read. And it reading stories and novels that Stephen Pinker says has played a part in making us much kinder. When we watch TV or a film, we see things happening to others and it may upset us as we are sympathise with someone else. When we read a story though the experience is very different. We become that person, we inhabit their skin, think their thoughts and walk in their shoes in a way nothing else can do as well. This is why when Charles Causley the Water Babies and Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist many people stopped thinking that sending children up chimneys was OK and saw the street children who might be dirty and steal with new eyes. People argued for change, protested to their politicians to make new laws. When we see someone's story we can sympathise but when we read their story we empathise - we feel their pain.
So when I agree with Stephen Pinker that reading makes you kinder, I don't mean phonics, tricky words and fronted adverbials. And I certainly don't mean reading test results! These are all the least important things about reading. I mean losing yourself in words, sentences and narrative; I mean to walk a little while in someone else's shoes. And having walked in their footsteps to see them as a person like you. This is the power of reading - the power to make you usefuller and kinder and wiser.
There's been a lot in the news about Black Lives Matter with counter comments that 'all lives matter'. Which is true but I think that 'all lives matter' is missing the point. Saying black lives matter refers to the fact that history is told by the victors and the powerful; it is their stories that are remembered and heard. And through our own history and our colonial past in particular, this has meant that it is the stories of colonial invaders and profiteers and not the people who were colonised, who are remembered. Of course we should know about Winston Churchill, an important wartime leader who alongside our allies in Russia and America, Mexico and armies from the Commonwealth, helped defeat fascism. We remember servicemen and women every November and we learn about the Blitz and how war affected people in British cities. But should we not also remember that many other people paid a heavy price for the allies' victory? I am ashamed to say that despite studying history to A level and studying World War 2 at O level, until last week I knew absolutely nothing about the famine in Bengal when three million Indians starved to death because grain was diverted from India to feed the army. I am not speaking of the rights and wrongs of this decision made in the middle of a global war, that's for another day. I am speaking of the fact that I was totally ignorant of it, knew nothing of it. Surely these people were as worthy of a place in my O level WW2 history lessons as those who died fighting, or in an air raid on Liverpool? This is part of what black lives mattering means to me. I do wonder that if National Curriculum for History was a bit more grown up and enlightened, less obsessed with Kings and Queens and more interested in the history of us all and what the past means for us today, there may be more recognition, reflection and respect for one another and less anger and resentment.
I heard someone on the radio (Radio 4 is a source of much inspiration and knowledge) say when asked what white people can do reply 'read a book by Toni Morrison - or another black writer'. Which comes full circle back to reading and how reading about the lives of others helps us value those others as people like us. Which was the theme of assembly and the two books accompanying it was about today.
Thursday Thought - 11th June 2020
WE MUST ACCEPT FINITE DISAPPOINTMENT
“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope” Martin Luther King
Ms Stewart and governors had to, very reluctantly, make the decision to delay the opening of school to more year groups over last weekend. This has caused many of you unavoidable distress and disappointment but in the wise words of Lesley Nelson, Chair of Governors, “I’d rather regret not opening, than regret opening”.
Unpleasant as disappointments may be, we can always learn something from them.To constructively deal with disappointment, we need to first understand what has happened. Some instances of disappointment are predictable and preventable. But there are others that are unavoidable and beyond our control. To manage disappointment, we need to differentiate between situations that fall within our control and factors that are beyond it. Being able to recognise the difference will help us to deal with our frustrations more appropriately.
When the effects of coronavirus first took place, it may have been hard to comprehend the impact. Many of us may have even felt some excitement about the extra time away from work and school or for the break in routine.
However, as the virus continues to spread and social distancing measures continue, those initial reactions may have been replaced by new feelings. Children might be struggling to understand that they may not see their classmates again this year, or that end of year celebrations may not happen. Let your child know it's okay and normal to be upset about missing school, their friends and events they have long anticipated. While it's helpful to make sure your child understands why these events were cancelled and the importance of social distancing, it does not mean they cannot feel disappointed. Avoid making any predictions or immediately rescheduling plans to avoid further disappointment.
