Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 22nd May 2020

A couple of years ago, a very wise friend gave me a book by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher who lived from 121 to 180AD. The book is called Meditations, and it is known for outlining some of the principles of what we call Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius, like many Roman emperors, lived at a time of great challenge and disruption: he was facing rebellions in Egypt and Northern Italy; there were attacks from German tribes; and there was a plague pandemic. He wrote a lot during these challenges, considering and communicating how best to cope with them, and how to improve oneself morally, to live properly. He commends certain ways of living that might sound familiar to us: having ‘character and self-control’, ‘integrity’, ‘independence and unvarying reliability’, ‘kindness’, ‘persistence’, ‘a sense of humour’. He thanks those who have had a positive influence on his life, not least his teacher who taught him ‘to put up with discomfort and not make demands. To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers’. The Meditations have become famous for promoting a calm, steady, consistent and rational life.

You may have encountered the word ‘stoic’ recently because we use it in everyday language when someone is experiencing pain or hardship without complaining or showing their feelings. There are lots of people in the world who are currently doing this, many of whom are displaying remarkable stoicism as they work on the front line. As I have mentioned on one or two previous occasions, when faced with periods of difficulty and uncertainty, the best way to get through them effectively is to keep our heads, to do all we can to think carefully and rationally through what is happening. I am yet to meet someone who has successfully navigated a crisis through hysteria or knee-jerk emotional responses. That said, I would not like the word ‘stoic’ to become confused with the British characteristic of the ‘stiff upper lip’. You may be familiar with the latter: the idea that emotions should be neglected or deflected, that we press on regardless of the things that may hurt us.

It is totally natural to experience negative emotions, especially in times of difficulty and uncertainty. It is ok not to be ok sometimes. We have all, I suspect, had periods of nervousness, sadness and trepidation. It is how we respond to such feelings that is important for the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. By thinking carefully and rationally, we can help to control our negative feelings, and to use our level heads to put tricky situations in perspective and to plot our way out of them. Whenever I look back at Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, I mentally tick off all of his advice that seems to be common sense. When he tells us to ‘stop being hypocritical, self-centred, irritable’ or not to be ‘constantly telling people that [we are] too busy’ (unless we really are), I nod along in agreement. Has humankind really fundamentally changed between the second century AD and today? Marcus Aurelius himself noted that ‘everything has always been the same, and keeps recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred, or in an infinite period’. Our challenges, and the ways we can respond to them, are neither new nor unique to our society. When we reach that perspective, it can be easier for us to put our own problems and concerns in context and to work out what we can usefully do next.

We have a half-term break ahead of us now, a time to put down our books and iPads, and to stand back and think carefully and rationally about what we can all do to help ourselves – and one another – navigate the next few weeks and months. Enjoy it, have a great week, and I’ll see you again soon.

Dr J

Maths escape room challenge; outdoor lessons; discovering new favourite authors; lego tower competition; baking skills; PE with Joe

Congratulations to the following boys for receiving merit certificates this week:

Finley For outstanding effort and focus on his miniature story story board

Thomas For earning excellent results in his spellings using the Nessy spelling program

Max For his commitment in Science

Alexander For a marvellous virtual postcard from the British Museum in Classics

Alexander For a wonderful childhood memory 'picture find' in Art

Jack For writing an excellent Wallace and Gromit adventure

Adam For his work on seed dispersal

Adam For an impressive discussion of miracles in RSP

Eugene For writing an excellent Wallace and Gromit adventure

Eugene For excellent comprehension extension work

Thomas For excellent comprehension extension work

Thomas For researching the meaning of SPQR in Latin and English

Jai For outstanding progress, superb effort, and lovely ideas in Creative Writing

Jake For fantastic creative writing and all round effort in his spellings

Jake For a stunning painting of a view, with perspective

Max For outstanding and detailed answers on a challenging comprehension

William For outstanding use of examples in his Geography this week

William For completing fantastic extra work on linear equations

Peter For researching the meaning of SPQR in Latin and English

Theo For his additional writing practice using the P.E.E. structure and his work on the Fast Forward program

Eddie For researching the meaning of SPQR in Latin and English

Joseph For an impressive Keith Haring style family portrait

Finn For a brilliant persuasive letter and detailed presentation on how to write one

George For working hard at his spellings using the Nessy spelling program

Alexander For a superb response to the Art projects this term

Arjun For the superb spaghetti bridge projects

Arjun For researching the meaning of SPQR in Latin and English

Ashwin For extremely thoughtful and detailed English Comprehension answers.

Jack For extremely thoughtful and detailed English Comprehension answers.

Xander For writing an excellent Wallace and Gromit adventure

Xander Gold Certificate for achieving 300 House Points

Ben T For his work on adaptations

Ben T For winning the Art and Design competition for creating a Bentley car for the future

Nathanael For brilliant independent work over this half term

Hugh For his efforts in the Sports hall Pentathlon

Jacob For an impressive 'picture find' in Art

Emil For his superb spaghetti bridge project

Childhood memories by Alexander C; Memory box by Isaac L; Winning 'design a Bentley' competition entry by Ben; View from the window by Jake; 'Keith Haring' family by Joseph

Well done to Ben for winning a competition to design a Bentley of the future. When the Bentley factory in Crewe has reopened for tours, Ben will be invited for a tour. He has also been invited to the Bentley dealerships in Leicester and Birmingham to see all of the available cars and to meet some of the Bentley team.

Well done, too, to Henry who entered the Creative Hut Lego Challenge, along with his little brother, William. William entered a tower of 73cm in the under 8s and Henry

submitted an entry at 122cm for the 8-16-year-old category, with both receiving a special mention.

You should have received this half-term’s Orders via email. If you have not done so, please contact office@newcollegeschool.org so we can investigate what has gone awry. As I mentioned last week, these grades are being awarded in challenging and unusual times, based on the remote learning that has been going on this half term and the work we were able to complete towards the end of Hilary term.

Thank you to all those who took part in our VE Day commemoration video. You can see the finished product at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGkpdYQQx_w&feature=youtu.be

If you, or your sons, have got bored of singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourselves while washing your hands, I recently stumbled across the following recommended alternatives. You could also sing the chorus of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ (24 seconds), or Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Come on Eileen’ (both 17 seconds – you may need to add a few more seconds at the end, or sing more slowly than the original).

Each year, on Ascension Day, boys from NCS normally join the congregation of the University Church in their walk around the medieval parish of St Mary the Virgin, marking the old boundaries, through colleges and libraries, crossing alleyways and the High Street, from Brasenose, to the Bodleian, to Hertford, All Souls and University College, all the way around to Oriel. This year, the University Church has invited everyone to a Virtual Beating of the Bounds. They have created a map with the locations of the boundaries. In it, you will find pictures from past processions, prayers, poems and recordings to accompany you. https://bit.ly/3gcEF2w (this link works better in some browsers than others …).

The WWF has suggested some ‘Learn to Love Nature Activities’ on their website. Anyone who is interested in the environment and would like to take part in their ‘Garden Bioblitz’ starting this Friday can follow this link: https://www.wwf.org.uk/learn/love-nature/garden-safari Do send any photos of your discoveries to louise.brown@newcollegeschool.org and when we get back to school we can share them on the Eco Board.

Created By
NCS News