School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 8/07/2022
Slowing Down At The Campfire
Yesterday I had one of my final Mindfulness sessions with the Year 6 pupils and we discussed the importance of having ‘campfire time' to deal with the stresses of modern day living. Back in the days when humans had to go out hunting for food, our bodies were programmed for survival and that fight, flight or freeze reaction was a lifesaver - it enabled us to ‘act smart' without having to 'think smart' (which takes longer). Campfire time gave the hunters time to rest, relax and recover from a stressful day of hunting.
Modern stressors trigger mental activity rather than physical activity. Because of this, we do not tend to spend and burn up our stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Instead, these may end up getting stored in our bodies. They can accumulate over time and increase our baseline levels of stress, so that we may end up living our lives in a perpetual state of stress! This in turn may lead to more over-thinking and rumination. If this sounds familiar, you are definitely not alone.
As I discussed these ideas with the Year 6 pupils, there was a lot of nodding and agreement and they shared their thoughts with each other. They articulated where they wear their ‘stress signatures’ or how they feel ‘stress’ in their bodies, minds and actions. Our pupils are so astute and tuned into their minds and bodies that some of their responses in this session were incredibly moving.
Adults and children alike need that campfire time. As adults, we need to model healthy behaviours to our children, including being able to slow down and allow ourselves to rest, relax and recover.
I have been following Carl Honore for some time now and he is such an advocate of ‘slow’. His latest book, Bolder, certainly hits a note for me. In this, he attempts to eradicate the negativity surrounding ageing and argues for recognition of the positive aspects of ageing. I am now happily embracing my mid-fifties!
The last few weeks in any school are incredibly busy but here at St. Helen’s College our last few weeks have really packed a punch. Tonight I felt quite overwhelmed at what I still have to achieve in such a short space of time. I recognised this in my body as I reached for paracetamol for the headache I had been ignoring! But instead of popping the paracetamol I picked up a magazine which has been sitting on my desk for several weeks, flicked through it and chuckled as I savoured the Kids National Geographic! I slowed down and did something enjoyable, rested and read a short snippet about how music matters. Grooving along to funky music, singing, chilling and listening to music improves your mental wellbeing (we all know this but do we all do this enough?). I now admit to you all that the weekend before last I had a ‘Glastonbury’ weekend! No, I was not at Worthy Farm - but I danced around my living room on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and had the time of my life, so that by the time Monday came I felt rested, refreshed and ready for the week ahead!
So, what are you going to do for your campfire time - how will you slow down this weekend? Whatever you are doing, however you rest and recharge, value this time - it could be a lifesaver!
Posted on: 21/06/2022
Tradition by Mrs. Crehan
Mr Crehan and I attended a very successful Sports Day on Friday. At the final ceremony Mrs Drummond unexpectedly asked if I would like to say something to the gathering. Observant parents will have noticed the slight tussle between Mr Crehan and myself - he is always so good at the on-the-spot speeches whereas I would rather think it through beforehand and this is why I will frequently sing my speeches at weddings/ events and also at the end of term to the leaving teachers - I prefer to have time to think it all through and consider my words (often rhyming!)
I woke up in the early hours of the morning and realised that I did have something I'd like to say on the subject of this year's Prep Sports Day but I wasn't ready to say it on the day, so here it is in a blog! ( Not a song on this occasion.)
I go back a long way in St.Helen's history. I was 11 years old when we moved in to Cambria to live when my mother, Mrs Evans, took over the school from Mrs Hempstead, who was the 2nd head teacher in its history. I have been associated with St. Helen's for 52 years of its 98 years. ( Any ideas for how to celebrate our centenary in 2 years time gratefully appreciated!)
So 52 years ago St.Helen's Sports Day took place in the grounds of Oak Farm, exactly where our Lower School buildings stand today. We had 60 metre tracks painted out and the races were sprints, slow bicycle ( where you try to be last to cross the line by wobbling slowly on your bicycle), egg and spoon, sack race and dressing up race where you put on various items of clothing and then race to the finish. I don't think there were any field events.