While there is bound to be disappointment during this time, there is power in accepting things you cannot control and focusing on what you can control: your attitude and what you do to respond to your disappointment. Instead of anticipating anxiety about the future, make an effort to focus on the present moment.
As we look ahead to making changes to our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the wider community and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them, we thank you for standing by us and supporting us. While this is a challenging and uncertain time, remember it will not last forever.
Monday Message - 8th June 2020
Three things in nature to think about
I have sent an email today about online learning, our difficult decision to delay opening to more year groups and the huge response to our quick survey of parents and carers views. I know this will be uppermost in your minds but as the email has been sent, this message is back to our term's theme of thinking about our place in the natural world and three things to ponder.
Assembly today was about three not unconnected things. First I had promised the children to share a new painting, a world preview! Katy Moran lives in London and makes her living as a painter; she too is juggling work with two sons and lockdown. Usually Katy reveals her new work in a fancy private view in a gallery but had shared a small detail of her latest painting on Instagram. Because of what she said about it, I asked if she had a copy of the whole work. Katy has found herself increasingly using green in her work; she has found it soothing, symbolic of change, growth and rebirth, she has found the colour of nature to be restorative for her as being out in nature is for humans. So here it is, in today's assembly, on the assembly slides, and as she put it 'happy for a preview for the Northern contingent!'
From thinking about one colour in nature we went on to think about World Ocean Day (today) and a poem (also on the slides) which helps us to remember that when we care for the environment and nature we cannot but be caring for ourselves. Like the blood in our veins keeps us healthy, the world's oceans help regulate the planet's health, not least Earth's climate.
One carer of the environment and supporter of conservation and nature that very much needs our help is Chester Zoo. Children will remember when we decamped as a whole school to the zoo and the super learning that came from that first hand experience. Well, you may know that the Zoo is in crisis as unlike clothes shops and car showrooms, it has been told it may not open. With all those animals to feed and care for (and some like the parrots will be missing their human visitors) the predicament the Zoo finds itself in is quite unimaginable. I have asked children if they might want to make a short film about the Zoo project or the zoo, telling us what it means to them or something they learned last year. If you share videos with me via email I will pass onto Emily at Ignite Teaching School Alliance who is making them into a short film to persuade those with the power to help to do so. I look forward to sharing some films; remember if you send them on to me at head@kingsmead they will be shown on social media.
Take care, do look at the email if you have a minute and wishing you a good week.
Thursday Thought - 4th June 2020
I HAVE DECIDED TO STICK WITH LOVE
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." Martin Luther King, Jr.
As the Black Lives Matter movement explodes once more across America, prompted by the murder of 46-year-old George Floyd, many around the world are asking how they can show solidarity.
Anger and hatred take too much energy. Anger blinds your vision. It literally impairs your ability to see what is in front of you. Hate chips away at your heart and dampers your capacity to love.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” The absence of justice creates alienation. This is the root of unease, unrest and violence. Violence never helps and always hurts. We have to gain a greater appreciation for the centuries of oppression that have created the unrest we see today as we will continue to see this level of unrest until we confront the roots of our division. We cannot continue to go over, under or around the issue of race. We have to go through it.
Young children love to sort things by colour, or by shape, or by type (e.g. car or train?). They make sense of their world by seeing how things fit into categories. And in most cases, we encourage them to think about classifications – especially when it helps them to remember to put the Lego in the Lego bin, the books on the bookshelf, and the dirty socks in the laundry basket!
But, when they try to sort out categories of people: race, gender, ability, age, and more, we tend to get all flustered. We worry about saying the wrong thing, causing offence, creating prejudice. Children are very aware of different skin tones, even as young as 6 months. But when children ask about it, how do parents respond? Most non-white parents talk openly and frequently about race. But research finds that 75% of white parents almost never talk about race – they just change the subject. Or if well-meaning white parents do talk about race, they try the “colour-blind” approach and say “we’re all the same.” This mystifies a young child who can clearly see we are NOT all the same.
