It takes a community to raise a child…
I think our community is a very healthy one. It has a vibrant school, lots of groups and societies involving all ages, a wonderful location and a fantastic Health Centre. We’re really lucky. All of these things help our children to grow successfully.
Dr Andrea Baqai has been working as a doctor in our community for 29 years. She has had a huge positive influence on the lives of many of our families. We invited her into school today, to celebrate her contribution. She retired from General Practice yesterday. She’ll still be running interesting projects, related to what she has learnt about during her GP work. One of these projects is the Mindfulness in Schools work with which we have been involved.
Andrea told the children a bit about how being a doctor has changed over the past 29 years. When she started the internet and mobile phones did not exist. Doctors were the only emergency response in our rural communities, so they often had to set off with the green flashing light on their car, heading off up the valleys with a huge bag of vital emergency response gear. Andrea was the only female doctor when she arrived. Now Paul Davies is the only male GP in the practice.
Several of the children said that they would like to be a doctor when they grow up. Dr Baqai said that it is an endlessly interesting and rewarding job.
Thank you, Andrea. We will miss you at the Health Centre. We very much appreciate everything you have done for our community.
They’re only three, four, five or six years old, but look at them! Such confidence. Such excitement. Such self-control. The singing was beautiful. It’s quite amazing how much they can learn and ‘own’. Well done, children. It was absolutely lovely… Congratulations, teachers and helpers. You’ve done a brilliant job.
It’s fascinating to watch the children grow in confidence and performance skill, as they make their way up the school. On Thursday night, you’ll see some highly polished performances in Midwinter Night’s Dream. Can you remember our Year 6 children in their first Christmas Nativity? Year after year of performing instills self-belief, and deeply embeds the ability to look an audience in the eye, and deliver what you need to deliver. Such an important skill for life, in work and in personal relationships. It starts here!
We are the luckiest school in Britain…
Tom Palmer is a best selling author and a very humble man. He has sent us the draft of his new novel, and asked us to comment. He really wanted the children to help him with the balance of the book. How much background information does the reader need? How much sadness can we take? It’s a book about the Jewish children who survived concentration camps, and who were brought to Windermere after the war. They lived in the Calgarth Estate, and began to come alive again. Year 5 have read the book during English lessons, and had a great deal to say.
Comment number one: It is a very, very powerful book.
Comment number two: The balance of dark and light is complex. Humour and everyday details show that life goes on, despite past horrors.
Comment number three: Although the book made us desperate for a neat resolution, the children all agreed that a ‘happy ending’ could not work. The resolution of the book is that the main characters are moving into a new life, in hope, together…
The children were really insightful. Tom was caught up in their suggestions, scribbling them down quickly, and discussing revisions which could work. He shared his editor’s suggestions with the children, and asked for their opinions. It was a really fascinating session, in which children were debating and discussing with each other – pointing out potential inconsistencies in plotting; analysing why particular passages were so moving, or horrific; theorising about the sequel… Occasionally Tom seemed to get forgotten in amongst the passionate dialogue.
It was also really good to welcome Trevor Avery, whose incredible knowledge about the Jewish children who came to Calgarth has been the barometer for Tom when writing this novel. All the events in the novel are real, although the characters are fictional composites. There were some very impressive people in the community around Calgarth. They showed such kindness, sensitivity and empathy to these lost children. As does Tom, through his writing about them. So it’s a sad novel (I cried at least 3 times) but also a beautiful and inspiring one.
Thank you SO much, Tom. That was a wonderful experience for these children. They felt properly listened to, and able to talk on ‘equal’ terms about writing, with a professional writer. It was a joy to behold.
Class 4 performed ‘A Midwinter Night’s Dream’ last night, at The Theatre by the Lake. And it was beautiful! The theatre director said that the children ‘were a highly professional company, who understood the language and were able to communicate it to the audience’. We were enthralled from beginning to end. Each individual child was confident, clear and in character throughout. The performance was perfect… and extremely entertaining.
Well done, Class 4. Awesome! Their attitude and behaviour throughout the whole project has also been impeccable, and commented on by all those who have worked with them.
