Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 27th March 2020
Dear Boys, Colleagues, Parents, and all members of the NCS community,
As our current situation has led to us very different from a normal school week, I thought I would issue a rather different newsletter too: a ‘talking’ newsletter.
It might be little consolation considering everything that is going on in the world, but we are all taking part in the biggest educational experiment in modern history. The number of young people learning remotely, across the world, is simply staggering. It is also something that had not been thought of just a few months ago. It is testament to many people’s ingenuity and commitment that learning and pastoral care is still going ahead. We know that this week was very much a dress rehearsal for Trinity term: seeing what works well with remote learning, what works perhaps less well, and what we can review over the Easter break to make sure that it all goes as swimmingly as possible next term. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone taking part in this – teachers, parents and pupils – for their incredibly hard work and gracious patience in sometimes very trying circumstances.
We, as teachers, are learning a huge amount – how best to receive work and send timely feedback, how to make sure resources get to you, and about how to pace work when we haven’t got a whole class in front of us. You would be surprised how quickly you can get through work when there are fewer things to think about. I’m not including Netflix in that – I’m pretty sure that Netflix can (and will) slow our productivity at certain times over the next few weeks.
But of course school is not just about work – it is about getting together a community of people, learning to live with one another, learning to listen, to stay well, and to help. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to film this message. Yes, it has the advantage of reminding you what I look like. But I also want to make sure that we, as a community, retain our bonds through contact beyond emails and typing. It has been great to see the pictures parents have sent in of NCS boys getting on with their work – while still smiling – at home. It gives us all a sense of what this remote or virtual school looks like. We are all still connected, even if we aren’t wearing an NCS uniform and running around in the NCS playground. The physical site is just one small part of what makes up a school. We have some boys still here, the children of critical workers, but for many we will all need to keep in touch in slightly more inventive ways.
We have to remain calm, patient and supportive throughout this. And we also have to try to look for the positives. Just in the past few days, for example, I have been able to have long Skype conversations with friends thousands of miles away, when usually we would all be too busy to sit down and connect. I have restarted, for the hundredth time, trying to learn Italian. And this time I am determined to try to get beyond such phrases as ‘the girl reads a book’ or – and this is a genuine one from Duolingo – ‘the men draw in the sugar’. When this is all over, I will return to Italy – perhaps my favourite country in the whole world – and I will find some men drawing in sugar, simply so I can say in Italian that they are doing so. Who knows, I might even be able to read a book for a prolonged period of time, or even get to do some writing of my own. As I mentioned last week, this is a good time for self-improvement in a way you might not have thought possible before – how about learning 1 to 20 in a new language this week? Why not try to learn some sign language? Once you’ve started these challenges, send the office some pictures and videos so we can keep in touch with all you are doing.
Keep going. Keep smiling. Keep working. And keep in touch.