So let’s talk about differences. When reading books, watching movies, or people watching, talk about differences easily and openly. Note different skin colours, ages, gender expressions, weight, ability, clothing / hairstyles, languages spoken, family compositions, and more. Talk about commonalities. Don’t talk only about commonalities – “they’re just like us!” But, once you’ve acknowledged a difference your child has noticed, you can also talk about universal needs and common interests. “You’re right, her skin is a different colour than yours. Her ancestors came from a different part of the world than ours did. And actively expose your child to other perspectives: eat at ethnic restaurants, attend cultural festivals, visit museums which focus on other cultures, read books and see movies from many countries, learn bits of other languages. Seek out multi-generational communities – make friends with people of all ages.
In an increasingly diverse society, the more we try to pretend racism and sexism and such are things of the past, the more we allow them to persist. Having open and honest conversations about diversity will help us work together toward a more equitable society for all.
Monday Message - 1st June 2020
taking Mrs R-B's advice
Apologies for not keeping the five daily routines going over the half term. I really needed a break so I took Mrs R-B's advice; thank you Lisa!
Assembly today is about helping the children come back hopefully and optimistically about the fixed group they will be taught in, play with and be with until the National situation improves and more children can be back and mixing will be safer. I know some children will be disappointed about being in a different group to their friends and I am genuinely sorry about that. The difficulty with offering children a voice or preference with who they are with would be that some children would have twenty plus people wanting to be with them while others may have no one asking to be with them. More popular children might feel disloyal and it is unkind for those with lots of friends to have to choose their 'best ones'. Putting a group of friends together in a small group, also increases the likelihood of someone being left out. While sorting groups by age in Reception and Year 1 may not be people's preference I hope we can all agree that it is the fairest. Sorting by friendships would favour children who are popular already, the very children best able to thrive in different groupings and make new friends more easily.
So here we are; some children may be disappointed. As adults we have it in our gift to help all our children come back to school hopefully and with optimism. We can help them have a rethink and see behind their disappointment, an opportunity lurking. This was the theme of assembly today; people you might never have thought of as a friend (in this case a stranger) can turn out to be a great friend. Friendship really is the gift that keeps on giving; adding more to your collection doesn't in any way need to diminish those you have already.
On the matter of reopening from Monday, you will no doubt be looking at the news as I am. As of today, the risk assessment and plans are to admit children from 8th. I continue to take advice and read widely. To be honest, I am finding this one of the most difficult judgments of my career. I totally understand that children need to be in school, that their parents need to work and the government must do all it can to safeguard the economy. However, as the headteacher of this school, my professional responsibility is to our employees and the children of Kingsmead and above all must come managing the risk to their health to an acceptable level.
I have read the Independent SAGE report and have noted that four of the current SAGE members have distanced themselves from the Prime Ministers' ambition' that schools open to EYFS, Year 1 and 6 from 1st June. SAGE are a group of scientific advisers who offer their advice to government and includes the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty and the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. Independent SAGE was set up in response to the fact that SAGE membership was not published and the Government's special adviser Dominic Cummings was given a place (usually SAGE is restricted to scientists). Independent SAGE is a group of scientific experts, including a previous Chief Scientific Adviser to government. I was somewhat reassured from the Independent SAGE modelling that the risk of coming into contact with someone with COVID declines from 1st to 8th June and noted that it reduces further still from mid-June.
I am attending another virtual meeting tomorrow and will tell you Wednesday at the latest if there are any changes to Monday 8th. Hopefully not and all can go ahead as planned.
