Welcome to the first Parent Wellbeing Blog of Summer Term. We are certainly not starting term as we would choose but we remain focused on doing all we can to make the most of the situation we find ourselves in and provide the pupils with the confidence, mindset and courage to cope. It has been great to see them join us and engage so well in the academic lessons, in pastoral sessions, in assemblies and in activities. When we focus on flourishing, two of the most significant contributory factors are positive engagement and positive purpose. Excellent examples of positive purpose can be seen in the outstanding work that our Outreach teams do both in Prep and Senior School. Having service as an integral element of the IB programme also serves to embed it and the values associated with service, into College life. Although it is very early in summer term, it is pleasing to see so much good already happening within these two critical areas.
We all feel that it would be great to have a College life back so we are again, full of smiles, laughter and learning. Those days will come again but, until they do, we have to provide our academic lessons, pastoral care, activities and wellbeing guidance online. Our staff have done a remarkable job of providing this so the pupils have enjoyed a really productive start to term. In the last Blog I wrote “We now do not hear the laughter or see the smiles due to our microphones and cameras being switched off”. Following a comprehensive review into the most effective online learning and pastoral care environments, led by Mr Ogilvie, our Director of Digital Learning, we decided to allow pupils to activate microphones and cameras as directed by their teacher. As College Designated Safeguarding Lead, this was not a decision I took lightly but we believe the benefit of the improved social interaction justified this change. Before being invited to activate their camera, a pupil will be informed that the session will be recorded by the teacher. This is simply to cover relevant safeguarding concerns with, in effect, 1:1 sessions taking place. If this happens under normal circumstances then such a meeting would be in a room with a window; this is a standard requirement in schools. The effect of the camera can be compared to a window into the room in which the 1:1 meeting is taking place. By activating microphones and cameras (possibly in lessons, tutor meetings, careers interviews, Form Time) we can hear some laughter and see lots of smiles and the days are brightened up as a result.
I sincerely hope that you feel the start of term has gone well and the provision (both academic and pastoral) at MCM is of an extremely high standard. Whilst we can provide much of the academic content, pastoral care and a varied activity programme; you have the pleasure of looking after your children throughout the day. With term having started a structure and routine for the working week is now in place. So you have an insight into what works well in a boarding house and may well work at home, there is a link to a document drawn up by Mr Calverd, the Housemaster of Munawir Hill (a Senior School boarding house). Mr Calverd was keen to point out that he is not seeking to tell parents how to parent, simply informing of the routine that works for his boys so you can consider if it may work in your home. All our boarding houses have similar routines (although the bed times in Taylor and Iskandar are earlier) and the boys and girls benefit greatly from the structure it provides. We ask a lot from our pupils in terms of academic study, self care, exercise, showing compassion and gratitude, engagement in range of activities, positive relationships, doing good for others, feeling good themselves and sleeping well. We ask this of our boarders and our day pupils. Both need to have their time well organised and structured if they are to flourish. Some find this more of a challenge than others. Please refer to the guidance given by Mr Calverd on what works for the Munawir Hill boys: link to the document.
And now on to the summary of the content being covered in our Wellbeing lessons this term.
Quoting Mrs Lockyer as Head of Wellbeing in Prep School
“Across the Prep School we feel it is very important to adapt our Wellbeing lessons to the immediate circumstances we find ourselves in. Online learning requires a whole new set of tools to work with, in a very different environment to normal and we are looking to support our pupils in doing this. To that end, we are offering regular mindfulness sessions across the school as well as activities that will promote wellbeing across the community. Pupils in Years 3-8 will continue to complete their wellbeing trackers and these will be monitored accordingly.
In PrePrep we will be learning to name our emotions, talking about self-control and demonstrating positivity while in Prep we add to that with learning to demonstrate resilience and gratitude. All of us will spend time recognising how to be cyber-safe and maintain positive ‘digital relationships’.
If we return to College this side of the summer holidays we will continue to manage the curriculum to support the health and wellbeing of the children as they settle back into school.
The previous work done on Positive Relationships and how to be a good friend, sharing, being more independent and conflict resolution is ‘virtually’ being put to good use and we hope you are seeing the benefit of this at home.”
Quoting Ms Nixon as Head of Wellbeing in Senior School who outlines the content of the formal lessons to Shell and Remove
“In Senior School we are reviewing the current situation and looking at some content possibly moving if we believe that college will restart later this term. This is because certain topics are better taught in a ‘real life’ situation rather than online. In general, the Shell study Positive Health this term and they explore lots of different controllable factors that contribute to their overall health (both physical and mental), like sleep, exercise, connections with others, nutrition etc. There is strong emphasis on the pupils taking greater responsibility for their own health and making good decisions to look after themselves.
Remove will explore Positive Relationships, beginning with how to build up relationships of all types and how to identify negative relationships. Within this we explore risk-taking behaviour and peer pressure, both in the physical and digital world. The term then finishes with the sexual relationship education component of the course. Once again pupils are given the information required in order to make good decisions. The consequences of the wrong decisions are also made very clear so we do all we can to help our pupils get it right. This is a sensitive topic and one we would much rather deliver in a ‘normal’ rather than ‘virtual’ lesson. Time will tell whether that will be possible but I really hope it is so we can get back to being a warm, welcoming and vibrant community.”
The Wellbeing lessons are one key part of how we work to provide our pupils with a foundation to flourish in life. How to do so has occupied the sharpest minds for thousands of years and we look to learn from the past and apply this learning to the present. I will sign off with one example of this which is from the excellent Upper Sixth programme which provides a vast range of short courses to help our most senior students plan the next stage of their lives. The courses include sessions based on self care, advanced design, building a positive digital profile, language learning, computer programming, finance, statistics, reading for research, cooking, art, science, music. As mentioned by the Master and by Mr Eatough, the range and quality of provision is remarkable and huge credit is due to Mr Holden, Head of Sixth Form, who has led this project and the staff who are designing and delivering the individual courses. The course I am running looks at how Ancient Greek philosophers influenced Positive Psychology and our current perception of flourishing. We are studying Aristotle and his views on virtue of character and what makes a ‘good person’. The engagement of the students has been excellent and most refreshing. There are many questions posed as we look at the insights provided by philosophers such as Aristotle; not least, if we knew so much back then about virtue and character why have we not, in a global context, learned more? Excellent points for debate and discussion. In the last session we discussed the point I will leave you with today. Would a virtuous person laugh at a joke? It obviously depends on many factors, not least the context, but here is one to test you with today:
“A man was found guilty of overusing commas”
“The judge warned him to expect a really long sentence”
In looking after wellbeing and providing a foundation for flourishing, which we believe we do, we need to find time for laughter.