Welcome to Mr Pineo’s blog where you can read about all the fantastic activities which the boarders have been up to.
This time we’re looking to feature some of our boarders. Where they have come from and what they hope for their future.
Name – James
Year – 11
From – China
Years at Woodbridge – I am in my second year.
Favourite Subjects – PE, Maths and Chemistry.
Friends – Jiayi, Felix and Steven are my best friends. We play a lot of basketball together! We also love cooking hot pot on the weekends.
What does the future hold? – I want to do A-Levels here and study at an English University. I would like to be a mechanical engineer when I’m older and probably return to Beijing.
What makes Woodbridge School boarding special? – being in the town of Woodbridge means we have access to shops. I can play basketball in the school’s sports hall and we have an outdoor court too. The rooms are very big and the facilities are great, especially the new kitchen. It is also great being with so many other boarders from other countries. My English has come on lots since I joined.
Celebrating young people and end of year parties
If ever there was an example of what a difference you can make, it was witnessing the government make a U-turn on its decision to not provide meals for school pupils in the summer holidays. A Manchester United and England footballer called Marcus Rashford, wrote to the government and implored them to change their decision. He has experienced this first hand having grown up in poverty. This example shows the power of voice. Marcus Rashford has used his profile as a voice for good and to make change. Over the last two years we have watched Greta Thunberg try to have the same impact on our environment. Whilst initially she was unsuccessful, this pandemic has thrust the environment back into the limelight.
In the boarding house, we have a very open and honest relationships with the pupils. They feel they can turn to staff or senior pupils to say what they feel. For me this is vital in ensuring we have a house that is more like a home. When I was at boarding school, I loved the relationship I had with the boarding staff. It was so different to the classroom and made me feel like I could influence the shape and feel of the house. Working with Anna and Leon as heads of house this year has been brilliant. They are so proactive and keen for positive change that this house is a much warmer and homely place. They have relentlessly sought change using their senior positions to hear what the pupil body want and come to me with solutions as well as the problem. One example is that our food provision in the house is now very different and much better as a result. Another is that the way we engage and interact with each other has improved significantly, particularly at weekends. Clearly this is not on the same scale as something Thunberg or Rashford have managed but it is change. I hope it gives all the pupils the confidence to influence change again in the future.
Over the last two weeks we have seen an increase in the number of pupils attending our House catch-ups, particularly on a Friday. It is showing me the importance of interaction, albeit virtually, and what it means to so many to still have this connection. In the calls this week we have heard about the progression other countries are making and what their perception of the UK is. This has made for interesting, yet frightening listening. It is strange to think that this pandemic is the same across the world, yet every country, region, city, has dealt with it differently.
Also on our meetings this week, we have been discussing the end of year. So, Anna, Leon and I have arranged for two parties this Saturday – one for the whole House to celebrate and thank every pupil, and one for the leaving Upper Sixth. I am so looking forward to having the opportunity to thank every member of this community and to award some House ties as well as personally thanking those who have made such an impact. I am very intrigued (and slightly worried!) about the Upper Sixth prizes that Anna and Leon are going to make! That said, knowing the two of them, it will be done with a kindness and in a thoughtful way so even the harshest of awards will be taken well. Whilst this might be the end of their time in School House, I know that this place will remain in their hearts forever.
Ever since I was young, I have always been fascinated about how people make money. There is always the conventional way through salaries but what about those who invest and invent? I track the markets and look at which companies are doing well, watching trends and seeing if there is an opening.
Lockdown has thrown a new set of interesting companies to watch. Alcohol, hair clippers, webcams all became impossible to buy and as a result, shares have rocketed. Airlines, holidays, hospitality all took a plunge, some irreparably. Since the next step of measures were announced, there has been a rise in BBQ, golf equipment and, slowly, airline and holiday companies.
But what about the companies which have done very well in the last few months and may continue to do so. Well, if you haven’t Zoomed over this period of time then you are in a minority! I seem to be permanently on a Zoom call with my 2D face and my hair most definitely looking the worse for growth! Is this the company to survive this and thrive once we are in the new normal? I suspect it will.
The opportunity to have quick meetings and see people’s reactions, unlike the telephone, has been vital. The ability to share your screen and almost present in a much shorter, simpler format has been brilliant for me, particularly when selling the school boarding.
In the mornings I listen to the Chris Evans radio show and love it. This week he was talking to a doctor about the overuse of Zoom, Teams, FaceTime and what complications there could be. There is now a medical condition called ‘Zoom neck’ would you believe! I don’t think I have it yet thankfully but I suspect Miss Norman will be close! Chris Evans spoke about standing at desks rather than sitting. Could it work for schools as much as it would work for adults in meetings? I’m always intrigued by new ideas and have given this some thought. What is the attitude of anyone who sits down; it is to relax. Sitting down is a type of rest, not a position in which we learn. Lesson lengths have often been governed by the pupils ability to concentrate but perhaps we should look at the cognitive benefits of standing learning, rather than sitting learning and decide the lesson length that way. So why do we make pupils sit down? Control, simplicity, writing for long periods are some. Are these still attainable standing up?