Going back as far as I do, I am aware of tradition and not losing some of the things from the past that we have valued at St. Helen's, perhaps for sentimental reasons, while obviously embracing things that are clearly beneficial to the children and the school.
This Sports Day was very different under the sports leadership of Mr. Harrington; it was a great improvement on the distant past and even on the more recent past. It was fantastic that every child got the opportunity to try every field event, as well as timing each child individually in their sprints so that the finals were fairly raced against the fastest children in the afternoon. The all day format and the huge help offered by the Year 9 ex-St.Helen's children meant that the day was reasonably relaxed for the staff, and hopefully the parents enjoyed the opportunity to follow their children around the stadium followed by a picnic lunch with their family.
There were many other changes; the most memorable was the whole school relay with every child running in short bursts, governed by a flag being waved Grand Prix style by a staff member.
So this was clearly a great improvement on the Sports Days of 50 years ago but there is something that hasn't changed underlying the day; mainly the strong values demonstrated, but also the attention to detail and the meticulous organization.
There is something special about the essence of St.Helen's which has been handed down through the generations and is still very tangible today - the DNA that also brought so many ex- pupils back to our school fete.
A unique factor from St. Helen's history is that there have been only 5 sets of heads ( sets in that two sisters founded the school and then Mr Crehan and I led the school together) in almost a century and each head has chosen their own successor according to their values and the direction they want for the school. This will have led to a strong unison of purpose over the years, which is still imbued by every teacher and pupil.
Just as the baton is passed on in a school relay each pupil needs to hold on to the core essence of St. Helen's and then pass it on to the next generation of pupils to preserve for hopefully our next few hundred years!
Our unique DNA is our firm foundation on which we build the future, and St.Helen's is very forward- thinking in every area of the curriculum.
Aren't you glad I didn't say or sing all this at the end of a baking hot Sports Day?
'It ain't what we do, it's the way that we do it!'
Posted on: 10/06/2022
Celebrating OpportunitiesAs we returned to school on Monday after a glorious weekend of Jubilee celebrations, I was somewhat apprehensive that perhaps our St. Helen’s College Platinum Jubilee celebration day might not quite have the impact we had hoped for due to it falling after the official weekend of events. However, I was not disappointed as our school community came together in true St. Helen’s College style to continue the pomp and ceremony of the events of the weekend. Everyone looked wonderful in red, white and blue, with crowns and flags bearing regalia. We had singing, dancing and fanfares as the Jubilee competition flags were raised and the most wonderful tea parties across the school. We revisited the values of the Commonwealth and it was warming to hear the children discuss how many of those values are also being embodied here at St. Helen’s College. Your children are such a joy to be around each day and they certainly appreciate every opportunity that comes their way.
We have now had four incredibly successful residential trips for our Year 3 through to Year 6 pupils and I thoroughly enjoyed my week in France with Year 6. I am somewhat saddened to hear that some schools have not yet reinstated their pre-covid offerings of residential trips to students or have resisted travelling overseas with them. We were delighted that our chateau in France, ‘Chateau de la Baudonniere’, was reopened and that we could enjoy all the opportunities offered by such a residential school trip. Over the years of attending numerous school residentials I have often been asked by friends outside of education why I enjoy taking children on such trips. Until you have experienced one it is hard to put into words what we gain from them as adults. However, I can say with my hand on my heart that it is a privilege and pleasure to spend time with the children of St. Helen’s College on residentials. It is undoubtedly incredibly hard work and a huge responsibility for staff to act ‘in loco parentis’ for so many children, but the cohort of Year 6 pupils this year were such great company in France and throughout the week. No matter where we were, either onsite or out and about visiting other places, we received so many positive comments from members of the general public. Our pupils really do stand out among the crowd with their manners and social etiquette and they show genuine enthusiasm for the opportunities they are given.
