Head’s Blog 27th September 2019 Friday 27th September 2019

This week I’ve been out at the IAPS Headteachers’ conference in London, whilst school has had the busiest week of the term so far with Prep trips and visits week. I’m delighted that in place of my weekly musings you have today those of our fantastic Head of Years 5 & 6, who spoke eloquently and wisely to those parents who attended the Year 6 parents’ welcome evening.

In a mixture of personal anecdotes and wisdom, enriched through the counselling qualification she is coming to the end of, Rosemary gave all parents excellent counsel for how to support their child to promote resilience. I commend to you her wisdom.

 

Jill Aisher

Year 6 Welcome Evening: Resilience

Your children may have already, or will soon, come home with an “All About Me” form to fill in.  One of the questions on the back page is ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?’ The children have the chance to answer and parents may comment too.  I was wondering about this and thought about my own two children who are roughly the ages yours will be in 10 years’ time – my son is in second year at university and my daughter in Upper 6th.

What I want for my children now is very different to what I may have answered 10 years ago. I urge you to give some thought to this question because answering it allows you to zoom out and perhaps focus on what is really important. What we all want is for our children to be whole and happy and we want to know that they have the inner reserves to deal with challenges that life throws at them. That resilience training starts now.

As form teachers in Year 6, we would like to focus this year on building resilience in the children we teach.  We use growth mindset language in lessons and intend to use structured form times, as well as informal contact times, with our pupils to reinforce the idea of resilience.

Why do we need to build resilience?

When students have resilience

  • they are open to learning because they believe that they can learn and improve
  • they are receptive to assistance and coaching because they will not see it as a criticism of their abilities
  • they are comfortable not understanding concepts immediately, or not mastering skills immediately, because they see learning as a pursuit of knowledge and know that motivation and effort are just as important as knowing how to do something
  • they are happier (and we know that happy children are more emotionally available for learning)

Why particularly now?

Year 6 is a challenging year in many ways.  There is a lot going on – entrance exams, physical changes, friendships reconfigurations, thinking about the future etc. They are going to need to bounce back from disappointments or setbacks. We want to encourage skills that will be required as they become more independent, deal with change and move into more demanding environments.

What can you do to help?

When your child comes home with a problem or is upset about something, there are a number of things that you could do to turn that situation into a learning opportunity.

Reframe the situation – Once at the white doors one afternoon, I overheard a mum asking her daughter about her day.  The daughter replied that it had been a horrible day because they had played hockey in the cold and it was drizzly and she was wet and it wasn’t fun.  The mum sympathised and said that that must have been awful and that she hoped her daughter didn’t catch a nasty cold because that would ruin their weekend.  I watched them walk away. Just then another mum and daughter were leaving and again, the mum asked her daughter about her day.  The daughter said the same as the first child – she had had to play hockey and it was cold and she got wet.  This time however the mum’s response was very different.  She said, ‘Oh, playing hockey in the rain! It’s a good thing you’re not made of sugar!’ Her daughter laughed and the two of them walked off to the car. Both girls had the same experience, but their mums’ responses made for a very different outcome. By interpreting the event in the positive, it allowed the child to put the experience in perspective and I wouldn’t be surprised if next time her daughter had played in the rain, she would tell her friends that she was pleased she wasn’t made of sugar.  Her mum had reframed the event.

It may be annoying if you are perpetually optimistic, so listen first but then try to cast the situation in a more positive light. Teach your child that it is fine to have a bad lesson or a bad match but not to let that grow into a bad day or bad week etc. Encourage them to reframe too.

Listen don’t fix – help your child think about what they can do to bounce back. Our children want to be heard, rather than rescued. When we bail them out, we are teaching them that they are not enough. This can be disempowering and robs them of the opportunity to grow. When children find solutions themselves, it builds their self-esteem which is vital for building resilience.