We have seen some terrible examples of MPs sitting in the House of Commons who are almost lounging and asleep. We should learn from this as an example of what happens when we put our body into a certain position and how best (or not) to learn. As I said in last week’s blog, education is the most important thing, not just in schools, but forever, so we should look to make it better.
This lockdown has taught us so many things. We have had the opportunity to slow down and look at what really matters. We have seen our planet improve at a fascinating speed. We have seen how incredibly versatile young people are in terms of their learning. We have seen how brilliant parents are at coping with their children’s learning and raised their own expectations and ability. I certainly have a new found love of my family. Mrs Pineo and I were in pieces when our youngest went back to school this week! Even our eldest was sad as she then didn’t have her friend to play with at break and lunch.
But what I hope what we all learn is that we must not go back to the way life was before. As a teacher, housemaster and father, I have made some significant changes. I am determined to stick to them and show that we can do things differently and better. I am also determined to show that this will bring us all closer together, especially in the boarding house as well as in my family.
Since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, there have been various challenges that have gone round social media. These have been varied from musical choices to naming your all time football team. There have also been physical challenges mainly to raise awareness and money. Over the long weekend I was challenged by a local cricket club to run 100 runs (22 yard length dashes) in full cricket batting kit as well as be challenged by the fathers from Year 1 to do the ice bucket challenge. It really highlighted to me how we change as we grow up. When I first hit the cricket scene in Suffolk, I was given nicknames that were in relation to my lack of accuracy in bowling and the aggressive way I batted but they stuck and became nicknames that started to reflect my behaviour as well as my cricket. Needless to say these were hardly the professional nicknames I needed when entering the teaching profession! I was lucky in my choice of university in that no one knew me at either the university or at the sports clubs I joined. It gave me the opportunity to create a different identity. My attitude and behaviour on the sports field did not change but I did find a level that I didn’t cross anymore. At university, I had to reinvent myself as a hardworking, professional teacher. It was hard to adjust to the amount of work needed, especially after starting university at 25, but I absolutely loved learning about teaching and subsequently actually teaching. Now our life paths have brought me back to Suffolk and it is interesting to see peoples comments on social media about my blog, my actions and posts. The comments are positive and congratulatory which is lovely, but many also comment on how I have changed. Having taught in five schools, this has also given me the opportunity to change and adapt. We all change and it is important to reflect on how we can and do make those changes. As Albert Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” So I have often reflected and looked to change. From being a PE leader to being a pastoral leader has similar traits but different needs. The things you did yesterday have brought you to the life you have today. If you want something different, you have to do something different today to create a different life tomorrow. There’s no other way to get there. But, I have not sacrificed my personality in order to get somewhere different. As I said in a previous blog, if you are not liked or not valued then perhaps it is others not you. We also grow up and change at different rates, something I think schools need to improve their understanding of. I was listening to this podcast interview with Laura Muir who is a Scottish 1500m runner and she talks about balance and choices but that she developed into an athlete once at University and not before https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08bmd8h Incredible to think that she went to University to study being a vet and developed into an International 1500m champion! She also balanced this with qualifying as a vet, incredible dedication and hard work. I would also highly recommend watching “The Last Dance” which is a Netflix biography of Michael Jordan, the basketball star of the 80s and 90s. What an incredible drive he had, a relentlessness to be better each and every day. Again, someone who at the peak of his career was asked to change for the good of the team. He did so and in Jordan style, made it even better.
Most weeks, there is a Zoom quiz with an assortment of friends. I have no doubt almost everyone is doing something similar and getting quite bored of video conference calls. They are very dank and hard, I find. That said, it has made me realise that meetings face to face tend to drag and have too many agenda items for the sake of time. With a conference call, there is no issue in the meeting only being 5 to 10 minutes. Face to face, there is generally a cup of tea and small talk which these calls eradicate. My brother who works in finance has said that for years. But back to change; as previously mentioned, I have worked in several other schools. Upon leaving, I have always tried to maintain contact with as many people from them as possible. Connections can be critical in any industry and I find that teaching is one of the most important. That has certainly come into its own in lockdown as we share resources and ideas. So, every Tuesday I am part of an old Ampleforth College PE group quiz and we take it in turns to host. Despite only knowing them for three years and leading them for one, it is great to catch up and update on our stories. It makes me very proud to see how much they have changed, developed and taken challenges on. It makes me less proud that I come last every week, mainly because they always put in a film or music round and my knowledge of those is close to zero!
Last week on the Friday, we had VE Day which was a great day and despite the disappointing of not celebrating with family and friends, we had a lovely day and I got quite emotional! This led to a FaceBook post which gained a similar reaction to ones previously mentioned. It also got a comment from my father saying that his father was a home guard officer and patrolled the crucial rail network around the north Somerset area. Apparently, he used to walk along it with a shotgun! I couldn’t imagine seeing my wonderfully kind and funny grandfather using a shotgun but they were even crazier times than these. I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend and tried to connect with family. That is what I miss the most about an empty School House.