This week I joked with the staff at our staff meeting and the children in assembly and recommended that we all buckle ourselves in for a fast and furious roller coaster ride this half term, as the school calendar is jam packed with so many wonderful opportunities for our children and the community in general. This week has not disappointed us - and as we enter the weekend exhilarated from the past 5 days, do remember to allow your children to recharge over the weekend. Next week brings an abundance of new learning and opportunities!
Happy weekend everyone!
Posted on: 20/05/2022
WellbeingDuring our Wellbeing Day this week, we spoke with pupils about the five pillars of wellbeing, which are:
To take notice
To be active
To keep learning
The children here at St. Helen’s College are encouraged daily (not just on Wellbeing Day!) to live their lives according to these five pillars. I have been reflecting today on how, as a school, we do this.
There is great joy in giving. We teach the children about performing acts of selfless service, raising money for those less fortunate and the importance of giving time to friends or those who are struggling.
Connecting with others is one of the most important things in life. Through our values programme, we explore friendship, co-operation, determination, love, kindness and more. In class, on the playing field and in music and drama productions, children learn to work collaboratively with others. But it is in our Mindfulness, Philosophy for Children and Positive Psychology programmes that connectedness really comes alive. We help the children to develop positive, enriching listening skills and to connect not just with others, but with their own thoughts and feelings.
Taking notice can mean many things, from stopping to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, to thinking about how other people are feeling and the reasons for their behaviour, to concentrating on something new, to developing self-awareness by noticing our own emotions and thoughts. We encourage our pupils to take notice of themselves, their community and their world. So often, taking notice is the first step in taking responsibility.
We all know that being active is important for both physical and mental health. You only have to look at the playgrounds here at school to see the joy that simply running and climbing can bring. Through active playtimes and a well-planned and expertly-delivered PE and Games programme and co-curricular programme, we ensure that the children have plenty of physical activity during their time at school.
And so to the fifth pillar, learning. It is no surprise to hear from a Headteacher that this is one of the most important things in life. Every day here is a school day, and every day really should be a school day for all of us. Certainly the children at St. Helen’s College are learning daily, but so too are the adults. We are engaged in professional, creative and personal development through formal channels, of course, but we also take every opportunity to learn from your children who, so often, have something new to teach us.
I hope that parents, too, will embrace the five pillars of wellbeing to support your own physical and mental health and to model healthy living to your children. It can be hard to prioritise yourself, but your own wellbeing is the most important thing, so please do!
You might also like to take a look at the wellbeing homework that has been shared with your children - maybe you could have a go too. You can see it here.
Have a wonderful weekend of wellbeing!
Posted on: 22/04/2022
21st Century EducationAt the beginning of our summer term I felt that it was an ideal opportunity to remind us of the St. Helen’s College aims:
Love of Learning
We aim to inspire a lifelong thirst for creative, stimulating and rewarding learning, leading to the full development of every child’s academic potential.
We aim to instil core moral values, inspiring virtue, responsibility, resilience, independence, mindful self-awareness and a desire for continuing self-development.
Involvement and Challenge
We aim to inspire an ongoing desire to develop talents, nurture the widest possible range of interests, and contribute to society as confident, compassionate and responsible citizens and leaders of the future.
These aims also extend to our staff and many of you may be aware that as a staff we are also committed to be lifelong learners and it is by continuing on this path of professional learning that we can continue to inspire and challenge your children.
On Tuesday we welcomed a guest speaker to St. Helen’s College - Professor Guy Claxton. Guy is a world-renowned cognitive scientist and emeritus Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Winchester. He has influenced educational theory and practice across the world and I was delighted that he was able to attend our staff training day to share his views on education for the 21st Century. I do not intend to reiterate what Guy shared with us but I highly recommend that you read one of his blogs here.