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 21st May 2020
PUTTING YOURSELF FIRST
As we near 9 weeks since school closure, for the majority of children, it is important to remember our mental health and the impact this crisis is having on us and our children. This experience has certainly been traumatic for many, but there are ways to decrease the lasting effects that it may have on your mental health. This week is Mental Health Awareness week and the theme is ‘Kindness’. As parents and carers, we often put our children first, quite rightly, but this week I want you to think about yourself for a change. When listening to the safety briefing on an aeroplane, they say ‘If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person’. And that is the same message with our mental health; we need to attend to ourselves first before we are able to attend to others. Putting yourself first doesn’t mean you don’t care about others. It means you’re smart enough to know you can’t help others if you don’t help yourself first. Ms Stewart, Mrs Wood and myself listened to Louise Bomber, Director of http://TouchBase.org.uk Attachment Aware & Trauma Responsive Interventions from specialist practitioners, deliver some training this week about ‘Recovery in our Community’. She spoke about Bessel van der Kolk, a pre-eminent trauma researcher, who believes there are seven elements of traumatic situations that greatly increase the likelihood of people developing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. These elements are called “preconditions for trauma.” For many people, during this current crisis, some, if not all, of the following elements, or preconditions, may be present:
- Lack of Predictability
- Loss of Connection
- Numbing Out and Spacing Out
- Loss of Sense of Time and Sequence
- Loss of Safety
- Loss of Sense of Purpose
Louise Bomber spoke about specific things people can do to eliminate these elements or decrease their impact. So during Mental Health Awareness week, I want you to be kind to yourself by thinking about the following ideas.
Predictability: One step you can take to support your mental health is to keep a schedule for your day. Create a new routine, put activities on your calendar, including breaks throughout the day to move around. Include things to look forward to.
Mobilisation: During stressful situations, our bodies go into fight or flight reactions. Our bodies react by surging with stress hormones to protect us from a threat. We can you use the energy created by the stress hormones to do things around the house like cleaning, repairs, crafts, exercising—anything physical that will help get the levels of hormones back down to normal.
Connection: We are social beings, even the most introverted of us. We need human connection. We need to connect visually and emotionally with others. The value of video chatting with others is immeasurable. As humans, much of our communications comes from our non-verbals, from our facial expressions and body language, from the give and take rhythms created through our visual connections with others. These connections help us to feel alive and connected emotionally.
Grounding: If you are finding it hard to connect with yourself, first, have compassion for yourself and your reactions. We are not commonly taught these skills. Acknowledge that the feelings you are having, even the anger and fear, are helping you survive this crisis. Then, reach out to others in your life who can help you notice yourself and name your feelings.
Structure: We need to regain our sense of time, to notice that there are differences in each and every moment. It is important to note that the world keeps moving and time continues to march along. Nature can be a powerful reminder of the sense of time and sequence. It continues on its path through the seasons. Outside, things are slowly becoming green again, the birds are singing. Take notice of the changes in nature, marvel at how it does not stop its progress, even as we are experiencing this stressful situation.
Felt safety: Identify what makes you feel safe. Do certain smells, fabrics or items make you feel safer? Maybe have pictures out of your loved ones or of places you have felt safe. Whatever it is that makes you feel safe, try to recreate that sense for yourself.
Designate a space where you can go and not be disturbed. We all need privacy. This can be created, even in small spaces. Communicate with those around you about your needs for privacy. Respect each other’s needs for privacy. We are all feeling stress and each of us reacts and copes with stress differently. Be patient with others and yourself with your attempts to cope with the current situation.
A sense of purpose: What brings you joy or energizes you? Find activities that affirm who you are and what you are passionate about. Engage with people who have a similar purpose in life. You can find groups interested in all sorts of things online. Find ways, however small, to make a difference in the life of someone else. Sometimes it is the littlest thing that can bring joy to someone else, and doing for others brings joy to your life as well.
We are all in this together, even if we cannot be physically together.
Monday Message - 18th May 2020
every child matters in our kingsmead family
Assembly today was about our Grandmother Fish, Grandmother Reptile, Mammal, Ape and Human. Until we know about and understand our connectedness to all life, it's quite hard to really understand caring for the natural world more deeply. Until we know about and understand just how closely we are related to all other humans (with our single common ancestor, sometimes called African Eve), it can be harder to see that all other people really are people very like us. Schools are small families too. Children and families, with their own classes and year groups may not always know, appreciate or think about others in the Kingsmead family.
As I have put on the Google classroom today, while it will be some year groups we welcome back first, all our children, including all our lovely year 2, 3, 4 and 5s are very much in our hearts and minds. We are planning and thinking how we can support all our children and families over the coming weeks. In terms of immediate planning though, the priority must be the safety of those children who have the opportunity to leave bubbles of socially distanced families and come into school safe enough for you have confidence and trust in school and for adults and children in school to thrive, learning and working together.
