Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 22nd January 2021

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not very good at being told what to do. When I was growing up, I tidied my bedroom grudgingly and only after a large enough gap between my mum telling me to do so, and me actually doing it. It was, I suppose, a statement that I would conform, but on my own terms. When we are allowed to go to restaurants, I quite like to decide which one I go to. I don’t mind trying out other people’s suggestions, but there’s a little bit of me (a large bit of me) that is quite gleeful when those suggestions turn out not to be as good as my choices. I was watching one of my favourite TV programmes the other day, and in one scene the main character was criticised by his girlfriend for always going to the same restaurant, or if that one were closed, for always going to the same second choice. The main character gave in, went to his girlfriend’s choice of restaurant, but the food was so bad that they left and went back to the main character’s first choice. ‘Yes!’, I wanted to shout at the TV, ‘that’s me!’.

So it is interesting to be living at a time when we are being told what to do (or what not to do) a lot of the time. Although I don’t particularly like being told what to do on small things like where or what I eat, it turns out that I am reassuringly law-abiding when it comes to lockdown regulations. Maybe that’s because, despite my protestations, deep down I’m not really that much of a rebel when it comes to the important things – things that, for example, will help keep other people alive. During the first lockdown, I even walked round and round the College garden because we were told it was still important to exercise, and this was permitted outdoor exercise that kept me away from other people, even though I’d never done so before and I probably won’t do again. During this second lockdown I have made peace with the physical limitations that are placed on me, on all of us, and I simply don’t understand it when people protest that their individual liberty is being breached when they can’t have a turkey lunch with a dozen people. One way to get through this second lockdown, it seems, is to make peace with the situation and to accept that there are going to be downs and ups, frustrations and perhaps surprising joys. That is not to imply that I will spinelessly concede when I see incompetence or unfairness, but it is to accept what the American theologian Reinhold Nieburh put so well: ‘the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’.

Zoom lessons; Dali and surrealism in Year 3 Art by Thomas B and Andres

Alongside serenity, we should also aim for another ‘s’ word: solace. Each one of us will find solace in different things, whether it be music, literature, films, sport, games, television – even work. There will be times when it is difficult to be resilient, to ‘tough it out’, when it is perfectly ok to curl up in a corner and do what works for us as individuals. And I guess that brings me back to the idea of not liking being told what to do. What works for me may very well not work for you, so it would be churlish for me to dogmatically impose my regime on you. That isn’t to say that there aren’t universal principles and truths that we should follow, nor that we aren’t here for advice and gentle nudging suggestions of how certain things might help; it is simply to concede that we can each find our serenity and solace in different ways. It is that gentle acceptance that we are who we are, that so long as we are not hurting others it is perfectly ok to be who we are, which will help get us through this difficult period. Even when we are not mid-pandemic lockdown it is one of the most wonderful things about NCS boys that (within certain benign parameters) they are allowed to be who they are. So let’s bring that virtue to the fore right now, and find our peace by avoiding too many shoulds and accepting that many of us are going to process these coming weeks and months in our own way.

Have a great weekend of serenity and solace,

Matt Jenkinson

Congratulations to the following boys:

Year 3

Olly – Silver certificate for achieving 200 house points

Isaac – Silver certificate for achieving 200 house points

Tom - Merit certificate for an impressive line drawing of a distorted clock with accurate use of a grid.

Yoav - Merit certificate for an impressive line drawing of a distorted clock with accurate use of a grid.

Isaac - Merit certificate for a superb Surreal elephant with an exciting use of colour.

Ollie - Merit certificate for a highly detailed Surreal elephant.

Andres - Merit certificate for an innovative collection of Surreal work inspired by Dali.

Year 4

Thomas B - Merit certificate for a carefully completed Surreal composition with added details.

Year 5

Henry – Merit certificate for excellent research into chemical discoveries in Science

Herbie – Merit certificate for running a brilliant space-themed quiz in form time

Year 6

Ashwin – Merit certificate for an outstanding manifesto for wise leadership, in RSP

Year 7

Nahum – Merit certificate for excellent effort in learning a Bach piece on the piano

Ben – Merit certificate for an exemplary approach to his studies and excellent work in Maths

Year 8

Lucas – Merit certificate for a careful discussion of the ethical bounds of technology, in RSP

Nat – Merit certificate for a detailed account of how women achieved the right to vote, in RSP

Ramli – Merit certificate for a detailed account of how women achieved the right to vote, in RSP

Very well done to Isaac in Year 5 who came first in the fourth 4NCL Online Congress Minor U1400 and tied third in the first Caplin British Online Chess Championships U1400.

You will have seen Mrs Brown’s letter about helping to tackle digital poverty, and Mrs Showell-Rogers’s about the ‘Street Tag’ app. Do please consider supporting these initiatives if at all possible.

Many thanks to all those parents who attended Monday’s NCSPA meeting, and those who offered valuable feedback to their class reps. We are very grateful to the committee for voting us some money to enhance our activities programme, thinking and reasoning lessons, and the languages provision in both pre-prep and the prep school. We are also planning on further playground improvements over the next few months, and NCSPA support will be much appreciated.

Mr Bishop has asked me to remind the boys to submit their house sport challenge results to the VLE. Many thanks!

Year 4 parents will have received information about their Zoom parents’ evening next Wednesday, 27 January. We have had lots of wonderful feedback about these evenings so far this year, and I trust this one will also go swimmingly, even if there isn’t wine and cheese on offer.

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