This week I have been reading more blogs to see how I could change and improve mine. I always read the blog from the Headmaster of Shrewsbury Riverside School in Bangkok as he is an old friend but also writes very well. This week he talked about reminiscing too, mainly on the cricket field. A lot of the blogs I have read talk about the past and how it has shaped and developed them which I guess is symptomatic of the times we are in. It will be interesting to see how those blogs change and develop as we come out of lockdown and start our way back to normal life. My last thought on change is that this lockdown needs to make us all change our habits. What is normal going to look like in twelve months? The planet is suddenly alive with sights and sounds we only thought were when Sir David Attenborough was about. Will we feel awkward in each other’s company still? Perhaps we can look to develop a new way of saying hello rather than the traditional handshake and/or kiss on the cheek? Change is certainly upon us and I am excited by that, especially for School House and my family.
Victory in Europe Day on Friday (VE Day) has offered a different set of emotions this week. Not having to solely focus on remote learning, home schooling and the virtual boarding house has been welcome. We are having a “Stay at Home Street Party” and the girls are very excited. I am actually quite sad as I had prepared so much for this special day for our boarders. Of course I will be celebrating and honouring but not having the house together at this important time hurts. As I read in one article this week, “it is the loneliness that hurts the most and it is that loneliness that will bring us even closer together.” I know that many of the boarding house and our Christmas Dinner guests will join me in celebrating the life of Michael Norman. Michael, who was our guest of honour at this year’s dinner and as a very frail but determined man, he delivered a moving speech about his time in School House. Unfortunately he passed away in March but as we celebrate our 125th year of boarding in September in this remarkable building, I know he will be smiling and wishing us the best of fortunes to mark this occasion.
VE Day also offers us the chance to thank everyone who has given their lives for this great country. As a School, we will be honouring the 11am two minutes silence and at 3pm toasting those who have fallen with the words “to those who gave so much, we thank you” and the traditional words “we will remember them”. Both Mrs Pineo and I are very fortunate that our grandparents survived WW2. Our eldest daughter is named after two of them and we always smile when we think of them and their strength. Such a rollercoaster of emotions but it is good that these important days stir the mind and help us to remember how fortunate we are.
The VE celebrations actually started early as on Thursday morning, we were all treated to an unbelievable assembly from Woodbridge School Prep. The thought, skill and love that went into the whole thing is exactly what makes this school so great. The final video of all the teachers singing “We’ll meet again” was incredibly moving. The girls started the day with a real spring in their step and looking forward to their work.
With Friday being a Bank Holiday, we had our boarding house meeting on Thursday and we had a special guest, Miss Norman our Head, join us. It was great to chat as a whole house and for Miss Norman to hear the different stories and situations from around the world. It was also great to hear her show so much support for this community and also outline some of the care we will be putting in place for their safe return, whenever that may be. It can be difficult to be positive at times but when you see a group of young people show such dedication to their house, school and each other, it inspires us to ensure we are as positive as possible.
Stay safe and take care.
This week I started reading a book about a journalist who became a famous cricket writer starting before WW1. I found it a tough read to start with as the author describes Neville Cardus and how he became his idol. Once the book got into the stage of describing Cardus’ life then I was totally engaged with the wit, candour and stories from such a great cricketing era. Cardus changed the face of cricket reporting by simply writing in a way he wanted to. Previous to his reports for the Manchester Guardian, sports reports were very dry and merely recorded the facts about the game. No characters were described and very little excitement was reported. Cricket has always been a game of great characters and both prior to and after both World Wars, there were some absolute gems. To paint the picture of cricket for you, there were two types of cricketers, the amateurs and the professionals. No different to today I hear you say, but, these two played together. They even played for England together! An amateur cricketer was always a gentlemen and more often than not had a peerage. Before the turn of the century, most cricket matches were played on their land and the professionals played for their team and were well paid. Many of the landed gentry employed the best professional cricketers on their estates to ensure they were not tempted to play for anyone else! So you can see why there’d be so many amazing characters. Cricket was also an incredibly popular sport with as many as 20,000 watching every day of a county match. Nowadays barely 200 watch over four days. Part of the reason was the characters. They also didn’t have TV or social media in which they could see them. Children loved watching these giants in cream flannels! Cardus wrote about these characters using language that you’d only ever hear your grandparents use but it summed them up perfectly. He intertwined the words with feelings and emotions about cricket which no one had done before. He was also quite lucky in that after the Great War, people craved humour and honesty, the public had had enough of dour and drab. He was also lucky in that after both wars, more characters were created. Men who had fought suddenly saw cricket as a fun game and played as such. One of my favourite war time stories is about an Australian called Keith Miller. He flew Spitfires for the RAF and when he returned to play cricket for Australia, the game just became exactly that. A game. He played with a flamboyance, a freedom and “je ne sais que” that men like him quite rightly deserved. Like many other war heroes, when interviewed, he said, “when you’ve seen what we’ve seen, you’d see it only as a game”. This wasn’t an arrogance as would be perceived today but a genuine realisation that life was to be enjoyed and lived. So here we are today still in lockdown and I wonder if we will crave the same type of reporting as Cardus afforded us. I know I will. I suspect we will also crave some of the values and daily lives of the after-war public. So what have I learnt from this book? (My best English teacher, Mr Thomas, always taught us to take something from every book we read, no matter how small) That challenging the norm is good, in fact, great. Being yourself in whatever you do is vital to both you physical and mental well-being. You will always be accepted for who you are. If you’re not then you aren’t looking for acceptance from the right people. It also taught me to persevere. I was close to putting this book down but I decided to plough on and I am so grateful I did. I love reading about yesterday’s heroes and learning from them. I often feel like I was born in the wrong era as I love these bygone eras so much!
