Head Teacher Weekly Blog

22 May 2020

“Start somewhere - Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

I hope you have had a good week and are looking forward to your half term (albeit slightly different!).

Great news that Colonel Tom Moore was knighted yesterday. A former British Army Officer known for his achievements raising money for the NHS in his run up to his 100th birthday during our current pandemic.

On April 6th 2020, at the age of 99, he began to walk laps of his garden in aid of NHS charities, with the goal of reaching £1000 by his hundredth birthday. In the 24-day course of his fundraising he made many media appearances and became a popular household name in this country, generating much interest in his life story, earning him a number of accolades and attracting over 1.5 million individual donations. He featured in a cover of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, with proceeds going to the NHS charities. The single topped the UK music charts making him the oldest person to achieve a UK number one. In total he raised £32.79 million. Head of the Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith called Tom “an inspirational role model.”

You have heard me say so many times in school that I want you to be the very best version of yourself. I know that it is not always easy to be strong and resilient and driven, especially when times get tough, as they are now, but I think we can all draw inspiration from Tom Moore and accept that we have the power to make a difference and to control our own destiny and ultimately do the best we can for ourselves and others.

If all you do is wait for the best version of yourself to happen, you’re forever going to be stuck with the current version. So, how do you launch the best version of yourself? Start somewhere - Start making progress today. Sometimes, you need to make a big change in order to unleash the best version of yourself or sometimes it might be small steps.

These are my ideas to help you start making those changes:

1. Make a change                                                                                                                                             Say you want to run a marathon, but have no prior experience. The first step is lacing up you shoes and hitting the pavement. Even if you only make it half a mile on your first training run, you’ll be about 2% closer to your ultimate goal than if you didn’t put in any work at all.

2. Start from the beginning                                                                                                                         You don’t just happen to stumble upon the best version of yourself. You need to start from the beginning and take a high number of small steps in order to become what you want to be.

3. Recognise that the best version of yourself should be your vision, not anybody else’s.                       Don’t waste energy trying to live up to what somebody else wants you to be. You should always be true and honest to yourself and be proud of the good things you do and achieve however insignificant they might be to other people.

4. Help other people become the best version of themselves                                                                           You’ll find that the lasting connections you build from helping others will greatly benefit you moving forward. You’ll feel positive and good about yourself when you put in the effort to support and help other people.

5. Take on new challenges                                                                                                                            Doing something productive outside of your school work that makes you happy and helps you become a better version of yourself. So, whatever it is… a new art skill, a musical instrument, a new language, improving a sport, helping a charity, creative writing, whatever…. start doing it on your nights and weekends. And who knows? In years to come it might just turn into a full-time job that you love.

So just like Tom Moore who stepped out on the morning of April 6th at the age of nearly 100, determined to help other people, we can also take steps to being the best version of ourselves. Start somewhere!

 

15 May 2020

Helen Keller (American author) once said:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

In these testing times, when we are perhaps isolated from contact with our friends and families, it would be so easy to feel a little down. It is a worrying time. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic with cities and even whole countries shutting down. We are all sometimes watching the news and wondering “what is going to happen next?”

For many of us the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus is the hardest thing to handle. We don’t know how exactly we’ll be impacted or how bad things might get. Sadly, that makes it all too easy to catastrophize and then spiral out into a little bit of dread and panic. But there are so many things you can do - even in the face of this unique crisis – to manage your anxiety and fears and although we want to know what’s going to happen next, it can help to turn off the news from time to time and try to encourage ourselves to feel more optimistic.

It is easy to slip into the habit of sleeping late, spending all day in your pyjamas and eating junk food but looking after yourself is essential for your mental health. Even simple tasks like washing your face and sorting out your hair can make a big difference to the way you feel. Ensure that you get plenty of fresh air and follow basic self-care regimes. Try to eat healthy food, get enough sleep, get lots of hydration and keep to a routine.

Getting moving is easier said than done sometimes, especially when you feel low or a little anxious, but it can significantly boost your mood. Try to get moving each day and throw yourself into the activity. Add to that some music that helps boost your mood. If you are able, get into the garden and get daily doses of sunshine.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help offload any worries and fears that you might be feeling. It is also important to try to keep busy, whether that means going for a daily walk or even learning a new skill. There are still plenty of activities that you can engage with at home, including crafts, painting, reading, cooking and baking. We have seen so many photographs of you engaged in new skills and activities and we love getting these in school so keep on sending them in.

