10th January, 2017
The Headmaster is on School business in China this week, so this edition of Headmaster’s Headlines is compiled by Mr Peter Hall, Senior Deputy Head.
I wish all readers of Headmaster’s Headlines a very Happy New Year! At the start of this Lent Term we are pleased to welcome six new pupils to the School. Calin joins our Third Form; Thomas and Cameron join our Shell Form (Cameron joins next week); Ferdinand and Felix join the School for 2 terms in the Shell and Fifth Forms respectively; and Marcos joins us on an exchange from St George’s College, Argentina.
We also welcome to the School Ms Watson, our new Part Time Nurse and Dr Sapsford, our new Classics Teacher.
The Headmaster prepared some notes for the Start of Term Assembly, which I relayed to the School on his behalf:
“Christmas and New Year are always a fascinating time. You look backwards, you enjoy the present and you look forwards to the future. Those of you who know me will know that some of my highlights have remained the same, namely, listening to the Christmas Eve Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge, attending St Mary’s Episcopalian Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh and the Festal Eucharist on Christmas Day and listening to this year’s New Year’s Concert which took place under the baton of the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel in the golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. He is the youngest conductor at the age of 35! Age and longevity do not preclude talent rising to the top!
But actually, one of the real highlights of my break was listening to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II delivering her annual address and the Christmas message to the Nation and the Commonwealth. To be honest, I do not always listen to this, but this year I have listened to this on at least five occasions. Why? Well, I think her words say it all. Listen and see what you think. There are many, many powerful words for all of us. For example, the Queen evoked the words of Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta), as in, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The Queen spoke about the importance of inspiration and how inspiration feeds aspiration. She talked about the true meaning of the word inspire, which literally means ‘to breathe in’ and how when we face a challenge, we sometimes talk about taking a deep breath to find courage or strength.
She talked about Christ’s example and how billions of people find in him the guiding light for their lives. She said, “I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them, and whatever they themselves believe.” She spoke about the importance of the message of Christmas, reminding us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small, but always grows. Enjoy listening to the words of Her Majesty the Queen, and how remarkable it is that she has been on the throne for 64 years …”
You can watch the Queen’s Christmas message by following this link:
“I really hope that we have enjoyed the period of Christmas, namely the Twelve Days and Nights of Christmas. Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas and the twelve days are the 25 December to the 5 January. The evening of 5 January was technically the last day of Christmas festivities and 6 January saw Epiphany for this symbolises the arrival of the Three Wise Men with their gifts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. And I knew nothing about the concept of Bless This House. So, at Castle Gates on the night of Thursday 6 January we walked around the house lighting a candle asking the house to be blessed with love, light, peace and comfort.
And actually, that reminds me of our word puzzle with regard to the Merchiston house.
At the end of this part of the morning, I am going to ask the Chaplain to bless this House of Merchiston and to light a candle asking the House of Merchiston to be blessed with love, light, peace and comfort.”
Looking back on last term
It was a marvellous term, but the Headmaster wishes to address immediately at the beginning of this term standards, standards, standards! Getting the small details right ensures that a successful bigger picture develops. Whilst so many of our boys and young men look smart, some basic standards at Merchiston have slipped, so I urged the School to please take pride in their appearance and a pride in belonging to the Merchiston community.
Mr Charman addressed the School in a little more detail on this topic:
“I would like to talk very briefly about an area of School life which we had to work on at the end of last term and this work will continue throughout this term. This area is standards and in particular how one carries oneself around the School. We would expect the very basic of standards of standing up when an adult walks in the classroom, holding of doors and greeting members of the community with “good morning” and of course greeting staff and guests with Ma’am or Sir. It wasn’t too long ago when a pupil would ask to leave the table at lunch or at least excuse themselves. I certainly say to my colleagues, “Please excuse me and I hope you have a good afternoon”!
How you dress and dressing correctly is an area of development throughout the School. At the end of last term every boy in the School received an email from me with regards to dressing correctly with reference to one or two specific areas of development.
Why should we take time and take pride in how we look?
- It’s all about that first impression!
How do you come across when you meet someone for the first time? How do visitors perceive you as a member of this community?
- How you look reflects your attitude.
If you start the day by not dressing smartly, this approach can and often set the tone for your day at School.
- Taking pride in yourself improves your confidence.
A pro-active approach to dressing smartly in the morning will help you put your best foot forward. When you dress smartly and take pride in your appearance you will be rightly confident in yourself.
There are many boys who look very smart in all areas of School. In class, their top button is done up, their shirt is tucked in, their shoes are clean, their tie is straight. There are many boys who adhere to the school rules of when to wear their tracksuits and when not to and there are many boys who clean their shoes regularly and shave accordingly. There are many boys who have their socks pulled up on the games field and there are many boys who wear the correct shoes to formal occasions. However, there are quite a few who do not!
This whole area is about you taking pride in yourselves and you taking pride in your school and belonging to Merchiston. So moving forwards staff and prefects will be working with you to improve in this area and I will certainly look forward to congratulating boys in this area.”
Each one of us is responsible. Merchiston for years has been praised to the skies for its sense of Manners Makyth Man and attention to detail. And what we have to do is to concentrate on a rigorous approach to all areas of School life.
Seth Godin writes, “Doing things with rigour takes effort, but not everything we put effort into is done with rigour. Rigour is a focus on process. Paying attention to not just how we do things, but why. Rigour requires us to never use an emergency as an excuse. Rigour is a process for the long haul, and the work of a professional.” Let’s do the basics with rigour.
So I now wish to move like I traditionally do, after that admonishment, and the encouragement to pull our socks up, to the present Lent Term 2017. I reminded the School, that whilst huge progress was made last term with regard to what I call “putting the building blocks in place”, we need to continue to think about these building blocks in all aspects of School life. The Mission Statement plays an important part in reminding us of our aspirations, namely “To lead young people in the pursuit of personal excellence through a well-rounded education”. We develop this Mission Statement with our Aims and Vision, which can be found in the front of your calendars. The Captain of School and Heads of House read out the Aims and Vision to the School, in addition to the Headmaster’s ‘simple mantras’ and ‘rhetorical questions’, and readers of Headmaster’s Headlines can read about this by following the link.
There is so much to look forward to in this second term of the Academic Year 2016/17, and we welcomed each other back into the community with Handshaking. I addressed the School, “So, we pull our shoulders back and walk out of this tremendously important building at the centre of Merchiston, the Memorial Hall and we will envisage and imagine how we are going to strive to do our best this term, in all aspects of School life: academic; cultural; sporting and how we are as people to each other in the School and to others outside the School. We will hold out our hands and say “Hello Sir”, “Hello Ma’am” and I expect staff will reciprocate!”