Sometimes we swoop in because we are uncomfortable with struggle. I remember being on playground duty when my son was in Year 3 and seeing him sitting all by himself, while all the other boys were playing with a ball.  I sidled up to him and asked him why he wasn’t playing.  He told me that the boy who had the ball could decide who was in the game and my son had been told that he couldn’t play. My heart broke. After break, I phoned my husband and asked him if he would be able to pop out to the shops and buy Daniel a ball and drop it off at school, so that he would have it for lunch break! I’m not proud of this story. I swooped in and rescued, because I was uncomfortable with seeing my son on his own. He didn’t need to be rescued. At best, I should have left him to sort it out himself or if necessary, later chatted about a few ways he might have handled the situation differently if it bothered him.

Reinforce the message that it is ok to find something difficult, that it’s ok for them to get things wrong, struggle to find an answer, get into trouble, experience consequences. On that note, receiving a yellow card is not fatal.  It is an opportunity to reflect and find a better way. Struggle, mistakes, discipline is not just ok – it’s important, valuable, necessary.

Model resilient behaviour – children are sponges, let them see you struggle and persevere, use language of resilience at home.

With us working on building resilience in class and on the field and parents supporting us at home, I trust that this will be a year in which we see your children grow and flourish.

Rosemary Baisch

Latest News

A Sevenoaks food bank is 318 kilos heavier following a donation from St Michael’s.

 

The school surprised charity The Community Cupboard with the generous donation on Monday, February 1 following a Christmas collection for the cause.

 

In total, £965 was raised from parent and staff donations throughout December, which St Michael’s Parents and Friends Association (P & F) used to organise a Sainsbury’s shop of food and toiletries for the charity.

 

Commenting on the school’s motivation to help the food bank, Co-Chair of St Michael’s P & F, Kelly Downey, said: “Delivering our donation to The Community Cupboard was an amazing and uplifting moment. Being able to bring the school together to contribute to a cause which plays such an important role in our community during this time was very rewarding.”

 

Greeted with three car loads of canned foods, long-life products and toiletries, Kelly also describes how delighted the charity were with the school’s generosity. She added: “The team were really blown away by our donation and thankful for the time we’d taken to raise the money and organise a delivery.

 

“It was a great feeling to be able to put an initial idea from a St Michael’s parent into action, and to see the impact we would be having on the local community.”

 

Kelly added: “We recognise that this is a very difficult time for everyone, especially those who can’t afford to put food on the table for their families. We hope that our donation can be a small step in making a difference for those people.”

 

Since the start of January alone, an additional 22 local families have registered for The Community Cupboard’s support, reflecting the increased pressures caused by the ongoing pandemic across the country. And it is only thanks to generous donations that the charity can continue to provide help to those who need it most.

 

Trustee at The Community Cupboard, David Carter said: “We would like to express our extreme gratitude to St Michael’s for their wonderful donation. We are very lucky to receive regular donations from local groups, but they are rarely to this scale.

 

“The food and toiletries kindly given to us by St Michael’s have allowed us to fully restock our shelves as well as putting plenty of stock on standby for new referrals. The size of this donation will allow us to give substantial food packages to the 22 new families who were referred to us in January. St Michael’s help is invaluable to us and will make a huge difference.”

 

Since its launch in January 2020, The Community Cupboard has continued to help families in Sevenoaks, and has extended its help to cover a 20 mile radius including Edenbridge, Westerham, Surrey, Sidcup, Rochester and Ashford, due to the pandemic.

 

The Trustee added: “We began as a small group of people determined to make a difference locally in an area where food banks were lacking. Little did we know, a global pandemic was on its way and our efforts would be needed tenfold. To say we hit the ground running would be an understatement.”

 

Run by four members and six volunteers, The Community Cupboard works tirelessly to deliver parcels to families, and in January alone distributed 3.1 tonnes of food, toiletries and essential items.

 

David said: “We began the charity on the foundation that ‘if we can help, we will’, and with the community’s help, I’m proud to say we are doing just that. We see a lot of hardship and sadness in doing what we do, but it really opens our eyes to the incredible hard work various organisations and charities do in our community. Thanks to generous groups like St Michael’s, we can confidently say ‘yes, we can help you’.”