If you don’t feel up to doing anything though, that’s fine too. It’s important to be kind to yourself and recognise when you need a break. Take care of yourself, focus on the positive and you’ll get through this. Tell yourself that what I am doing is good enough. Be good to yourself! If you are feeling a bit fed up remember that you can always contact your form tutors and Head of House too, they are here to help you and support you.

I found this new report recently which really helped me to feel like there is a reason to stay upbeat and optimistic:

Birmingham father says staying positive helped him beat coronavirus A father-of-one who battled coronavirus from his intensive care bed has revealed how thinking positively helped him recover. Anthony Morrison spent a week at the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust where he was ventilated after being diagnosed with Covid-19. Anthony, who works as a receipt and distributions supervisor, first experienced symptoms on his way home from work. He was feeling tired and distant – and his usual commute via public transport felt like it was taking longer than usual. A couple of days later he began suffering headaches and had a high temperature. His wife called paramedics and initially, he was told to take paracetamol. But his symptoms did not ease – and he collapsed. He was then taken to City Hospital, in Birmingham. Mr Morrison said:

"The paramedics rushed me to hospital and once I was there it was confirmed I had coronavirus. My oxygen levels were really low and I was in intensive care. But I kept thinking positively. I knew I had to fight this disease and I practised deep breathing techniques. I knew that I couldn’t let it beat me. It was difficult, but I knew I had to remain positive. I think that is really a key factor with this illness. Also, hearing from my relatives really picked me up and when I received two handmade cards from my grandnieces that really picked me up. Their messages touched my heart. I knew I had to get out of hospital and see them again. There were also the small things too that I tried to do whilst I was in hospital. I would set myself goals, like walking to the bathroom. Every day I made sure I was able to do something that would help me in my recovery. The care I received was brilliant, right from the domestics to the doctors, everyone looked after me really well. “ Anthony has now returned home since his discharge and is resting until he is fit to return to work. He added: “I really would say to people to stay positive no matter what life throws at you.”

Stay happy and healthy and we are looking forward to seeing you all again as soon as possible.

 

8 May 2020

I hope you have had a great week and enjoyed the bank holiday and the honouring of VE Day. Whatever you did to mark the occasion, I hope you stayed safe and well. I know that there were lots of street parties up and down the country (including my road!) and I hope if you were part of one of these you had a great time enjoying the sunshine and participating in the community spirit. On National Nurses Day I would also like to say a big thank you from Dormston to all the nurses across the country who are doing such a fantastic job on the front line.

In 1942 Vera Lynn sang: “There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover Tomorrow, just you wait and see. There’ll be love and laughter and peace every after Tomorrow, when the world is free”. Her words gave hope that a brighter future lay ahead to those caught in the terrible atrocities of war. Those words are so relevant in today’s current climate as we all hope and look forward to returning to some normality in the weeks and months to come. It is so important now that we remember our school’s core values of resilience and responsibility during these turbulent times. I was reading about some of the remarkable stories from the war relaying acts of bravery, kindness and resilience and I thought it would be good to share one of these with you to remind us that we have lots to be grateful for and we must be patient and do our best to stay optimistic that a better tomorrow will come. Although our present situation is not directly comparable to those who lost their lives in the war we can be very inspired from the momentous chapter in history.

Then, as now, the nation has responded by coming together for the national good. Then, as now, we are being asked to make sacrifices we never expected to make. One story from this era was revealed by former Army Air Forces Sergeant Lloyd Ponder. As a World War II veteran who was captured and made a prisoner of war, Ponder was determined to make it out of a Japanese-controlled Prisoner Of War camp alive. “Your mental attitude toward how you handle situations has a lot to do with your success.” Ponder said. “A lot of our fellas would give up, and they ended up not getting through it.” While Ponder was captured, he recalled what things in life were most important to him and had a burning desire to do whatever he could to survive. “Regardless of what others do, grit your teeth and do what needs to be done.” Ponder said. “Just never give up.” Physical labour and displays of suffering were a daily occurrence. Despite the difficulties, Ponder kept persevering and credits his survival on his determination. “I remember thinking if anyone is going to get out of this alive, it’s going to be me.” Ponder reflected. “Determination is the attitude you had to have, knowing you could survive whatever!” Ponder proudly shared that not only did he survive being held as a POW, but he also managed to accomplish something more miraculous. “When I got out, I didn’t have a scratch anywhere” Ponder exclaimed. “That’s a miracle!” According to Ponder, the only injury he received was self-inflicted …. from opening a can of rations.

