Headmaster’s Headlines

Headmaster’s Headlines

16th May, 2018

First, it was apt to welcome formally to the School pupils who joined us at the beginning of this term, namely Jerry from Shenzhen as a boarder in our First Form and Teo from Perthshire, a boarder in our Second Form. It is always a pleasure to welcome younger brothers and Teo is a younger brother of Alex in our Shell! Equally, we welcome Matthew to Merchiston who is on an exchange from Michaelhouse, South Africa!

Thoughts and Highlights
Merchiston Pipe Band ConcertThis week in Headmaster’s Assembly, I spoke about the concepts of practice, performance and persistence, and re-framing of fear as excitement! It’s obvious why I spoke about this theme, as week by week, we have pupils undertaking public examinations, and “turning on the go system” is really important. But of course, we all understand the anxiety of many a situation facing many a pupil this term. So, here are the words I spoke to the School:
“I would like to say thank you to all members of the School who participated in our Piping and Drumming Concert last Tuesday. Thank you also to the pupils and parents who supported! Mrs Hunter and I thought this was one of the best such concerts we have heard at the School. Thank you to each and every one of you. I was also absolutely delighted that the pupils who have attended Merchiston’s Sounds Like Friday also participated as the Edinburgh Schools Pipe Band.
And actually, you proved again that to learn an instrument, one must practise, perform and persist – three important ps giving wings to the mind. By the way, do not miss out on a lunchtime recital by one of our Upper Sixth Formers, Rory, in here at 1.30pm on Thursday. He’ll show you the value of practice, performance and persistence!
And one must repeat the virtuous circle of practice, performance and persistence! I also think that of a Friday morning when I hear the choir rehearsing. Well done to you all for practising, performing and persisting!
But actually, there is a lot of practising performing and persisting happening this term as members of staff (with you) look after the Fifth Form and the Upper Sixth in the process of very important public examination preparation. Equally, the rest of the School gears up for practice examinations later in the term. And of course, there is much practising, performing and persisting happening on all our games’ pitches!
originalsBut a former member of staff, Mr Clayton, a previous Head of Economics and member of the Academic Leadership Team, last year forwarded some words from a book entitled Originals by Adam Grant. He felt that these words might be helpful for you all. What about gearing yourselves up for the concept of practice, performance and persistence in a slightly different way? It may just be worth considering this approach!”
Don’t Stop Believin’
In Chapter 8 of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant provides strategies for dealing with fear. People often think that the best way to manage fear is to try and relax and calm down. However, research by Professor Alison Wood Brooks at Harvard Business School has challenged this perception. Students were asked to make a persuasive speech to their peers with only two minutes to prepare. During the preparation time, the students were randomly assigned to say either “I am calm” or “I am excited”. That one word, calm versus excited, was sufficient to significantly alter the quality of their speeches. When students labelled their emotions as excitement, their speeches were rated to be significantly more persuasive and confident by their peers. Reframing fear as excitement also appeared to motivate the speakers because they spent longer speaking: on average, an extra 37 seconds on stage. In another experiment, Professor Wood Brooks investigated the value of acknowledging our anxiety. Students were asked to sing a rendition of the Journey song Don’t Stop Believin’ in front of their peers, and the accuracy of their performance was scored by a voice recognition programme. Before they started singing, the students were randomly assigned to say “I am anxious” or “I am excited”. Labelling the emotion as anxiety reduced the accuracy of their performances by 53% compared to a control group. Labelling the emotion as excitement increased accuracy by up to 80%. Her research suggests that in order to overcome fear, it is better to get excited rather than to try and calm yourself down. Also, acknowledging anxiety does not help you accept fear, it just reinforces that you are afraid. In order to explain this, Adam Grant talks about how the intense emotion of fear means that it is very difficult to suppress it and calm down, and much easier to convert it to an equally strong emotion such as anxiety or excitement. These intense emotions either activate our “stop system” that makes us more cautious and vigilant, or they activate our “go system” that makes us excited. Imagining a dismal failure activates anxiety and triggers the “stop system”, which may reduce our enthusiasm and therefore reduce our potential to succeed. On the other hand, converting or “reframing” the fear as excitement activates the “go system”, increases our motivation, and increases the likelihood of success.
So, turn on the go system! I hope you too all enjoy singing along to Journey’s rock song from the 1980s Don’t Stop Believin’. And actually, to all the pupils at Merchiston, don’t stop believing.

Merchiston AliFirst, the National Young Writers’ Awards is an annual competition for youngsters aged 4-14. Many of the pupils in our Junior School entered this UK wide competition this year, writing short stories about someone whom they would describe as a hero. We are absolutely delighted that Ali from our First Form class has been selected as the overall winner for our region. This means that Ali’s story is down to the final 100 entries in the competition and he is now in with a chance of winning a trip to Disneyland Paris, £500 of books for the school and a school visit from the competition judge, comedian and children’s author, David Walliams. It was a pleasure to congratulate Ali alongside our Head of English, Mrs Binnie.