Well done, Adam Foster, for doing such a great job of writing (well, pruning Shakespeare to great effect) and directing.
Well done, all the staff and parents of Grasmere School, for instilling the habits of positivity, courage and hard work.
Why do we put so much emphasis on performance?
It’s hard! It takes a lot of self-discipline and boring repetition to create something like this. Children learn to work hard to create something as-good-as-it-can-possibly-be.
Together we can create something magical. Everyone is integrally important in a play.
Confidence. To physically ‘own’ the stage, and create a presence on it is an immensely powerful experience for a child. Learning to speak confidently, clearly and with authority is key to coping with many challenges in adult life.
Problem solving. There are many options… Questions can have more than one answer. Through exploration we find the ‘right’ way for us to speak.
Celebration of multiple perspectives – a play’s words can be interpreted in many ways.
The stage is where some people shine… and often not the people you might think.
Dealing with stress. Coping with a rollercoaster of emotions and finding peace and a way to compose yourself.
It helps us to explore the range and variety of human emotion.
The words are treasures which will resurface throughout the children’s lives.
It is wonderful to produce something which feels perfect in that moment, and gives a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Memories…
For these reasons and many more, the performing arts are central to what we offer here at Grasmere School. (Shakespeare at Grasmere School)
Thank you to everyone, not least our wonderful children, who made this performance possible. A very special evening that will live long in the memory of all who were there.
“Hope sings the tune…” a concert for ‘Brexit Day’. Brexit day may have been postponed, but it was still wonderful to get together, to be reminded of the joy of being, working and playing together. It was a chance to focus on the positive – the good news always present in life, if we get the chance to look for it.
Our community of children began by welcoming everyone in all the languages of our school: Spanish, Swedish, Italian, Polish, Bulgarian, Czech, Maori and English. (We also have lots of children with parents whose ‘English’ comes from another nation; South Africa, USA, New Zealand and Ireland.) We are one school, one community, and we love creating something together.
Words are delicious, but they’re only a small part of communication, and language barriers can get in the way. Year 5 performed Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers…” in both spoken words and British Sign Language.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
We sang some glorious lyrics, and also spoke through pianos, flute, drums and brass.
Bishop James shared his words about hope. Thank you Bishop James! And we finished with the following poem by Thich Nhat Hanh before singing “Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball.” Which we were.
The Good News
They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.
(I think of each of the children as a ‘special edition’)
Democracy is a noble theory. We use it all the time at school. We’re currently in the midst of a ‘democratic decision’ because the majority of our parents wanted our children to be at school this week, and so our Easter holidays don’t start until Friday. It’s working for most people, but probably not for everyone. That’s the trouble with democracy – if the vote is close, or you feel particularly strongly about the issue, or everyone else has apparently just gone mad, democracy can feel like an absolute mess.
So it is in society’s interests for us to explore ‘democracy’ with our future voters and potential leaders: the children.
They’ve designed political parties which they believe will improve our school community, if they are given the chance to put their manifestos into action. They shared their pledges with us this morning. There are some great ideas. Several of them overlap, and the parties are hoping to work together to fulfill all of their objectives.
Polling day is on Thursday. For the first time in Grasmere School voting history (recently at least), voters are allowed to make more than one cross on their ballot paper. You are encouraged to vote for all the ideas which you think would be productive. If you’d like to vote, please call into school on Thursday, or message us requesting an electronic ballot paper.
I think that the children have come up with some lovely ways of improving our life, very well expressed. See what you think… Their manifestos and their
party political broadcasts will be available on the school FB page (@grasmereschool) shortly.
We’re in Lent now, and the weather seems to be contributing to the feelings of endurance. The children have all talked about self discipline, and some have committed to certain challenges during the next few weeks. A couple of children in Class 2 were telling me about their determination to give up chocolate, because of their concern about habitat loss. Another child is going to focus on turning the lights off when they’re not needed. And another is eating less meat. Of course nowadays these are self-imposed restrictions, rather than those imposed by the lack of fresh produce in the last weeks of winter. Shrove Tuesday reminds us of a time before the international movement of fresh produce, when eggs were rare in February and early March, and people were eeking out their winter supplies. So it’s a good time to think about where we get our food from, and how it is produced.