Although times have changed, Ponder shares words of advice that were applicable to him more than 75 years ago. That is to always have hope, no matter what. “Hope makes a difference.” Ponder concluded. “If you don’t have hope, you’re gone. Having hope can get you through anything.” I am sure lots of you will have questions following Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday night regarding, amongst other things, how schools will gradually re-open. Firstly, we will do our best to make sure you are safe and protected when we do invite you back in. The senior management team at the school are planning ways to help you get back into the normality of school when it is safe to do so. This will probably start with checking your temperature every morning as you arrive. We will also operate classes with only 15 students and ensure you are all kept socially distant. For a while we will all have to accept that the day to day running of the school will change and lessons, the environment and the way we expect you to move around school will look and feel very different.

We have no exact dates yet of when you will return but we will keep you as updated as possible when we have further details to share. We do know that Year 10 will be the first to return and later this week all Year 10 students and parents will receive a letter explaining next steps. We know it is possible that we will not have Year 7, 8 and 9 back in to school for some time and to ensure that learning at home is as positive as possible we will soon be sending all of you details about how you might want to break up your study so that you do not feel too much pressure. We are also currently exploring ways that we can offer some on-line learning with some teachers and you should hopefully be hearing more about this in the next few weeks. We care about every single one of you and the most important thing is that you try to stay healthy and positive.

I know staying at home can sometimes feel quite lonely and you miss your friends but you are always in our thoughts and your teachers will help you in any way they can. If you are struggling please email your Heads of House who will always try to provide whatever support you need. I have said many times that the only thing that matters is that you are trying your best. It is our job to make sure that when we do return to school every student is given the opportunity to catch up on work missed so please don’t worry about falling behind. You can only do what you can at home and we know everyone’s home situation is different. I also want you to make sure you build in some time to enjoy other activities besides school work as it’s much better for your mind if you allow yourself some time to relax, exercise, be with family and enjoy life.

I am very pleased to see that we have had lots of entries to our competition to design a new cover for the school planner. When the competition closes we will pick a winner and the winning design will adorn the front of every student planner next year. Please also try to involve yourself in the weekly challenges being set by your Heads of House. Send us pictures when you do participate as we love to know that you are getting involved and being part of our community. We miss you all and look forward to eventually seeing you again soon. In the meantime please keep healthy and safe.

 

1 May 2020

I hope that you all are staying safe and well. I am sure that you are looking after your parents, family and friends. At this time, you must also ensure that you look after yourself. We have spoken to some parents who have informed us that some of you are placing undue pressure and stress on yourselves at this time. Please look after your wellbeing and take time for you. If there are issues with home learning then please contact us and we will help. Whilst we are not together in the school building, we all still belong to the same school and we are all here to support one another.

Mrs Mosley has asked me to pass the following guidance on to you which may help you as you continue with your home learning:

ï‚· try to stick to a set routine each day;

ï‚· take regular breaks from screens;

ï‚· try to do something positive and creative every day;

ï‚· do your work and contact your teachers between 8.40am and 3.00pm if necessary;

ï‚· be safe online. Never share passwords or personal information;

ï‚· submit the relevant work through email;

ï‚· stay active. Try to complete a physical activity each day;

ï‚· remember to treat your parents/carers kindly and fairly while at home;

ï‚· remember that staff at school are still here to support you if you need to talk;

ï‚· just try your best each day and do what you can.

 

As I have said, the most important thing is that you stay calm and just try to do some school work each day so that when we get back to normality you are able to get back in to the daily routines of school without too much trouble. I have seen so many examples on the news of people all over the world who have been learning new skills and getting involved in new activities to keep themselves going throughout lockdown.

Although Coronavirus has cancelled sporting events across the world, three pole vaulters returned to the sport from their gardens during the pandemic. They used video streaming to compete against each other in the ‘Ultimate Garden Clash’ last Sunday. The trio are among the world’s most accomplished vaulters. Mondo Duplantis from Sweden is the pole vault world-record holder, the USA’s Sam Kendricks is a multiple world champion and Renaud Lavillenie from France took gold at the 2012 Olympics. The three athletes worked together to devise their own competition format, fit for an age of social distancing. (I’m not quite sure what their neighbours on the other side of the fence thought though!) It is remarkable that these athletes have not allowed the virus to stop them from doing what they love – they just turned the threat of the virus into an opportunity; something that I hope we can all learn from.