Secondly, we did have a lot of sport in this week’s Headmaster’s Assembly, but this is no bad thing as we encompassed six different sports! Merchiston can never be described as a one-trick pony! So, first of all in cricket, the 1XI progressed to the semi-final of the T20 Scottish Schools Cup after a 35 run victory against Stewart’s Melville College. The 2XI tied and the 3XI won against Fettes College. The Pringle 1XI, 2XI, U11As, U11Bs all won against Fettes. The Pringle 3XI and U9s lost. The U14As, Pringle 1XI and U12s won against Dollar; the U15As lost. The 2XI, U15As, U15Bs, U14As, U14Bs won against Loretto; the 1XI lost. The U9s and U10s won against the Compass. A special mention to Matthew who completed the first hat trick of the 2018 season for the U15As against Loretto. He finished with figures of 4-9 off his 1.4 overs.

Merchiston Athletics pupilsMoving to athletics, a new initiative has happened whereby on several occasions our athletes jump on a bus to Pitreavie Stadium , and the facilities are marvellous! So congratulations to our U15 relay team, who won their 4x100m with a time of 51.07s. Well done to Amaan, Alex, Drew and Matteo. The second visit to Pitreavie was a track competition day. This was a great opportunity for our pupils to run times in their events to see if they could qualify for the Scottish Schools. Congratulations to Rory and Teddy who won their 100m and 200m.

Equally, well done to Amaan, Daniel and Oskar who also ran well and met the standard needed for the Scottish Schools. And isn’t it amazing that yesterday, Tuesday, our pupils travelled to Pitreavie again for a match against Glenalmond, Fettes and Strathallan. Well done to the coaches of all the schools for thinking outside the box!

In tennis, the U15s won against Hutchesons’ Grammar. There was also a round robin tournament of the U18 squad with teams from Royal Grammar School, Newcastle and George Heriot’s.

Merchiston Miquel, Daniel and LyleIn golf, congratulations to Lyle and Miquel who were crowned Turnbull and Milne Cup winners for 2018. Moreover, well done to Lyle, Daniel, Juan and Miquel who finished in third place at the ISGA Wellington Salver event. This event invites over 80 of the UK’s most exciting golfers!

Merchiston FreddieMoving to hockey, congratulations to Freddie, who has been selected for the U14 East of Scotland squad. He will now compete in the inter-regional competition this weekend. This is the second year in a row that we have had pupils involved in this district squad, with Max last year.

Conclusion and Highlights
Last week saw a full programme of lessons, sport and activities, trips and concerts. The J4 and J5 Summer Poetry and Music evening was very successful; this event not only saw the work of the pupils displayed, but it gave the pupils the opportunities to develop important presentation skills in public. Over the weekend, Mr Harkins and Mrs Weaving took a small group of Pringle pupils on the first of the Summer Pringle Camps. The weather was very kind to this group and they clearly had a wonderful time.

Again, two simple words, thank you. Thank you to the pupils from Chalmers West for representing yourselves and the School so well on Saturday morning at St George’s, at the opening of the St George’s new Anne Everest Pavilion.

Moving to some more highlights. First, our Grounds Staff have done an extraordinary job in returning the grounds to their very high order after a rather chilly winter and spring! On Saturday, the campus looked beautiful in the summer sun and it was a pleasure seeing so many pupils and parents involved in the home cricket fixtures. And on Saturday night Mrs Hunter and I attended the start of the South Africa Rugby Tour Fundraising Dinner. This was a really joyful event held at Goldenacre. Moreover, the number of rugby legends, past and present, six Scottish Internationalists and British Lions, let alone the present Scottish National Coach, all assembled in one room was inspirational. Just take a look at the roll of honour!
Colin Deans
Scott Hastings
Stuart Hogg
Andy Irvine
John Jeffrey (Merchistonian 72-77)
Gregor Townsend

And again, two important words, thank you. I was really, really impressed by our pupils who were present and I know that the whole touring party appreciates the efforts of all the staff and parent helpers to deliver such a successful evening.

My third highlight is a small but significant one. Last week, in swimming, we hosted our annual U12 invitational Prep School gala. This was a great success with some excellent performances, and Clifton Hall ran out eventual winners. But my highlight was the student leadership of two of our pupils. Thank you to the student leaders of swimming, Kaixin and Charlie, as they were a real help to the organisation and running of the event. As leaders of swimming in the School, their work with the junior pupils is much appreciated, and falls in line with the values which we look to promote within sport in the school, and indeed, within the student leadership, and that special type of student leadership, namely, servant leadership.
I understand that the weather is set fair for the week, and whilst we do have many a pupil gearing up for turning on the “go system”, I reminded one and all to appreciate the beauty around us.

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