This week I also realised the power of routine and exercise. On Tuesday and Wednesday I lost my routine and felt lethargic and down. Thursday I ensured I was up and in my routine. I also worked in time for a run which lifted my spirits even more. As I have said, I am so lucky to be living here during this period but it does show the power of these simple, basic concepts. Reading inspirational stories have also helped me during this lockdown. The most recent was one about a rugby player who was injured at the neck. He became paralysed from the shoulders down and was told he’d never walk again. But he was determined to. So he started with the tiniest of goals; to move a toe. Once completed he set himself the next target; moving all toes, and so on and so forth this man changed his life and the diagnosis of permanent paralysis. This week, he was due to climb Everest but due to the lockdown couldn’t. So he set himself the challenge of climbing the equivalent distance up his own stair case. Look at the image and see what he accomplished only 5 years after his accident. What I also loved about this man’s story was that he has also spent five years trying to help everyone else change their mind-set from permanent paralysis to partial movement to whatever the body allows. I am always blown away by the power of the human body; physiologically, we are capable of so much but it is our minds that stop us. But I digress! This week I have also been re-writing the boarding handbook and looking at what adaptations and improvements we can make. More emphasis on the pupils to have control and also finding more time for freedom.
Stay safe and have a good weekend.
Where in the world are we?
So we have started our virtual boarding programme and it is all rather bizarre! I have really enjoyed the challenge of putting together something that the boarders might engage with. Exercise, both physical and mental, is so important and we are seeing that more than ever now.
Speaking to the boarders this week, it is obvious those who have been exercising and engaging with mental tasks. What has also been interesting is listening to the various stories of lockdown. Some parts of China have lifted restrictions completely whereas Malaysia is super strict, fining people for being outside unnecessarily. It disturbs me watching the news about the UK as I fear for UK boarding schools, particularly those who rely on the Far East market. In Suffolk, we have already lost one Preparatory boarding school. Scary times. I have had some great meetings with our admissions team working on plans for recruitment during these times. You may have already seen the admissions adverts this week and how we are offering live interaction with the team, the Head or me. It just shows what is possible when faced with these circumstances.
My learning Mandarin has stalled slightly due to the start of term but I will be back next week as I am timetabling myself lessons! It really is the incredible language and I am falling in love with the sounds and make-up of it. So as to make it even more of a challenge, I have set myself a goal of being able to converse and understand by September 2021 with a view to travelling to China that term and using it. I tend to find I am better once I set myself a goal. No doubt you can all relate to this during these times. Setting out to learn a new language, skill, hit fitness goals and then remember that life just gets in the way! What has made this current period of lockdown so hard is that the weather is fantastic. Currently, we are on track for the driest and warmest April for a long time. Whilst we have been able to enjoy the garden more, there are so many people who cannot. I was talking to the housemaster of my previous school and they live in the first floor flat we used to inhabit. With a young family, a full-time working mother and no access to personal outside space, this time has been a nightmare for them. Again, I feel so grateful and lucky to be in this position but am acutely aware of others. What will towns like Woodbridge look like in 5 years? I think lots of people will move out of London as a result of this and take up residence in more leafy suburbs. I see that as a massive opportunity for towns like Woodbridge. Yes expansion can be detrimental to the “feel” of a place but if done in the right way, it can have an amazingly positive impact.
During these times I have found that I am enjoying Social Media much more. I use Twitter quite a lot for education and news but all forms have given me different areas of enjoyment. Facebook has allowed me to connect with old friends, read about some old cricket and hockey stories and even be part of some amazing fundraising events, one of which I talk about below. Instagram is still pretty much the same, although there has been a lot more content than usual! Mrs Pineo and I had a stark reminder of the power of the internet and how it can be quite a dangerous tool if used incorrectly. We have been using Eva’s Amazon tablet for its Alexa programme as a source of fun and playing music etc, however, at this time it was not on and we were discussing our booked holiday in July and whether we should cancel or not. Later on that afternoon, when we went onto our social media, we were inundated with adverts from insurers, agents and the country we were due to travel to. What else has it been listening to and using! Very scary!