 

The Community Cupboard are currently taking donations of tinned and long-life food products, as well as toiletries and essential items. Monetary donations are also welcome and will be put towards bulk orders for the charity.

 

The charity is based at The Garage, Gamcock meadow, West Kingdown where a covid secure donation drop off process has been put in place.

 

For more information about The Community Cupboard, or to donate to the charity visit www.thecommunitycupboard.co.uk.

Mr Bridges is on a mission to keep St Michael’s motivated with his latest exercise plan designed to make exercise fun.

The Director of Sport at St Michael’s, who is a very keen runner himself, has created a beginner to 5k plan for anyone wanting to keep fit this lockdown.

The six-week plan, featuring workouts, running challenges and rest days, covers a range of exercises aimed at strengthening all parts of the body.

Mr Bridges said: “I have created this training programme for the St Michael’s community to help anyone who wants to have a go at running during lockdown and safely get to 5k by the time we return to school. The plan is suitable for Prep-aged pupils, parents and staff, including absolute beginners.”

The teacher, who has 15 years’ training as a running and triathlon coach, added: “The programme is designed to build a body capable of running 5k at the end of the six weeks, and what better time to have a go than during lockdown.”

The detailed plan, organised into weeks and week days, follows a key where the letters W (walk) and R (run) appear alongside the number of minutes the activity should take place for. For example, 6 x 1:30w/2:30r represents a 1 minute 30 seconds of walking followed by 2 minutes 30 seconds of running, repeated six times.

Mr Bridges said: “The programme includes progressive long runs from week 3 onwards, the only day where the running is based on distance rather than time.

“On Mondays I will also be sharing a different workout on the St Michael’s PE YouTube channel which pupils can take part in.”

To share your experience of the programme, including photos please email tusher@stmichaels.kent.sch.uk. By sharing this information you give consent to it being shared on St Michael’s social media channels and publications.

 

 

Warm, welcoming and impressive. That’s how St Michael’s new Head describes the school.

“I’ve always liked St Michael’s and have been visiting it for several years as part of sports fixtures with my previous schools”, Nik Pears said.

“Something that has always impressed me about St Michael’s is the atmosphere and people that belong to it.

“The sense of community you feel when walking through the doors of the school is extraordinary”, he added.

An avid sportsman, experienced leader, and family man, Mr Pears brings with him a wealth of ideas for St Michael’s, including his core value of equipping pupils for life.

Nik , who joined St Michael’s in January 2021, explained: “I am very keen on developing a growth mindset in my pupils. In this ever-changing world, our children need to be prepared for life outside of the classroom.

“Pupils need to be adaptable, resilient and perseverant, and learn to accept their failure and mistakes as important parts of their personal development.

“By equipping children with the right interpersonal skills during their school years, we can set them up for a future in which they may have to fight for their place in the world.”

Nik’s concept of growth mindset can also be applied to his broader vision for the school.

Coming to St Michael’s from his headship at Kent College, Pembury, Nik believes the challenges posed by Covid-19 can teach schools a lot about the importance of flexibility and community.

Mr Pears said: “These unprecedented times have been a huge learning curve for schools.

“Navigating a school through a global crisis was never going to be easy, but it has shown just how necessary it is to put pupils at the heart of every decision.

“As someone who has experienced the period as both a teacher and parent, it is very clear that we are all battling the same storm in different boats.

“It is incredible how people have found new and creative ways to deal with the circumstances. From Zoom concerts, to helping food banks, to keeping each other’s spirits high with funny videos, this period has shown us a lot about community which we will learn from and remember.”

Having belonged to multiple Prep schools himself throughout his education and as a teacher, Nik is excited to be entering this new stage in his career at St Michael’s.

Reflecting on his own school years which saw him attend schools in London, Devon and Dublin, he said: “I always enjoyed school as a child and made the most of every opportunity I was given.

“I particularly enjoyed subjects like music, drama and history and was fascinated by the things that we learnt.