The principle in school will be similar to what you have been doing already at home. You families have been close together and relaxed while not mixing with people outside of your home. We, along with the teaching unions and DfE, recognise the impossibility and undesirability of socially distancing children. So while we will be thinking about physical contact, especially between adults and children, we know we can't rule it out. This makes us returning to school fundamentally very different to shops and tea rooms opening. I was at a socially distanced garden, tea room and (joy unlimited) plant sales at the weekend. Parties were all 2m apart. This is neither possible or desirable in school. We have to consider also how to minimise and reduce risk of the virus coming into school with your child or them taking it home to you and this does make our job more complex than for families locked down in the home.
So, in terms of planning to be safe enough for June, what we do in school has to be our immediate priority as it is urgent as well as important. But all our children are equally important and will be considered, if less as a matter of urgency for the immediate future.
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 14th May 2020
the great realisation
I love this poem by Tomos Roberts, that takes the form of a bedtime story being told in the future. In it, a dad tells his sleepy son the story of The Great Realisation, about how the coronavirus caused everyone to rethink our priorities and make positive changes to how we live. The poem offers a sense of optimism about the future because people are searching for some idea of what they could ... not be happy about now, but look forward to in the future.
'Tell me the one about the virus again, then I'll go to bed.
'But my boy, you're growing weary, sleepy thoughts about your head.
'Please! That one's my favourite. I promise just once more.
'Okay, snuggle down my boy, though I know you know full well
The story starts before then, in a world I once dwelled
'It was a world of waste and wonder, of poverty and plenty
Back before we understood why hindsight's 2020
'You see the people came up with companies to trade across all lands.
But they swelled and got bigger than we could ever have planned
'We'd always had our wants, but now it got so quick.
You could have everything you dreamed of in a day and with a click.
'We noticed families had stopped talking. That's not to say they never spoke.
But the meaning must have melted and the work life balance broke.
'And the children's eyes got squarer and every toddler had a phone.
They filtered out the imperfections but amidst the noise, they felt alone.
'And every day the sky grew thicker, til we couldn't see the stars.
So we flew in planes to find them while down below we filled our cars.
'We'd drive around all day in circles. We'd forgotten how to run.
We swapped the grass for tarmac, shrunk the parks till there were none.
'We filled the sea with plastic cause our waste was never capped.
Until each day when you went fishing, you'd pull them out already wrapped.
'And while we drank and smoked and gambled, our leaders taught us why,
It's best to not upset the lobbies, more convenient to die.
'But then in 2020, a new virus came our way.
The government reacted and told us all to hide away.
'But while we were all hidden, amidst the fear and all the while,
The people dusted off their instincts, they remembered how to smile.
'They started clapping to say thank you, and calling up their mums.
'And while the the cars keys were gathering dust, they would look forward to their runs.
'And with the sky less full of planes, the earth began to breathe.
And the beaches brought new wildlife that scattered off into the seas.
'Some people started dancing, some were singing, some were baking.
We'd grown so used to bad news but some good news was in the making.
'And so when we found the cure and were allowed to go outside,
We all preferred the world we found to the one we'd left behind.
'Old habits became extinct, and they made way for the new.
And every simple act of kindness was now given its due.
'But why did it take a virus to bring the people back together?'
'Well, sometimes, you’ve got to get sick, my boy, before you start feeling better.
'Now lie down, and dream of tomorrow, and all the things that we can do.
And who knows, maybe if you dream strong enough, some of them will come true.
'We now call it the Great Realisation, and yes, since then there have been many.
'But that's the story of how it started, and why hindsight's 2020.'
What old habits will you change and which new ones will you look forward to?
Monday Message - 11th May 2020
safe enough schools need to evolve new habits for new times
Once PM Johnson's address to the nation was over I noticed that reputable news channels like the BBC and Guardian and social media came alive with comment and speculation. Beginning week 8 of lockdown people across the United Kingdom are keen to see what the new road ahead our prime minister spoke about will look like in our area. As of yet we are waiting for further announcements and detail and as I write this I know no more than I did last night. That said, I have had some useful thinking time so do have thoughts to share, some of which I have been sharing with your children earlier through their Google classroom and Assembly this morning.