5 for 5 for 5 for carers and charities has become a huge thing in the UK. Run / walk / cycle / swim 5km then nominate five others to do it and then donate £5 to the NHS carers fund. Mrs Pineo and I have done ours and it has been inspiring to see so many others do it in various forms. I have set the boarding house a challenge of us all completing 125 miles (200Km) before the end of term. So far quite a few of the boarders have walked a few miles and contributed. The male Head of House has cycled a lot but we also have our national cross-country runner and she has been posting about five miles a day! Other parts of our house challenges you can see from the pictures – “Where am I?” has become a popular feature on our Teams group chat! Some are easier than others and today’s has most of them stumped! I was debating with Mrs Pineo how much of these challenges will stay with us once school resumes. We would like to continue with many of them and look to diversify. Inclusion can be so difficult as a boarding house, particularly for the new pupils whose first language isn’t English so these could be part of it. Or perhaps like so much of the remote learning, it will be consigned to the history books and become folklore! I hope not and I hope this is a period that changes education for the better.
Stay safe and stay in touch. We are always here for you and want to help in any way we can. This is a great community and I know you are so proud to be a part of it.
Pink moons, leadership and the legacy of a good Head Girl & Boy
With the weather now starting to turn warmer it brings a whole new level to being isolated. Whilst the country struggles to deal with a warm bank holiday weekend and staying indoors, we are able to utilise these amazing grounds. We all feel very lucky and sometimes we feel guilty too. Not being able to share these grounds is hard but we can’t afford to be complacent with the virus. We are seeing daily, countries and cities that are ignoring the advice and paying desperate consequences. It appears for now that most countries in Europe and Asia have dealt with or are dealing with the worst of the virus but the Americas and Africa are starting to feel it now.
Yet the world keeps turning and nature keeps reminding us of their importance. I was listening to a radio show Tuesday morning and the presenter was interviewing a lady who has written a book about the importance of the moon. It coincided with the moon turning pink that evening. She was saying that the moon controls so much of what we have in our nature and therefore it’s importance. Apparently the Russians had a plan to blow it up once as a show of their nuclear fire power! It got me thinking about how we take so many small things for granted and how important nature is to us. We are so blessed to live at Woodbridge School and I know so many boarders, past and present feel the same. We live in nature, not the other way round and that helps to create the atmosphere and environment that makes this school so special. What else is important in my life that I take for granted – family, yes but something smaller, something I take for granted and almost ignore. I’ll get back to you with an answer!
With this spare time I have been reading a lot and ensuring that my mind and body remain active. Normally I read page turning crime thrillers but I have started a new book this week about leadership. At last some of you may say! Well, it has been interesting reading about the various different types of leaders, their traits and outcomes. What is common in all great leaders is the trust they have in their team. The trust is born out of mutual respect that in some cases is hard to earn but in most is fairly prevalent from the start. All the leaders talk about journey’s and how important the end goal is. Being the leader of a boarding house has no specific end goal. Each pupil requires different actions to get the best outcomes and sometimes we only figure that out when it is too late. No good school leader I know would profess to having perfected this art. Great leaders make lots of mistakes like everyone else but it is how they reflect on these and make significant changes. “Perfection is not attainable but in chasing perfection, we may catch excellence” is one of my favourite quotes from a sporting giant called Vince Lombardi (Green Bay Packers, American Football coach). With every journey comes losses, failures and upset. With every journey also comes victories, successes and joy. I strongly believe this and try to ensure that the losses, failures and upset are shielded from the boarders as much as possible. Allowing the young mind to feel indestructible is dangerous but showing it too much negativity is fatal.
I have also been drawing up plans to create a virtual boarding house and looking at ways in which we can stay in contact as a house. I would really love to hear your ideas on what we could include or do. Anything, no matter how small, could be important to someone, even me.
Finally, I am about to have a conference call with our Heads of House, Anna and Leon to discuss next year, in particular the leadership team from September. They have been brilliant in their help to both you and me. They are so passionate about the house and often put it/you first when other things should take priority. In these changing times and periods of uncertainty often we create the best legacy. I have no doubt Anna and Leon will do that for you all.
Stay safe, look after yourselves and stay healthy.
