Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Happy faces

Happy faces

Here we are at the end of week five, and the faces I see around school are overwhelmingly happy. This isn't a glib observation: it's an important thing to check. 

We had a great evening yesterday with what appeared to be a record attendance of new parent at our annual buffet evening with now legendary curry supper. Parents confirmed overwhelmingly that their children are happy, eager to come to school and properly tired at the end of the week!

But this isn't some kind of job done statement. We're not saying,

 "They've all been happy so far, so we can just leave it!"

Happy children thrive and learn, unhappy ones don't. More to the point, happiness should be a prime goal of life and education. 

So the kind of happiness we need to ensure for our children isn't about wrapping them in cotton wool. On the contrary, we are throwing challenges at them all the time. At this early stage, for 11-year-olds in particular, there is the matter of learning to cope with a secondary school/grammar school level of homework, at the same time we are busy checking that we are not overdoing that. And we need to wean our eager students off that desire to spend excessive hours on homework in order to please their teachers! One of the skills that must be learnt is proportionality, spending an appropriate, not excessive, amount of time on a particular task.

Within this quest for happiness there must also be a conscious effort to develop resilience among our students. In this week's Junior School bulletin, it was good to read about Mr Craig's half-time talk to a rugby team. His match report (which seems to give enormous credit to the coach!) mentions one of those neat little acronyms that educationists are using increasingly these days (though we try not to keep banging our students over the head with them!)

FAIL = not abject failure but First Attempt In Learning.

You can see the Junior School bulletin on the website, and you might also see Miss Gravely's Happness Manifesto for the Junior School. 

Week 4: Dance wildly; Dream passionately; Dare to be different; Delight in little things.

Don't worry, we haven't gone all soft and fluffy, or not in any vague or unplanned sense, at any rate! Five weeks into term, we need to make sure that the challenge is appropriate, that children are stretched (and therefore fulfilled), making mistakes, learning from them and developing, both intellectually and socially, inside the classroom and out. 

As I always say, it doesn't happen by accident. Moreover, there will be storms and upsets on the way, because that is the hard truth of growing up. We need to help our students to become resilient learners so that when things go wrong, as they will inevitably at some stage, they are able (to quote the wonderful Dick Moore who addressed Year 9 and the Lower Sixth Form on mental health a couple of weeks ago) to: 

"Dance in the rain"

or, to quote an earlier statement of his that I like,

"To bend in the wind rather than snapping in the hurricane."

It's only a start then. In Churchill's words merely 'the end of the beginning'! It was good nonetheless to receive assurance from that great turn out of mums and dads last night that, by and large, we are getting it spot-on at present. 

We'll keep charting that course with great care and attention to detail, so that every boy and girl at RGS can thrive, with due attention and support given to everyone's individual needs.