Assembly was about two, not unconnected things. First it was to offer some reassurance to children (and you adults at home) about when we do return to school. The PM said 'from 1st June for Reception, year 1 and 6.' There has been some consternation in the news, particularly about the youngest children. Some of you may be super keen and excited about children returning to school and a more normal, if different to before, reality. Others among you will be anxious. We will all be thinking and feeling differently to how we were in the carefree days before COVID-19 arrived on our shores. I was less anxious than I might have been having listened via an NAHT (National Association of Headteachers) online meeting to Dr Matt Butler, a consultant from the COVID Assessment Unit at Cambridge University Hospitals. Matt spoke about COVID19, how it is spread, and the steps we need to take to reduce the risks for our children, our staff and our families. If we get permission to share the link I will share the meeting with you, it's a long listen but provides well informed information, explained as clearly as any complex situation can be.
Assembly this morning was to reassure children that while they may have heard eight weeks ago that school wasn't safe, this doesn't mean when we come back it won't be safe. Mr Jones and our cleaners have worked incredibly hard to make sure school is really clean, indeed it's probably the cleanest its been since we opened in 2004! Mr Jones has even redecorated - he is a legend and there's much more to him than amazing acrobatics (see the toilet roll video if this means nothing to you).
Schools certainly weren't safe to stay open when we closed on 20th March. The NHS was at risk of being overwhelmed by a contagious virus with lots of people in one place, up close and whose habits were helping the virus rapidly through the population. There is not so much data on how it affects and is spread by children yet (far less than the internet would have you believe) but we do know now a lot more than we did eight weeks ago. This virus is a strange one: some people, and most children, don't feel too unwell at all with it but others, especially older and people with underlying conditions may become very unwell indeed. Data suggests men seem to be worse affected than women. So it's important we all work together to do all we can to stop it spreading and see it off while understanding that we can't lock down for ever and a vaccine is some way off.
You will have already learned lots of new habits; talking to a few of you, you're finding it so much easier to get your nippers washing their hands! We in school have learned safe habits too. Along with relentless handwashing, we smile more and use kind words rather than hugging our hellos or shaking hands. We becoming better lookers, listeners and speakers as we use facial expression and language more and touch less to communicate. We will all bring these safer new habits into school when it's time to welcome you and your children back.
We will also need to develop some new habits, new ways of just being together in school. Mr Jones and I are thinking how we might come into school differently, how cleaning regimes will change and how and where we might eat lunch and play out. We are thinking of good games to play with but not on top of each other. Listening to Matt brought home that this is likely to be along haul back to a coronavirus free country and so long term cultural change will be at least as important as special things we do in the first weeks back. Teachers and support staff and I are meeting on Wednesday to discuss further and add to and consider our plan that's been in development for some time, a plan that will evolve and develop as we learn and know more, so please try not to worry. Our biggest priority is the same as yours: caring for children in strange times. To do this we must not forget the adults and well-being of staff which needs to be planned for just as carefully and considerately. We will, all of us together and in partnership, be caring for our school environment so we don't just feel safe enough but so we really are safe enough too.
The second bit of assembly was a new book about Evolution, the story of life on Earth, which explains how brilliant we humans are at adapting and learning new ways of being. I think one of our biggest challenges will be that some of the change we'll need will be quite different to our natural human nature and inclinations. For example, in recent decades in early years classrooms, it's been about getting down to children's level and close to them to communicate; as Dr Matt said in his Zoom cast, that's something that will need to rethink for current times. While this is something to think about and prioritise for sure, I'm less anxious than many about it. Being older and having studied history I know this much: much of my education in the 1970s was arguably contrary to human nature! Back in history, most cultures haven't had much regard for it either. Yet we humans have more than survived, we have thrived and developed kinder societies too. While we most certainly won't be losing the usefuller and kinder community we have become, we know that children can thrive in all sorts of different cultures and that we can be useful and kind in many different ways. We can even travel to and live in space! I am sure we are intelligent and adaptable enough to change and evolve our habits a bit so when we are able to come back to school we can do so happily, with interest and curiosity about our world and looking forward to seeing each other, talking and listening and smiling like Cheshire cats!