Resilience, luck, adieu
There are times in life when you reflect honestly with yourself and you manage to drop your guard or act for a while. I suspect we are all going through that at present and have ample time to reflect. It has been amazing, inspiring to watch how people have reacted to the various sanctions imposed on their communities from the singing Italians to the incredibly brave medical workers. Each time I start to feel down about our situation in the boarding house, I am reminded actually how lucky we are. The majority of the boarders were told weeks ago that going home was an impossibility. Two weeks ago, the news was the opposite. I was lucky enough to deliver an assembly early last week to the School and I spoke about how resilient the boarding community is. “Take a second to imagine being dropped at an airport on the 6th of January and not seeing your parents till the 28th March and then at the end of February, being told that it won’t be till the beginning of July because of a virus.” Little did I know that by the end of that day, the news would change and they would actually be safer going home. The mental fortitude of the boarders to take this in their stride will last with me for a long time. So how lucky are we really? Have we created our own luck or have we created an environment where regardless of the situation, people are comfortable? Perhaps that is luck in a boarding house, perhaps it is the luck of working with such amazing people. I often talk about luck in the boarding house. What is it, do we actually create our own luck etc. I am firm believer that we create our own luck and saying yes to things allows us to experience both good and bad luck. For example, saying yes to this role a year ago brought to this wonderful, happy place. Yes we are going through some testing times and difficult decisions are being made for the betterment of the school as a whole but living here has brought a new level of luck now that we are in isolation; 65 acres of fun for the girls, stunning footpaths for walks, runs and bike rides and the peace. Very lucky indeed!
Last week was the most bizarre I’ve had in education. School closed but pupils in the house doing lessons and trying to keep to a normal routine whilst also packing. I spent more time on various flight booking websites and flight trackers than anything else in helping everyone get home. It was very discouraging to see how much the flights had gone up, particularly to China. We had two boarders who managed to get flights back to Hong Kong that their parents had booked last minute on a “full” flight. They were charged vast sums and when on board found it nearly empty and not due to 2m distancing. More encouraging was the Turkish Government’s help to get their citizens home. I took two boarders to Gatwick for a prescribed time to get on a student only flight. It was very cheap and they checked everyone in quickly to keep the distancing and to keep people moving. Very impressive! It was rather eerie driving to and being in Gatwick though. No planes in the sky and no one in the airport except for the Turkish students. The last boarder left on Thursday and it was such a relief to receive messages that they were home safely. Everyone passed the Covid-19 tests on arrival but one pupil had to isolate in a hotel for a week as a member of their family had tested positive a week before. As is typical of this pupil, she was emailing her teachers for work and that her Wi-Fi connection was poor in the hotel so to bear with her!
The most disheartening thing I saw over the last two weeks was watching pupils dash off home, potentially never to return, without saying a proper goodbye to friends or us being able to say goodbye as a house properly. For our German pupils who were leaving at Easter, this was particularly apparent. We had a lovely weekend in London planned followed by a fish and chip supper and a disco. All this and other lovely plans to say goodbye were cancelled. Thankfully with social media, they were able to say virtual goodbyes and stay in touch as much as possible but as we know, it isn’t quite the same.
I am going to attempt to do video diaries for the pupils so they can stay up to date with news from the house – let’s see if they like them!
Stay safe, stay at home and stay in touch.
Family games and Swedish Furniture
I find the first week back after a break is always an odd one. Whether it be running a sports team or a house, the pupils seem to forget almost everything! The first hockey practise of the week I spent an inordinate amount of time re-explaining the principles of our play and reminding them of their roles. The same was true in the house. We have switched the supper times from 6pm to 5.45pm so that we can better prepare for prep and this added some confusion but the other timings and rules haven’t changed, however, it was the same re-explaining and reminding them of the routine. On Wednesday evening, the Y12s all attended a brilliant lecture by Mr Richardson (head of Y13 and UCAS) about University preparation and selection. This was then followed up on Friday with a trip to University of East Anglia, one of the top 25 Universities in the country. The pupils got a taste of life at University and attended some lectures. There was one interesting talk on finance – I wish I had had that when I was at University!
On Saturday, 15 pupils travelled to Colchester for some laser quest followed by some roller skating. It was a brilliant trip and they have asked to go again soon! Sunday we had the next round of our family games; badminton, basketball free throw, pool, table tennis, table football and chess. Some of the pupils were a little less enthusiastic until I showed them the prize for the winning house; donuts! Competition was fierce and friendly with some surprising results and some less so. Overall the Blue team won and they happily ate away after supper, even happier were my two daughters who are also in the Blue family!
Also at the weekend, our superstar runner, April ran in the national club cross-country championships. In the first race of the day, April competed a year up in the U17 women for her new club Shaftesbury Barnet. This was her debut for the club at this level and she ran a great race to finish 31st out of 150 runners and second scorer for the club. Shaftesbury finished as third team and so April was awarded her first national medal, not bad for a debut! James P, Jiayi and Henry played for the U16 rugby VIIs team in a mini tournament at Woodbridge Rugby Club. For Jiayi and Henry, this was their first experience of seven a-side rugby which they enjoyed having more space and less contact. They are preparing for the upcoming National Rosslyn Park VIIs tournament and we hope they all make the team. This weekend Miss Nyberg is running a very popular trip to Ikea at Lakeside in London. Whether it be décor for their rooms or just the famous meatballs, this trip always fills the bus!