Here is an extract from his blog:
“A few days ago I had a very thought-provoking and productive lunch with my friends Becky Carlzon and Adrian Bethune. Becky is the guiding spirit behind Learning Pioneers and co-author, with me, of Powering Up Children: The Learning Power Approach to Primary Teaching. Adrian is founder of Teachappy (“Happier Teachers, Happier Children”), and a great ambassador for mindfulness in education.
I came away fired up about how important it is to build education around a clear specification of the kinds of young people we are aiming to develop: what do they really need to know; be able to do; and be like in their attitudes and mindsets? And saddened, yet again, at the astonishing level of intellectual lethargy displayed by society at large. Where are the urgent debates about what an education fit for the 21st century should be like? Almost nowhere. (Even Radio 4 only dips a superficial toe into this shark-infested water every now and again.)
So on the train back to Sussex I bashed out the following. What do you think?
What we need is a shared vision of education as empowering young people with the knowledge, values, capabilities and character strengths to be a force for good in the world, and thus find the continuing fulfilment of a life well lived. This means:
Giving young people opportunities to explore many different potential avenues of excellence (both within 'school' and beyond),and discover the interests and occupations that may give their lives purpose, meaning and the kind of quiet happiness with themselves that is so different from complacency.
Giving them a diet of escalating challenges that will engage their energy and effort, the exercise of which will naturally lead them to develop a background 'mindset' of generalisable character strengths (aka 'positive learning dispositions' or 'qualities of mind') such as these "12 Pillars of Fulfilment":
presence - being alive to all the features and complexities of significant situations
discernment - having a reliable moral 'nose' for that which is fulfilling, nurturing and 'wholesome'
self-care - creating their own social and physical ecology - habits of rest and recreation, sources of nurturance, support and advice - so that they can bring their full energy and intelligence to the pursuit of their passions
critical thinking and ‘fake news’ detection - discerning and calling out that which is sham, shallow, specious or seductive (a la Greta Thunberg)
self-awareness - an honesty and vigilance about the habits, beliefs and insecurities that might be their Achilles Heels or lead them astray
craftmanship - being dissatisfied with anything but their best; willing to practise, draft, revise and respond to feedback
adaptability - having the awareness and resourcefulness to change tack and adjust as they go along
collegiality - having a friendly and open attitude that makes it easy for them to find and join teams and communities that support their core purposes
buoyance and resilience – being able to bounce back from frustration and setbacks and recommit to their goals
self-discipline - prioritising and devoting energy and perseverance to that which is truly important to them
curiosity - a judicious keenness to engage with and investigate novelties, challenges and uncertainties that bear on their values and projects
imagination - the ingenuity to create fresh possibilities of thought and action that further their purposes
I see these as constituting the trunk – the ‘common core’ of a viable character - out of which can grow all the varied branches – the interests, passions and idiosyncrasies that make everyone unique and special.
Seeing mindfulness-like practices as on-going practical supports for developing all these qualities of mind – as the evidence indeed suggests it is. Organisations like the Mindfulness in Schools Project need to present mindfulness as much more deeply valuable than just helping to reduce stress. It is an all-purpose fertiliser for the growth of a strong and supple mind.
Equipping youngsters with the starter kits of knowledge and skill that will enable them to make progress as both actors and learners. This is hard but vital. Why Trigonometry rather than Neuroscience? Why the Tudors rather than the critical analysis of Fake News?
Enabling teachers to embrace their role as coaches and guides, and to develop their own resources and sensibilities, in the service of their students' journeys. An army of teachers who were keen to grow and extend their skill and insight day-by-day would transform children’s experience of school.
Enabling teachers and school leaders to harness (and if necessary resist or subvert) external pressures and requirements on them and their students that threaten to derail this vision. Innovation will come from brave and ingenious school principals and their staff, not from Whitehall.”
Don’t you think that the pillars of fulfilment sound very similar to what we here at St. Helen’s College aspire to achieve with your children? Much of what Guy discussed with us enabled us to reflect on our pedagogical practices and as a teaching team we will be continuing to review our curricula and practices in order to prepare our children for their futures.