I wonder what Dormston students are doing to keep themselves active and make the most of the time at home? Let’s also draw some hope and inspiration from Captain (now Colonel) Tom Moore who raised £33 million for the NHS. When he set out with his walking frame at the beginning of April he had a modest goal to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking up and down his garden 100 times before his 100th birthday. What followed was one of the most startlingly successful fundraising stories of our time. After completing his mission and whilst celebrating his birthday Tom said “Remember, tomorrow is a good day, tomorrow you will maybe find everything will be much better than today.” What a fantastic inspiration for us all and we should remember that even when times are tough we can do anything if we put our heart and soul into it.

It’s so important that during these tough times we look after each other in our families, our circle of friends and in the communities we live in. I would like to finish by sharing with you how much we miss all members of our school community. Teachers, parents, students, governors, indeed everyone connected to Dormston all have a part in making our community what it is and I miss the energy and buzz you all create within the school. We fully understand the reasons for our partial closure, however the school feels a very lonely place without you all. Please stay safe and well.

 

24 April 2020

Dear Students

“Keep going… Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going… tough situations build strong people in the end!”

I hope all Dormston students are keeping healthy and well and had a good Easter break (despite the strange circumstances we find ourselves in).

I think at times like this our resolve is tested to the limit and I am fairly certain that the majority of Dormston students will keep going. Please remember that one of our core values is that we are resilient and we never give in. As you are attempting the work the staff are setting please try your best but also remember that you will NOT get into trouble if you’ve had a go but not quite succeeded or done as well as you would want. I am very aware that in many households there is only one computer which is probably shared so just do what you can and be happy in the knowledge you’ve given it your best shot. When we all finally return to school we will make sure that everybody is given a chance to catch up so we all have the same knowledge and understanding. I also hope that you are helping out your parents and carers and being calm, respectful and helpful. At Dormston we want to make sure it’s a balance between trying to keep up with school work and also taking part in some fun but safe activities. Mrs Elliot, Mr Amos and your Heads of House will be launching a new challenge each week to get involved in. If you decide to have a go please send us photos or, even better, videos of you tackling the challenge. Mrs Otton will put together some of the photos and videos so that as a community we can all stay connected. Please email your photos and videos to kotton@dormston.dudley.sch.uk.

Last time I wrote this blog I shared with you some of the remarkable things people have been doing during the lock down. I thought it might be nice to tell you about other acts of kindness and resilience that I read about. When it comes to news about the coronavirus it’s all about switching the narrative from scaremongering to CAREMONGERING. These are some individual heroes proving love and kindness will always win.

Twitter hero Samantha Kelly set up a hashtag to help the vulnerable. In a time of self-isolation, communication is key. Ensuring those in need of help receive it is Samantha Kelly who started the hashtag #SelfisolationHelp. The idea is to join those who run errands to those who have been forced to self-isolate. Samantha said “There was so much negativity and I wanted to do something useful. This is about people feeling like they are not on their own, and that there are people out there who do want to help.”

Copywriter Becky Wass started a postcard scheme to combat loneliness. An inevitable side effect of self-isolation is loneliness. Aiming to combat it is freelance copywriter Becky

Wass who devised a postcard scheme that allows vulnerable members of society to request that others carry out certain errands for them. Becky designed the postcard that aims to help with essential errands whilst also offering more social services too like a chat on the phone.

Footballer Gary Neville offered up his hotels to NHS staff. Gary hit the headlines with the news that he is closing both of his hotels. In place of guests, Gary is offering rooms to NHS staff and medical professionals to support them whilst they self-isolate from family members. Gary said “We’ve been in consultation with health services and our 176 beds will be occupied by NHS staff. They will be free of charge and there will be absolutely no costs to the workers.”

Chef Jonny Burnett delivered meals for the isolated and vulnerable. With restaurants and cafes instructed to shut down, chef and business owners are turning their culinary talents to helping the isolated and vulnerable where they can. Helping the cause in Somerset chef Jonny Burnett who is cooking and delivering meals to those who cannot leave their homes. He said “I know a lot of people are isolated so I said to my boss, “I’ll take time off work unpaid and just start feeding as many people as possible.”