It’s also a good time just to enjoy pancakes; both eating them and running with them! Here are photos of our whole school pancake relay race, and of our oldest children at Emma’s Dell, where they were invited to watch the chef cooking crepes, and then to sample them… Thank you so much Emma’s Dell! And thank you to everyone in the school community who came along to the pancake race. It was lovely.
There are some very, very good people in the world, who make a huge difference to others both in their own lifetime, and in the legacy they leave behind them. Malcolm Tyson, whose death was announced this week, was such a man.
His public service for the people of Lakes Parish was unstinting. He was instrumental in setting up the Kelsick Educational Foundation in its current amazing, well-organised form. He was always determined to make the most of Kelsick’s legacy, for the sake of the children and young people of our area, and he approached this in a community-minded way which supported the wider sustainability of housing and commercial property in Ambleside.
He was also just a really kind-hearted, warm person, who was always enthusiastic about children, and about Grasmere School! He was such a good, loyal friend to our school, attending everything that he could. Once he became unable to come to our productions, it was a joy for our children to take their songs to him (as pictured below), which he loved. We loved him. We will miss him.
Thank you so much, Malcolm.
We have been marking Holocaust Memorial Day, so it seems appropriate to share this education about tolerance and bravery.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) are well known for their work on pacifism. As a group they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, for post Second World War relief work. They were heavily involved in ‘Kindertransport’, which our upper junior Grasmere children have been learning about. Both Amnesty International and Oxfam have their roots in Quakerism.
They are still very active in seeking co-operation and peace between peoples and nations. Last week our younger children went to the Meeting House at Colthouse, and learnt about the motivation behind this work.
“Don’t offer neat creeds or doctrine. Instead, we try to help each other work out how we should live.
Quakerism grew out of Christianity and today we also find meaning and value in other faiths and traditions.
We recognise that there’s something transcendent and precious in every person.
Quakers don’t use traditional religious structures or paid ministers. We share responsibility for what we do because everyone has a valuable contribution to make.
The children went to visit several different Christian places of worship in Hawkshead. They learnt that when the Society of Friends (Quaker) Meeting House in Hawkshead was built in 1688, it was illegal for Quakers to meet in a building. So they had a long seat outside in the graveyard. A year later the ‘act of tolerance’ was passed, and they started meeting inside. Being a Christian has been dangerous for many down the ages.
The Colthouse Meeting is a very simple building, and the children were welcomed by Arthur Kincaid, who talked to them kindly and simply about ‘Quaker’ faith, and how it is lived.
Quaker meetings for worship can be held anywhere, at any time. Every meeting begins in silence. “We use it to open ourselves to the wisdom that comes out of stillness. It enriches us and shapes us, individually and collectively. This is what we mean by ‘worship’.”
Some of the children loved the silence, whilst others found it disconcerting. But they all agreed with the need for peace between people.
Thank you so much, Arthur, for spending such valuable time with the children.
A year ago we were preparing for Year 6 SATs. We’d been on our London residential, and we had all sorts of good things planned for the summer. All of our Year 6 were working and playing hard. They loved learning and each other’s company.
Then on 22nd April our community suffered a terrible bereavement. Matt’s funeral was on the first day of SATs week. So these Year 6′s came in to do their SAT at 8:30, enabling teachers and pupils to attend the funeral. They all carried on and took their SATs tests that week. They looked after each other and learnt a lot about priorities and perspective…
Statistics… I’m always wary of school ‘league tables’ as they are just one indicator. But for once I am going to share this. These children and teachers were so kind, brave, patient and resilient in SATs week, and throughout the summer term. They put on a brilliant production of West Side Story, in which positivity and love triumphed rather than failed. And that’s who they are! Well done, last year’s Year 6 – you thoroughly deserve to be in the top 30 school results in England, because you are impressive human beings in every way.
Happy 50th birthday, Mrs Knowles (Year 6 teacher extraordinaire), and congratulations!