Last night we held a meeting for parents of our current Year 3 and Year 4 pupils as they begin to think about the next step in their child’s educational journey. The aim of the evening was to lay out what we do at school to prepare your children for senior school transition and assessments. Pupil wellbeing is crucial to their ability to learn and flourish and we hope that the information shared has been food for thought for all who attended.
It is so important that we do not compare children with each other but allow them to develop their interests and talents and recognise that they all make progress at different rates but also may need different input to enable them to unlock understanding and hone their skills.
I will leave you with a wonderful analogy I heard in the staffroom this morning:
For a plant to flourish to its magnificent best, it needs to be nurtured and grown in the right conditions. All need light, water and nutrients but some need shade and clay soil whilst others need sun and sandy soil. People, too, thrive in different conditions. We need to provide the conditions in which children will flourish. The type of school that best suits one child may be entirely wrong for another. The route to finding a place where a child will grow and excel is not to look for the most prestigious school and expect the child to adapt to that school but to find the school that best fits a child.
You may wish to watch this video here where Guy discusses the concept of ‘Learning being Learnable’. I have been inspired by how the St. Helen’s College staff embrace every opportunity to connect with your children and how committed they are to the continuous learning process for not only your children but for themselves too! What an amazing community we have!
Here’s to a wonderful summer term ahead!
Posted on: 25/03/2022
AnastasiaWe are hoping and praying that Anastasia will arrive with our family in the next week or so, over the Easter holidays. She is from Lviv, Ukraine and, aged 18, she is travelling by herself to seek refuge from the war. Her family (grandmother, father and 12 year old brother) are trapped in Kherson, the city where Anastasia grew up and was educated. Kherson has been under Russian occupation since 3rd March, one week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and its citizens are unable to leave. The humanitarian crisis is deepening daily there; citizens are running out of basic supplies and this week, it was reported that Russian soldiers opened fire on peaceful protests in the city.
Anastasia had left Kherson and was living and working in Lviv when the Russian invasion began. She was a lead generation manager for a marketing company and was renting a flat with friends. She hoped to work, save money and then travel, having left Ukraine only once during her childhood. But she did not plan to travel as she is now: alone, with no home to go back to and with constant fear over her family’s safety.
Exactly two weeks after the war began, Anastasia decided to leave her flat and job in Lviv. Lviv is in the west of Ukraine and, although it was not under attack when she left, it was already flooded with citizens from other parts of Ukraine who were taking refuge there or travelling through towards other European countries. As an 18 year old with no family in Lviv and no way to reconnect with her besieged family in Kherson, Anastasia would have been very vulnerable if/when the Russians reached Lviv. The friends with whom she was living met the requirements for the Ukraine army and so could not leave. She says, anyway, that they wanted to stay. But I am so glad that she was able to leave when she did. She travelled first to Poland. A kind Polish family helped her to find a place to stay in Barcelona. She made a bus journey alone all the way from Poland to Madrid and then got a train to Barcelona. That is where she was when we made contact with her.
My husband and I knew, as soon as the UK government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched, that we had to register as hosts. Our two sons (aged 20 and 19) live away at university, coming back to us now in the holidays and for the odd weekend. We talked to them about the scheme and they wholeheartedly support our family taking part. They both offered their bedrooms for Ukrainians fleeing the war but, as parents, we felt determined that their safe havens should still exist at home for them. Luckily we had a spare room that we could offer.
We registered with the scheme on Monday 14th March, the day it was launched. Registering was quick and easy - it just involved completing an online form with a few details. We had an acknowledgement email from the government immediately but then came the trickier part. It was up to us to name the Ukrainian(s) we would like to sponsor and then make a visa application with/for them. We did not know any Ukrainians.