24 | 02 |2020
During the last week of term we were treated to the most incredible production of Wizard of Oz. Several of our pupils were involved in the production, mainly as stage crew and technical support. It was interesting to hear about the difficulties of getting a suitable mic on the Tin Man whose costume restricted the areas it could be placed! Our Heads of House were heavily involved – Anna was one of the key make-up artists and Leon was head of tech. The costumes and make-up were absolutely incredible; Anna was starting the make-up for Scarecrow at 4pm ready for a 7pm show whilst the tech crew met most days at 2pm to prepare but couldn’t finish until costumes and make-up were complete, some evenings, leaving them just 2 minutes to set up. What an amazing job and I hope they inspire others to be involved.
The last week of every half-term always brings uncertainty with the thought of travel or staying with a host family in an unfamiliar house, in an unfamiliar town. It sounds daunting but the boarders are so resilient that they look forward to these opportunities to discover something new. I always enjoy meeting the host families and chatting about their homes, what made them become hosts and the plans they have for the boarder/s. One family live on a working farm and explained to their two guests that they would be able to help in a small capacity by feeding the chickens, sweeping the yard and collecting eggs! What a reaction from the two boys – a bewildered look followed by excited conversation. Upon their return they talked so warmly about the week and their English had improved so much. Shounak (from India) had a week with his friend in Germany which he loved. We encourage day and boarding pupils to invite those from further afield to their homes. At weekends, we often have pupils going out for the evening which shows what an integral part of this community we are.
Six boarders went skiing with the school trip to Austria and had an amazing time. They returned on the Friday which gave us the opportunity to host them over the weekend. Mrs Pineo and I cooked a chilli, curry and a traditional Sunday brunch; such fun! Our youngest daughter, Isabelle certainly enjoyed having more time with one of her favourite boarders, Vicky! Over dinner we discussed with Taro the difference between skiing in Europe and Japan. It was interesting to hear how he found the slopes so narrow and fast but also how warm it was. Romain was voted skier of the trip and Maro won most improved! This weekend we are transported back to the 1980s as we have a trip to the Laser Quest and Roller Skating centre in Colchester and on Sunday we have the return of our much loved family games – this week it is 5 a-side football and a round robin of table tennis, pool and table football!
10 | February | 2020
Storm Ciara hit us this weekend and made travelling very difficult. We managed to get the boarders to bowling on Saturday but Sunday they were restricted to the House. So ensued countless rounds of winner stays on of pool, table tennis and table football! It was also interesting to discuss the storm. To many this was fierce and not something seen before, particularly in such a wooded area as we live in but for me the best discussions were from those who live in turbulent areas. Taro from Japan was saying this was just a heavy wind and would not be classified as a storm as was Prin from Thailand. Taro lives in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and described their weather as violent! The office where his father works is designed to sway in the high wind as the city is used to them. It reminded me of the amazing resilience the Japanese staff showed during the 2019 Rugby World Cup. A typhoon hit the edge of one of the cities which cancelled one game and disrupted many training sessions. The social media postings from the New Zealand All Blacks showed their training facility under two feet of water. The next day they arrived to find their facility spotless and ready for use. How would we cope if a typhoon hit the UK? I suspect we would be blaming the Government and local councils rather than rolling up our sleeves and showing the same resilience the Japanese did that week. For others, however, the high winds and torrential rain was totally alien and had never been seen before. Ramtin from Dubai had seen high winds but in Dubai and Tehran, where he lived previously, the high winds didn’t affect the ground and were mainly higher up. He certainly hadn’t seen the high winds coupled with torrential rain, which might explain why he ventured out to the dining hall without a coat! Still better than May’s option of an umbrella!
This is our last week before the February half-term break and we have lots to look forward to. The School’s performance of The Wizard of Oz is on all week and we are going Wednesday and Thursday evening; I cannot wait! We have several pupils involved in the tech and stage crew and they are starting to get nervous, as well as very tired.
James P is a key member of the 2nd XI hockey team and they have a tough match against Norwich on Tuesday. James has scored several vital goals using his pace and power; he is getting closer to that elusive 1st XI call up! On Friday, seven of the boarders are joining the School Ski Trip to Austria and many of the others go home. However, with the Coronavirus affecting travel to Asia, we have a couple of pupils who cannot go home. Thankfully the guardian companies have been fantastic and managed to place all the boarders in host families. I suspect the fall out of this will also affect Easter and so I have been meeting and phoning various guardianship companies to discuss using School House for the three week break. This made me realise how lucky I have been to have had my family close to me, especially when I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I loved boarding when I was at school but as I boarded in the UK, my parents would travel to see me occasionally or pick me up for Exeat weekends. It makes me sad as I receive the emails about boarders going to stay with host families. I know those families are great and will do an amazing job at providing for the individuals but it isn’t the same as going home. It certainly makes me even more determined to provide the family and homely atmosphere for every boarder. I have had several positive meetings this week with Miss Norman, Mrs Shirley and external designers about the refurbishment plans for School House. In my mind I am always conscious that whatever improvements we make must be for the benefit of the pupils and not just for a pretty magazine.