What is really important to note with all of the four examples I have given you is that none of them gained anything themselves from helping others… apart from the great feeling of doing something positive and making a huge difference to others that is.

I hope that you are being kind to others during these difficult times. It will mean so much if you offer a random act of kindness. I would like ALL Dormston pupils to pick one act of kindness from the list below and do it! (Try a new one each day if you’re feeling positive!)

· call a friend that you haven’t spoken to for a while;

· tell a family member how much you love them and appreciate them;

· make a cup of tea or coffee for someone you live with;

· arrange to have a cup of tea and a virtual catch up with someone you like;

· help with a household chore at home;

· arrange to watch a film at the same time as friend and video call them;

· tell someone you know that you are proud of them;

· tell someone you know why you are thankful for them;

· send a motivational text to a friend who is struggling;

· send someone you know a joke to cheer them up;

· send an inspirational quote to a friend;

· spend time playing with your pets;

· reach out to a neighbour who might be experiencing difficulty. Give them a call to check on them;

· donate to a charity;

· give praise to your family and friends;

· donate to a foodbank.

It will make the world of difference if you are kind not only to others but also to your own well-being and positivity.

Remember… tough situations build strong people in the end!

 

3 April 2020

Dear Students

Each week, until we return, I will add to this blog to keep you as updated as possible and ensure as Dormston community we stay connected.

I hope you are coping with this new way of working.  Although at the moment it might seem like this is just the start as this terrible virus affects the whole world, please always remember that this is temporary.  When I wrote the parent/carer weekly bulletin this week I included this quote which I think is so relevant right now:

“Remember, no storm lasts forever.  Hold on!  Be brave!  Have faith!  Every storm is temporary and we’re never alone.”

We will do our best as a school to get through this and ensure we try to support every single student and member of staff in whatever way we can.

There is no denying that we are currently seeing some terrible news at the moment on TV and it’s awful to hear about so many tragic deaths but through all this I think it’s also important that we applaud the efforts of so many people all around the world who are fighting so hard to ensure we beat this virus.  To that end, I hope that we are all on our doorsteps at 8.00pm each Thursday to show our appreciation for the NHS employees who are now working so hard to care for the sick.  I know that from my doorstep in Birmingham last Thursday the applause was resonant and heart felt and was an emotional experience that meant so much to so many.  Sticking together and supporting our communities is critical at this time.  I also really hope that the sense of community will continue long after our victory over the virus!

I appreciate that these are dark times for people around the world as the coronavirus continues to spread.  Numbers of infections and fatalities are rising, cities and even whole countries now are shutting and millions of people are being forced into isolation.  But amidst all the worrying news there have been so many reasons to find hope.  We are continually seeing so many acts of kindness.  Alongside the stories of panic buying and fights over toilet roll and tins, the virus has also spurred acts of kindness all around the world.

Two New Yorkers amassed 1,300 volunteers in 72 hours to deliver groceries and medicine to elderly and vulnerable people in the city.

Facebook reported that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK had joined local support groups set up for the virus, while similar groups have been formed in Canada, sparking a trend there known as ‘caremongering’.

People all around the world are donating money, sharing ideas and recipes.  People are exercising on-line together, sending uplifting messages to self-isolating and elderly people and transforming businesses into food distribution centres.  Pop stars, including Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and country singer Keith Urban have also been streaming live gigs to combat the boredom of self-isolation.  In future blogs I will share with you other glimmers of hope that have emerged throughout this terrible ordeal.

I for one hope all this CAREMONGERING continues for years to come!  It is something I definitely want to see when we return to Dormston.

I am assuming that you are all doing your bit too.  Our core value of RESPONSIBILITY is now probably more important than ever.

You can play your part by:

  • being responsible for ensuring you are keeping up to date with your school work;
  • being responsible for helping around the house whilst everyone works from home;
  • making sure you are behaving as well as you can for your parents/carers during this difficult time;
  • keeping an eye out for your neighbours to make sure they are all well;
  • being responsible by not mixing in groups.  Follow the Government advice of staying at home;
  • getting involved with any activities that support your local communities.  Please remember to always stay safe though;
  • staying connected and being kind to others on-line.

However you are taking responsibility I would love to hear about it.  Please let us know what you or your families are doing to support the fight against the virus.  You can email your stories or photographs to kotton@dormston.dudley.sch.uk and we will feature some of them in future blogs.

Stay safe and well please.

Mr Dixon

 

 

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