But as it turned out, it didn’t take long to get to know some. I registered with a charity group who aim to match UK sponsors with Ukrainian refugees and I joined a Facebook group on which UK sponsors were offering accommodation. For the first day or two, there were hundreds of offers of UK accommodation on the group but hardly any Ukrainians seeking refuge; this changed on perhaps Wednesday 16th March, and suddenly I was seeing a series of frankly heartbreaking posts from Ukrainians looking for UK sponsorship.
The Ukrainians looking for refuge through the Homes for Ukraine scheme are either still in Ukraine, hoping to get away from imminent danger, or already displaced. Men aged 18-60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine if they were there when the war began, so the vast majority looking for asylum are women, children and the elderly. I made contact with a Ukrainian family in Prague and it looked like we might be able to sponsor them, but then they told me that they were determined to travel and live with another Ukrainian family and we simply did not have room for them all. We agreed that we were not a match, wishing each other luck, and we are still in touch. On Thursday 17th, I had contact with a 59 year old Ukrainian lady who was then in Warsaw. She had been a lecturer at the university in Kiev and her husband had stayed behind in Ukraine. We talked online for an hour or two, sharing information about ourselves and photographs, but in the end she let me know that she had been contacted by a former colleague in the UK with an offer of sponsorship, and she was going to go to live there. It turns out that she will be living fairly close to us, so we hope to meet up once she is settled in the UK.
On Saturday morning, 19th March, I saw a post from Anastasia. I contacted her, told her about us and our family and sent her photographs of our home, our family and our dog. She replied immediately with lots of details about herself; her English is pretty good which is helpful. We became friends on Facebook so that we could look back through profiles/timelines to learn a little more about each other. I asked her to send me proof of her identity and she sent me her passport photo page; we then had a video call in which we chatted for 20 minutes or more about her situation and how we could help. I told her that I thought she was very brave for travelling alone and she became tearful when we spoke about her family still in Kherson. She told me about her love for music and singing and that she was very proud of the Beatles vinyl that she had had to leave behind in Ukraine. I let her know that our house is filled with Beatles and other vinyl and that we have The Beatles’ Abbey Road artwork framed in our kitchen. She told me that she loved the musical Hamilton and had watched it three times already that week. My family and I love it too. We both said that we would like to watch it together if things worked out.
I asked Anastasia what she had with her. She said she had a backpack and a bag with a few clothes, some cosmetics, a phone and a laptop. She did not have enough money left for a plane ticket to the UK but hoped that the kind people who were hosting her in Barcelona would be able to lend her the money for it or that she would be able to take advantage of the free flights being offered by WizzAir to displaced Ukrainians. She loved it in Barcelona but felt it would be difficult to find work there as she cannot speak Spanish. She told me that she wanted to come to the UK so that she could find a job and send money to support her family in Kherson.
We agreed that we would apply together for her UK visa with me as her sponsor. I was nervous about sharing all of our family’s personal details, but swallowed the nerves and went for it. We did the visa application together, with Anastasia inputting the details and sharing screenshots of each screen with me over Facebook Messenger so that I could double check that she was doing it right. I was so proud of her - to be 18, in a foreign country, completing a government visa application in your second language in the hopes of going to live with strangers because it’s your only hope of safety and opportunity - she had such courage, such resilience and determination.
We do not know how long it will be before we will have a decision on the visa application: there is, of course, a backlog. But we have heard just today that others who applied just before us have begun receiving visas and permits to travel, so we are hopeful. We are using the days of waiting to continue our conversations, exchanging messages about our daily lives, our values, our friends and family, our hobbies and interests. Every day, I reassure Anastasia that we are here, that we remain committed to her, that we are preparing her room. I asked her at one point what foods she liked. She said, apologetically, that she loves junk food and doesn’t know how to make herself like healthy food. I told her how much I love to cook. I couldn’t help it: I began planning the dinners I would make for her when she arrives with us.