We all know in our hearts there is no such thing as a perfect parent and most of us muddle through for most of the time. Bruno Bettelheim’s book, A Good Enough Parent, originally published in 1987, is about how children will and do thrive with 'good enough' parenting. I haven't read it but Bettelheim's book about Fairy Tales, The Uses of Enchantment was lent to me by a psychologist friend and is quite wonderful. Just like no parent can be perfect, no school can be 100% safe. Schools have incidence of bullying, and deal with them. We have had outbreaks of norovirus and dealt with it, head-lice have been shared and some playground injuries have on just a few occasions required an ambulance. We are thinking and planning about how we will be safe enough so all our children can learn and thrive and the passing of infection reduced to an absolute minimum. Perhaps 'safe enough schools' are something to go alongside (not quite hand in hand anymore) all you good enough parents out there, doing a great job bringing up the next generation usefully and kindly.
Please do be assured that the adults who care for your children here in school are very much on and at it in the planning department: listening to and reading advice from doctors, our unions, the Local Authority and Department of Education and other experts who know more than we do. We are thinking hard, planning and preparing, reading, thinking and learning some more, cleaning and sorting some stuff, doing some more thinking, and...
... very much looking forward to seeing you all before too long but when it is safe enough to do so.
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 7th May 2020
WE'LL MEET AGAIN
Those who actually lived through 1945 remember how morally complicated life was at this time. Their generation understood that war was not something glorious, but something terrible from which no nation emerged with its morals intact. It is for this reason that our grandparents put aside their differences and set up a whole host of global institutions after 1945, including the United Nations, the European Union and the World Health Organization.
During the current coronavirus crisis, we can follow our grandparents’ example and work together to tackle Covid-19. If we can emerge with dignity and cooperation, then perhaps we too will have something worth telling our own grandchildren about.
It certainly feels as though we are again pulling together as a nation, and drawing on that wartime spirit of solidarity, in the face of a very different but similarly deadly modern enemy. When we've finally emerged triumphant from the current crisis - as we surely will, perhaps we can throw a similar victory party and celebrate what we have learnt and achieved, appreciating what truly matters.
Monday Message - 4th May 2020
enough is enough
Assembly today (the third of Summer term) recapped on the three words from our Ethos and Values last week: ethical, responsible and intelligent and added to them the word enough and more specifically the phrase 'enough is enough.' I read Michael Foreman's Mr World, a book written for his grandchildren. We can all live more ethically, responsibly and more intelligently and a big part of this is knowing when enough is enough.
The credit and thanks for the theme of this week's Monday Message, enough is enough, is down to a very generous gift to school from one of our parents. As key workers in a supermarket, many people are finding their workload has increased in the current crisis and to thank one of them, their employer, Lidl, has kindly given them some vouchers to spend in store. The dad contacted school last week to say that he'd like to donate these to school as he knows many families are facing financial hardship as a result of job loss or reduced income. His words were that they were in work and had enough. His gift is most generous, useful and kind in these difficult times. If you, or someone you know of is in difficulty, please get in touch and we can see if we in school can offer a bit of help.
I was asked by a neighbour yesterday who was delivering for the NHS whether I thought this increased sense of us really being all in it together and community solidarity would last once the immediate crisis is over. I could only say I hope so (thinking inside that we and the nature we share our Earth with are stuffed if we don't). Our society and our planet depend on us each and every one of us knowing when enough is enough. And thanks to one of our lovely parents last week, this message was banged home to me last week. Which is why I'm banging on to your children this week!
Happy Monday, Ms S :-)
Thursday Thought - 30th April 2020
the sun will shine again
‘The sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away’ Captain Tom Moore.
We can’t help but be inspired by the effort of Captain Tom Moore in recent weeks, raising over 30 million for the NHS Charities Together appeal and I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him a happy 100th birthday today. As Moore said,
"You've all got to remember that we will get through it in the end, it will all be right, it might take time. At the end of the day we shall all be okay again."
