Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 5th February 2021

There isn’t a huge amount to laugh about at the moment. Which is a shame, because the benefits of laughter for our mental and physical health are well known: laughter improves our mood, triggers the release of endorphins, relaxes our muscles, reduces stress and its long-term impact, helps with our immune system, dissipates anger, and connects us with other people. But our opportunities for laughter necessarily reduce as our social contacts diminish, and the occasions we have to laugh alongside someone dwindle. There are fewer opportunities for spontaneous laughter than normal, though I hope that online connectivity goes some way to lessening that deficit.

There is one other big social change that comes with the prevalence of face coverings: we are seeing one another smile less, even if other people are indeed smiling behind their masks. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, some people learnt and encouraged others to smile with their eyes, because clearly we couldn’t see their smiling mouths. So that, at least, is one thing we can all try to do even if it might seem a little odd at first. In fact, the very act of forcing ourselves to smile in a different way forces us to smile anyway, especially at a time when we might think there isn’t much to smile about. But smiling is contagious and having a smile in your eyes may very well help to improve the mood of those around you. It’s worth a try.

Upthrust experiments in Science; Making sandwiches from around the world in DT food technology; Reading 'The Enormous Crocodile' in Pre-Prep; making 'The Stick Man' in Wild Learning; Zoom Q&A session on Anne Frank; Building an Egyptian sarcophagus; Remote learning

The other thing we all need to do is to try to find opportunities for laughter, to move towards it, to counter the temptation to dwell on the negatives that we are facing. Again, this is easier said than done when we can’t be sitting alongside our friends and family, sharing funny stories about what has happened that day, or passing on a joke. This is where social media can come into its own, and there are plenty of people on Twitter trying to lighten our days by offering pithy one-liners. Or, if there is very little to do in the evenings but stay at home and watch TV, now is a good time to seek out comedies rather than wallow in the knitted-jumper melancholy of Scandi Noir. Then pass on the best joke, the best link, to others who would benefit from a bit of laughter. Or ask someone else for the funniest thing they have heard – or the funniest thing that has happened to them – that day or week. To lead by example, the funniest story I have heard recently is by the late talkshow host Larry King, reflecting on his days in junior high school, and I will share the link with you; he can tell it much better than I can: https://www.mediaite.com/tv/my-favorite-larry-king-moment-ever-the-gil-moppo-story/?jwsource=cl

If it is possible, turn negatives into positives; if something has gone wrong try to see the absurdity in the situation, the eye-roll and the smirk, rather than a vortex of doom. Maybe just force yourself to laugh, even if you aren’t finding much that is very funny. This might all seem rather forced, but there is very little that is natural at the moment, and while there is a great deal of seriousness and sadness in the world, we do need to look for the light and the lightness as well.

Have a great weekend,

Matt Jenkinson

A message from the Chaplain:

Year 4 colour block artwork by Alexander M and Xander; Making swords and shields by Isaac and Jacob L; Year 3 WWF Lego challenge entries by Andres, Jack and Tom; Year 7 close-up artwork by James and Paddy

Congratulations to the following boys:

Year 3

Jack - Merit for excellent effort and an impressive collection of surreal artwork

Jack - Gold certificate for 300 house points

Tom - Merit for excellent effort and an impressive collection of surreal artwork

Ollie - Gold certificate for 300 house points

Andres - Silver certificate for 200 house points

Isaac - Merit for a fantastic science experiment

Year 4

Xander - Merit for an imaginative and well-presented colour range

Laurence - Merit for an excellent recording of 'Jupiter' on the violin

Year 5

George - Merit for a flawless Latin translation in Classics

Isaac - Merit for a flawless Latin translation in Classics

Year 7

Timon - Merit for an incredible puzzle in Maths

Year 8

Leo - Merit for committed independent work in French on Memrise

Despite the unusual situation we all find ourselves in this senior school 13+ scholarship season, I am delighted to announce that some results are already trickling in. So enormous congratulations to: Adam (Music Scholarship, MCS), Leo (Music Exhibition, MCS), Joseph (Music Scholarship, MCS), and Tommy (Music Exhibition, St Edward’s). I look forward to letting you know of further awards in due course as the term progresses.

Good luck to our Year 8/8S boys who will be following a mock exam timetable at home next week. While these are hardly the most salubrious conditions for assessments, the world does still continue to turn, and our boys will still need to sit ‘formal’ exams in the coming years. So we will do what we can, within our benign home-school environment, to keep getting the boys used to such assessments. At this stage, it is very much about getting used to what it ‘feels like’ to follow an exam timetable, and learning where the gaps are (and how to fill them). I am sure the boys will approach them with their customary brand of patience and perspective.

Next Tuesday is Safer Internet Day. While we can’t all be in school to reiterate the importance of internet safety, we can still do so virtually – which is perhaps more appropriate anyway, with the boys needing to spend more and more time on the internet. The boys spend a lot of time thinking about internet safety throughout their time at NCS, during Coding and Wellbeing lessons respectively, and there are many helpful resources for boys and parents on our website: https://www.newcollegeschool.org/digital-learning and https://www.newcollegeschool.org/wellbeing-and-happiness

Boys across the school started looking into World Wildlife Fund's work in this week's Wellbeing sessions to learn more about this term's environmentally themed Charity Committee selection. Year 3 kicked off the subject with a Lego challenge to build an object reflecting WWF's conservation efforts to which there were some very creative responses, as seen in our newsletter photos. Next week, we'll be continuing the study as well as announcing our own in-school Earthshot Prize Competition to celebrate boys' individual efforts, and more importantly, to hear their innovative ideas of what could be further done to protect our planet. Details will be posted on the VLE in the coming days and discussed in next week's Wellbeing session.

Many thanks to all those families who have supported our digital partnerships project so far; it has been great to see devices appearing in the school office which will be sent out to those families outside the NCS community who will benefit from them during this period of remote learning. As ever, do please continue to support this very worthwhile project if you can.

Please keep the self-portraits coming in for the school Zoom-themed tea towels. Please send them to your son's teacher or upload on to the VLE. The deadline is Monday 8 February.

We proudly took third place this week in Street Tag with a phenomenal number of steps and tags won over the last two weeks. The boys will only win their £50 for WWF if we hold 3rd place on 31 March so we do have to keep up our walking. Currently, we only have a narrow lead and could easily be overtaken once again. Top ten walkers and the league table are listed on the VLE every Thursday evening, as well as in this newsletter. From Mrs Showell-Rogers: “Quite unbelievably we climbed the leaderboard to 3rd place so we are well in sight of finishing the season (31st March) with £50 to donate to WWF, this term's charity! We have outwalked Larkrise, Pegasus and Windmill Primary Schools but we will need to keep up this rate of walking to secure 3rd place for the long term. Tip: pre-book your Power Hour (in Playground) a day in advance as it will earn you triple the points.”

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