It is hard, waiting. I hope that Anastasia will soon get her visa decision, that her journey to the UK will be safe and that she will settle well with us. I hope that we can support her with the emotional and practical aspects of adjusting to life in the UK and of coping with the awful realities of the ongoing war in her home country. I hope so much that her family will remain safe; the humanitarian crisis in Kherson is bleak with no medicines and very little food now available for the citizens there. We will be hosting Anastasia at our house for a minimum of six months and as long as necessary. Our hope is that during this time she will find a job, make friends, become a part of our family. I think there will be plenty of time to help her expand her food repertoire, but I’m also planning to take her out for junk food just as soon as she is ready!
I would not have felt able to sponsor while my children were living full time at home so I know that there may not be many sponsors in the SHC community, for good reason. But if you, or anyone you know, is hoping to take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme please contact me if you would like more information about how it has worked for us so far: email@example.com.
You can find out more and register for the scheme here: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
Over the coming weeks, the UK government hopes to match UK sponsors with Ukrainians so that you will no longer need to find guests to sponsor yourself. In the meantime, we registered with this charity to find a match:
but in the end we matched with Anastasia through a Facebook group called: Accommodation, Help & Shelter for Ukraine.
If you do take part in the scheme, please be mindful. The UK press are reporting that, sadly and unbelievably, there are ‘scammers’ out there posing as Ukrainian refugees. If you make contact with a possible match, please do what we did: see their photo ID first, check their social media profiles/content, and have a video call with them before sharing any of your personal information.
Posted on: 18/03/2022
Baby MindfulnessThis week we have a guest blog from a St. Helen's College parent.
"A class for babies where mums get to practise mindfulness and yoga, baby yoga, they meet other mums and then get biscuits baked by the school chef at the end of class? Don’t tell me the biscuits are vegan!”
“Actually, they are!”
This is a snippet of a conversation that I had with a mum in the community about the baby mindfulness classes that Mrs. McLaughlin began at St. Helen's College in September 2021.
I had my baby, Kaira, at the end of April 2021. We were emerging into a post-lockdown society where Children’s Centres still remained closed. The baby yoga class that I knew and loved had decided not to reopen after coronavirus and there were long waiting lists for music and sensory classes. My son, Karter, was in Mrs. Hussein’s Year 2 class when Kaira was born, and she told me about the plan for the new baby mindfulness classes from September. I went along not knowing what to expect, but I am so glad that I did.
In class, we were always warmly greeted by Mrs. McLaughlin and then asked to pick two cards that we were drawn to and talk about them to the group. Some of the mums had children or nieces and nephews in the school, but others were from the community and not connected with the school. It was a nice mix. We were given essential oil to help with our mindful focus, and then moved to practise a sequence that helped not only to stretch our tired muscles, but also to boost our confidence as new or new-again mummies. The babies seemed to love the baby yoga section of class. There were always giggles and gurgles all around the room as we practised. I learnt a move that calms a distressed baby which I have regularly used since! The divine drop. It’s magic!
We were reminded of nursery rhymes that we had forgotten the words to and towards the end of each class, were given an opportunity to listen to a song that Mrs. McLaughlin had chosen to help with our mindful focus on our little babies. We were asked to notice things about them - how their little feet had changed, or their hair, the journey that we had been on with them so far - and to take a glimpse into our futures with them. It was so lovely to stop each week, pause, and take in the precious moments. The class always ended with discussions about anything that was on our minds, and the conversations were guided sensitively by Mrs. McLaughlin. We discussed weaning, nurseries and going back to work, amongst many, many other things. And then of course the sweet (vegan) treats baked by Soula. Always so delicious!
I have now ‘graduated’ from class as Kaira is now a crawler and so doesn’t sit still for more than 5 seconds. But I am in touch with the other mums and the growing baby mindfulness alumni. I have made some lovely new mummy friends who I keep in touch with and see regularly outside of the class. It has been truly wonderful to have this network to share the things that only mummies of new babies are going through and thinking about. We all agree that the baby mindfulness class is a great class because it is the only one that focusses on both baby and mum.
