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    The reaction of the Merchiston community to the need to return to distance learning has been truly inspirational. Whilst we would all dearly love to be back together in School, the drive and adaptability shown by everyone at Merchiston has meant that we can all remember that adversity brings opportunities too. As I have moved through morning House Meetings across all sections of the School I have heard pupils and staff supporting each other and demonstrating remarkable good humour, commitment and engagement. The boys and staff are involved in charitable efforts, social activities, fitness sessions, challenges and, of course, an impressive academic effort with a full timetable of lessons, tutor meetings and assessments.

    Exterior of Merchiston Castle School at sunset - image with link to a Sway

    At Merchiston we talk a lot about wellbeing and resilience and any strategies that we have previously shared with the school community have never felt more important than now. It is so reassuring to see the openness and willingness of the boys to share their thoughts and experiences and this dialogue means that we can all feel connected and supported. Nobody should feel that they are alone in this challenging situation and the strength of the Merchiston community has been a beacon of positivity in these uncertain times.

    One of the challenges for any school is to keep our messages fresh and relevant, avoiding a sense of repetition that will undermine the importance of the message. So we look for other voices and other experiences to help frame our own situation, to reassure us that we are not the only ones feeling low, lost, flat and deeply worried about the future. In House Meetings I have shared the words and thoughts of Dr Lucy Hone, an expert in wellbeing and resilience, and I have included 2 links below for you to hear her in person.

    Dr Lucy Hone presenting a TED Talk

    What is so inspiring about her words is the fact that she has managed to distil her years of research through the condenser of tragic personal experience. She deals with this in a very matter of fact way as she points out that the one thing that we all have in common is that life will bring tough times, that adversity is part of life and if we accept that fact it can be hugely reassuring when facing an apparently impossible hill to climb. That is the first of her three simple keys. The second is that we must all try to tune into the good. It is easy to dwell on the bad, but let’s list the many positives that each day brings and fill our minds with those, leaving less room for the negative thoughts. Thirdly, she asks us to all consider asking ourselves a simple question and giving an honest answer – “Is this helping or harming me?” Is the way I am feeling or acting lifting me up or pulling me down? We will all have to find our own answer to this daily question, but the greatest strength of being part of such a strong and supportive community as Merchiston is that we know that there are people here to help.

    The first is a 5 minute clip and the second one is a TED talk by Lucy Hone where she gives a slightly longer explanation of her three secrets of resilient people. I hope that the message of community, of connecting with others and the fact that we are together in this experience, even if it is online, offers us a way forward and offers us skills that we can use well beyond the current challenge.

     

     

    Alan Johnston, Senior Deputy Head