So stay strong, stay healthy, help those in need and take one day at a time. Remember, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
Monday Message - 27th April 2020
3 Amazing adjectives
Assembly this week has gone deeper into three adjectives from our Ethos and Values when we set out what we understand in school about the notion of economic well-being. Back when school opened in 2004, the government of the day had an Education agenda 'Every Child Matters'. While government agendas can come and go even faster than the governments who think them up, every child mattering is something we have held onto at Kingsmead and the five outcomes are still something that inform our work here in school. One of the outcomes was, and is, economic well-being.
Economic well-being can be interpreted and can be thought about in different ways. A very simple notion is that children need to be able to read, write and do some maths if they are to be able to get a job and earn enough to enable them to feed their family and not cost the taxpayer anything. This was sometimes interpreted in schools along the lines of 'the more you learn, the more you'll earn'. While being able to sustain yourself and your family is important, I was always sceptical of this simple interpretation; a minute thinking Richard Branson or Alan Sugar verses a nurse or teacher tells us that while learning more may help you get more money, it is not always the case. It also appealed to our baser instinct of human greed (something we all have and I think best fought and challenged, not pandered to in a school's moral principles). Also, as someone who values education deeply I thought this was simplistic and inadequate, one reason I was and remain so opposed to university tuition fees.
I am also fundamentally against attaching monetary value to absolutely everything. Some things, I believe, should transcend their financial cost: care for the disabled, sick and old being one example; an educated and enlightened population being another. When my daughter went to University I was far more bothered about how this would help her become a more enlightened human being by meeting new people, thinking about herself, other people and the world differently than the job she would get and how much she would earn.
Which is why, as children being educated in one of the richest countries on Earth and where the very poorest of our children have more stuff than so very many children across the world, we thought of economic well-being differently: to want for less, appreciate more and so be ethical, responsible and intelligent citizens. I hope you'll agree, absolutely as relevant today as it was back then.
Happy Monday, Ms S
Thursday Thought - 23rd April 2020
'NO ONE HAS EVER BECOME POOR BY GIVING' ANNE FRANK
This quote from Anne Frank reminds us that giving to others is really a gift to ourselves. It’s important to remember this, not only at the giving times of the year such as Christmas or birthdays, but throughout the year. It’s also important to give to people you may not even know, not only to family and friends. Giving to people, especially to people you don’t know, makes one feel good. Now there is scientific proof that generosity will not only make you happier, but is actually good for your health. Generosity is truly the best gift you can give to yourself. Kingsmead Residents page has been flooded over recent weeks with numerous examples of our communities generosity to others. It has also been heartwarming to see all of the examples of our children being ‘Useful and Kind’ at this time, setting up bookstalls on their driveways to raise money for the NHS, crocheting headbands for the workers wearing masks, adding pictures to the ‘Little book of smiles’ for the ‘Independent Living Scheme’, leaving Easter gifts for their neighbours, opening pop up shops to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice, drawing chalk hearts outside Kingsmead Medical Practice and leaving painted pebbles for people to find on their daily walks. What fantastic community spirit you have all shown during this difficult time.
Monday Message - 20th April 2020
Summer term - humankind's special responsibility
Today, after many takes and interruptions, I finally got Monday's assembly uploaded. We have moved in our annual cycle from a focus on other people in Spring term to the environment in Summer. In a period of lockdown it is good for us to think outside of our particular experience and time and look at a bigger picture.
Often we use terms and words that children are not so familiar with and so I took some time to explore the word environment and what it means and also the word extinction. With films from the BBC and David Attenborough we could be forgiven for thinking that the Earth is full of life and nature is thriving. In fact, we are living at the beginning of a mass extinction with many thousands of species critically threatened. That is the bad news. The good news is that all other mass extinctions have been caused by natural disasters: sudden climate change to which species can't adapt, rising oceans, a meteorite or bacteria. This one is being caused by one species - us. With great power comes great responsibility but our children are small. They are not responsible yet. So I have asked them to start noticing the creatures they are sharing their garden or local area with. To notice is the beginning of to care.
Happy Monday ;-) Ms S