Thanks to Mrs. McLaughlin and St. Helen's College, I will look back at my early months with Kaira with wonderfully positive memories. And I won’t be the only mummy that feels grateful for the support and mindful time with baby. It is so lovely that St. Helen's College offers this class to new mums both in the community and those already connected to the school.
If you see a group of mums with buggies near the school on a Wednesday morning, you will know where they have been. I hope you will feel happy knowing that they have spent precious mindful time with their small babies, especially as you know so well how quickly the newborn baby time passes by.
Mum to Karter (Y3) and Kaira-Lily, 10 month old future St. Helen's College student
Posted on: 25/02/2022
Ukraine - PerspectiveI am sure that all of us have been affected by the outbreak of the war against Ukraine in some way. The images which we have seen in the media over the past couple of days are distressing and shocking as we see the lives of the Ukrainian people being turned upside down. Their lives bear no resemblance to how they were just a few days ago.
I have been heartened but also moved and inspired to read an Edu colleague’s Twitter feed over the past couple of days. I have met Dr. Emma Kell on many occasions at various educational conferences and events. Emma’s Twitter name is @thosethatcan and she describes herself on Twitter with these words:
‘My mission is to help people be as brilliant as I know they can be, in teaching and beyond. Coach, wellbeing trainer, governor, writer, teacher’.
Emma is a wife and a mum to two wonderful daughters. Her husband is currently working alongside a team of journalists in Kiev.
This is from Emma's Twitter feed yesterday, 24th February (I have her permission to share this with you all).
Ukraine, my husband and perspective: a thread.
Firstly, thank you to all who have reached out. *** is in Kiev and it's a big worry, but they're safe at the moment (see previous tweet). I'm trying to be philosophical and gracious about it (it's his job, it's important, and 1/
he wants to be there). I'm not always successful! The worry and the domestic load are making me grumpy, not helped because I've been hooked to the news for most of the night. BUT... 2/
it probably won't be more than a few days before they're home, in safe warm houses, worrying about petrol prices with the rest of us. Families in Ukraine are not so fortunate. 3/
Before we are in danger of letting compassion fatigue set in, let's save our emotional energies to think of those who live there, with no escape, who are worried for their lives and their futures and take a moment or three 4/
To count all of the things we have to be so very, very grateful for. Let's take a moment to think of those who are likely to be literally putting their own lives on the line and do what we can to challenge misinformation and enact our values. 5/
Today, the kids are very upset because Daddy won't be home tomorrow, as they'd hoped, and airspace is closed so we don't know when he will, but he and the other brave journalists doing essential work will be home and safe soon. Let's focus our energies on those who 6/
aren't so lucky. I will rant and rail at times, and I've had to be flaky and cancel some meetings today, but there's so much to be optimistic about and grateful for. As @AdrianBethune and I often say, perspective is SO important. 7/7
Emma also posted this poem:
Chatting to Emma online this morning she wanted to emphasise to me that her daughter’s school has been UTTERLY brilliant. She had a response from her children’s form tutors within 12 minutes of emailing them and they have been sensitive and proactive in supporting her children. This moved Emma. It is so important that any family dealing with difficulty is supported by their school and I hope and trust that here at St. Helen’s College, we are there for families in times of need.
In today’s news blog we share a BBC Newsround link which might help if you would like to talk to your children about the events in Ukraine. We also share a link to the Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal which will enable them to assist in providing food, medicines, shelter and water for refugees and casualties of the war. Please follow the link if you would like to make a personal donation.
Writing this today and watching the news feeds has certainly put many things into perspective for me.
I wish you all a peaceful weekend and special thoughts go to those who are dealing with difficult times, particularly those affected by the events in Ukraine.
P.S. Since writing this blog this morning I have heard that the team of journalists and Emma's husband are leaving Kiev, heading south to start their journey back to the UK. They have been there for several weeks but have decided that it is now too unstable for them to remain. Wishing them a safe return.
Category / Head's Blog