“I was also heavily involved in sports and belonged to the Kent U18 rugby group. Even now you’ll find me in a pair of wellies at the side of the pitch cheering on my pupils and own children.”

Nik added: “I was one of those children who wanted to get stuck into everything, even the things that I found difficult.

“As well as my sports clubs, I belonged to multiple choirs, as well as orchestras where I played the drums, trumpet, piano and guitar.”

Mr Pears also spoke about the impact his own teachers had on his time at school and the person that he is today.

He said: “I had some amazing teachers which taught me a lot of things about life and leadership.

“Sir Anthony Seldon, one of my history teachers, was particularly inspiring and sparked my passion for the subject.

“The Head of my Prep school in Dublin also gave her pupils a lot of time. She was a hero.”

And Nik’s teachers aren’t his only role models in life.

He said: “A man called Phil Wall is also a huge inspiration of mine. Phil is the founder of the charity We See Hope which works with orphans and vulnerable young people in sub Saharan Africa.

“Phil’s selflessness and passion for the cause inspired me to become an ambassador for the charity.

“His exceptional leadership, authenticity and integrity is just inspiring.”

Mr Pears also explained how his love of people has guided him to the many leadership roles he has held.

Nik said: “I very much enjoy being with people and having a good laugh. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing family including my wife, Emma and our two children, Jessica and Josiah. Our pet hamster Charlie is also a valued member of the family who kept us well entertained during the first lockdown.”

He added: “Being a leader brings so many opportunities to show warmth, empathy and understanding to others, and I can’t wait to become a member of the St Michael’s community.

“When pupils leave St Michael’s to pursue their senior education, I hope they remember me as someone who was kind, knew them well and valued their opinion.”

 

On Tuesday 15th December, St Michael’s hosted a fun-filled charity day for Thames Valley Air Ambulance (TVAA).

Organised by Year 7 pupil Lucy, whose life who saved by the emergency team last Christmas, the school partook in a range of fundraising activities including a fun run, Christmas jumper day, and brain-teaser quizzes.

Lucy said: “With Mr Wiseman’s help, I planned activities to raise some much-needed money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and increase awareness of their work.

“A lot of people don’t realise what a great charity they are, and I hope our fundraising day has changed that.

“Not only do they save people’s lives in moments of crisis, but they provide long-term support to families who undergo medical emergencies.”

Amanda McLean, Chief Executive of Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: “A big thank you to the staff and pupils of St Michael’s for coming up with creative ways to involve everyone in fundraising. In sharing her story, Lucy has helped us spread awareness of what Thames Valley Air Ambulance does. We can only do what we do because of the imagination and generosity of our wonderful fundraisers. We hope you had a lot of fun on your fundraising day!”

Lucy, whose story recently featured in the TVAA’s Christmas appeal, said: “Thames Valley Air Ambulance helped me at a time when my parents couldn’t. When I was seriously injured, the team stepped in and became my heroes.”

“It means so much to me that St Michael’s have come together to support this cause.”

The highly successful events saw pupils spread festive joy while raising an impressive £2556.60 for the charity which relies wholly of public donations.

Mrs Bridges, St Michael’s Acting Head, added: “Yesterday was amazing! The whole school had such a great time, and pupils were very excited to take part in a different fundraiser which meant they could enjoy the outdoors, whilst raising money for such an important charity. Everyone gave their all in the sponsored run and it was a brilliant event to watch.”

 

Mrs Wade, Head of Girls’ Games also said: “The children did remarkably well considering the conditions, and ran superbly for Lucy’s cause.”

 

 

And Lucy’s family echoed this gratitude for St Michael’s support. They said: “We wanted to say a huge thank to the St Michael’s community for supporting Lucy’s appeal for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance this Christmas. We’re so grateful to you for getting behind this amazing charity to whom we owe so much. We know from experience that your donations really do save lives. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2021!”

For more information about the Thames Valley Air Ambulance or to donate visit: www.tvairambulance.org.uk/support-us/donate

 

 

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