During the first week back on Wednesday 26th, the Year 12s have a very important evening where they will discuss their UCAS options. During the evening there will be several key speakers talking about how to choose the right course, the right University but mostly importantly, how to right the best personal statement. Then, on the Friday 28th all of Year 12 go to University of East Anglia to meet current students, lecturers, professors and course leaders to give them an insight as to what makes a good personal statement and how to go through the UCAS process successfully. On Saturday we have booked into do an Escape Rooms afternoon in Ipswich and on Sunday we will be out on our fields cheering on April as she tries to retain her East Anglian Schools Cross-Country title. April has already qualified for the National finals and is part of the girls team that will represent the UK in the World Cross-Country Championships held in Slovakia at the end of the Easter break. Good luck April, we will be out there cheering you on!
2 | February | 2020
It’s all about balance
With all the internal examinations over, the pupils endured some long evenings talking through their results and performances with teachers at Parent’s Evenings. Many guardians came, as well as a few parents, and afterwards they all met with me individually to discuss the various aspects of their education. I always take great pride in talking about how well the boarders are doing and how much they are engaging in the community, some a little too much. So we spoke about balance. Balancing the stresses and strains of academic study with the socialising and co-curricular aspects of school life is something that is often assumed as a given in a young person’s life. It certainly isn’t. I remember all too well not being able to find the right balance despite the warnings and support; sport was always too much of a lure. For me, what makes so many teachers great is the genuine care and support they show the pupils, using their own experiences to help the next generation. I am always so pleased to hear those passionate conversations with pupils and teachers about balance.
This week I had to balance a number of things myself, as I was fortunate enough to be at a boarding conference engaging with fellow teachers who are all involved in the shaping of boarding houses and lives within them. Many of the guest speakers spoke so honestly and passionately about boarding, including a former Woodbridge School teacher, Chris Seal, who is now Headmaster of Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok. I have known Chris for a great number of years having played cricket with him during his stay at Suffolk, so it filled me with great pride and awe as he spoke about his time at Woodbridge and how it shaped him into being the person he is today.
Many of the boarding leaders talked about the difficulties facing this industry today. From Coronavirus to teachers pensions to Brexit, each speaker highlighting the need for us to be brave in our decisions and to have courage in our future models. It really galvanised me to promote the boarding plans we have from the short-term to the long-term: a new kitchen, a lick of paint throughout, weekly boarding for Sixth Form to new accommodation for support staff and extensions for junior boarding. All of these plans will make a difference and we must have the courage to see them through but I need to balance these aspirations with the day-to-day life; celebrating more birthdays, including one of our new boarders, Sam; celebrating the work of our domestic team and Matrons over cheese and wine with our Upper Sixth; preparing for the U11 county hockey tournament on Monday, the list could go on! That is why I love this job though. The tangible rewards and the simplicity of making lives easier for young people. As so many people said during the conference, the balance we require, often comes from those who support us, our constant support; wives, partners our family. Mrs Pineo is an amazing person and is a constant support. Thank you to her and all of those who support us in the boarding community. In two weeks’ time we break up for half-term and thankfully our Chinese and Hong Kong boarders are all staying in the UK with Guardians. With Easter only eight weeks away, we are currently looking at an emergency provision for them should we need to. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about this.
27 | January | 2020
End of Mock Examinations & Chinese New Year Weekend!
After a busy week in which we welcomed a new boarder and had two parents evenings, we had a pizza night to see out the end of the mock examination weeks for the Year 11s and 13s have. After this we had the festivities of Chinese New Year on Saturday. Several of the boarders went to family and friends houses Friday evening for Chinese New Year Eve which shows the integration so many of them make in such a short time. On Saturday afternoon, over 20 of the boarders came into our kitchen and dining room to make dumplings! You’ll see from the pictures it was a great success and they tasted delicious. They complimented the amazing Chinese meal that our catering department had cooked which went down very well! Thank you to Mr and Mrs Denvir (Mr Denvir is Head of Rugby and teacher of MFL) and their two children who brought their experience of living in Hong Kong for 12 years to aid the making and to Mr Richardson (Head of Year 13 & UCAS) who joined us in the Tuckwell Dining Room and shared some stories of his time abroad. After we ate rather too much, Jiayi gave a traditional toast of Happy New Year – 恭 禧 發 財 Gong Xi Fa Cai – which was cheered and clapped by all. A lovely evening to celebrate. On Sunday, ten boarders went to Ipswich by train to celebrate Erin’s 16th birthday as well as to do some shopping. This week is slightly quieter although the Y12s have in-class testing and there is an Art trip to London for many of the Y11s. The weekend plans are swimming at Felixstowe Leisure Centre (inflatable madness!) and a shopping trip to Braintree Freeport.