Student Leaders

This is always one of my (many) favourite times of the school year, when senior students apply for leadership positions.  It is a great opportunity to learn even more about our young people and what makes them tick, and what drives them towards success, both academically and personally.  Involving our current senior leaders in the recruitment process is always rewarding.  It gives them a chance to reflect on their experience during the interviews that they went through on application, and also how successful they have been whilst active in their current leadership roles. 

It is always important to make these processes as educational as possible, and what better way than students working with students to discover and develop the best.  It has been a real pleasure working with both our current Head Students.  They have been an impressive team and awesome role models for our many students.  They will leave behind big boots to fill!  It was a pleasure to stand at the back of the auditorium at the end of last term and listen to them graciously speak to our prize-winning students before they received their prizes. 

I asked them both if I could include an extract from their speech for this website, as I think it is important that voices and views like theirs are shared with as many people as possible who live and work across a school learning community. They are the role models and uphold the values that we should all aspire to.

December 2020:

Good evening pupils, parents, and teachers. It is with very great pleasure that we share with you this delightful evening to celebrate all of your accomplishments…

…Education is about far more than what happens inside the four walls of a classroom, and we are very fortunate and proud to have students and staff members who recognize this. In my opinion, one of the characteristics that best describes an outstanding student is their attitudes to learning, and how they overcome the hurdles they encounter along the way. We celebrate excellent attitudes in all facets of school life, whether that be in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, or competitions and events, and we hope that all of you prize winners who have demonstrated excellent attitudes to learning, keep up the work during your remaining time at school, serving as role models to all other students in the school. 


All of you present today have additionally done an outstanding job in being great ambassadors for the school, and in remarkably representing the school values in such unusual times. The open-mindedness with which you all affronted not only the first months of the pandemic which came hand in hand with an intense lockdown, followed by an unconventional summer and finally, an atypical start to the school year, has been admirable. We live in a world of constant changes, and as humans, we are extremely privileged to be able to adapt to these transitions. We are incredibly proud of how well you’ve adapted to the circumstances, and of how hard you’ve worked despite it all. You made those revision notes, hustled the learning, dealt with online school and somehow made it through. By staying open and hopeful, even through tough times, you have demonstrated to us all how much you are capable of. Thank you for your determination, your perseverance for showing us all that hard work pays off. 


Despite the inability to be physically present in school, this did not stop students, parents and teachers from seeking to make their contribution. Student participation in the wider school community is what really drives school spirit and motivates us all to keep going no matter what. Pupils who earn this prize have been role models in this area, as they have remained active during the online schooling period, seeking to give back and take part in school community activities as much as possible. Thanks to these students we managed to see huge participation rates in events such as The Around The World Challenge during the first few months of lockdown, the cake baking house competition, teacher and student Kahoots, and ‘dressing up as your favourite movie character’ competition. These events and many others, as well as the participation in them is what has managed to help keep our strong school community together during the isolated quarantine months, and have reminded us all that we must stand together. These three categories – excellent attitudes, school values and community participation – have proved what amazing things you the students can achieve, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.


So once again, congratulations for having come this far. It is our honour to celebrate all you’ve accomplished despite the unusual times we are living in. This isn’t the end, but just the beginning! And we look forward to seeing how you all use the tools and skills you’ve been given to create a world fuelled by fresh perspective, innovation and action. The future is yours. Keep up the good work and enjoy your very well deserved Christmas holidays.

Head Students

San Pedro

´The best views come after the hardest climbs´ (Unknown)

img_8079

I can see San Pedro from our front window.  He stands upright, out of place, in the forefront of the vast Sierra de Gaudarrama to the north of Madrid.  He is like a small-ish afterthought of vast tectonic movement from millions of years ago, beckoning you towards the much mightier snow-capped peaks of the Sierra.  Alas, San Pedro stands alone between Madrid and his superior peers, at a scalable height of 1450m, and easily accessible on a sky blue sunny afternoon (or not).  It was during lockdown that I first become drawn to San Pedro.

img_8069

As we entered phase one, we jumped into the car together for the first time for almost 3 months and headed towards the mountains, liberated.  We soon realised that all the car parks were closed and the national parks were still not accessible to the public, so we decided to head home and contemplate a family movie.  My daughter urged us not to though, and reminded us of the King´s Around the World Challenge and that we must do some physical exercise that would extend us beyond our normal routines.  At that very moment, whilst cruising down the M-607, San Pedro appeared within our left hand side windows, teasing us to take him on.  Two of us were well up for it, one was pretty neutral, and the other two not so keen at all.  So I offered the incentive of 5 Euros each on completion of the climb for the school challenge and to support the four school charities.  The challenge was on!  We parked the car at the foot of the mountain and started our ascent together and in high spirits, relishing the new found freedom of phase one.  The positive unity lasted barely five minutes as dissent and abandonment started to be expressed by certain members of the group.  Regular false promises of nearly being at the top became the only strategy to get everyone to the summit, very much at the expense of good moods and humour.  We made it though and soon realised how worthwhile the long wait, and difficult climb had been, to absorb the amazing 360 degree views together was a reward in itself and a satisfying family accomplishment. 

img_8073

We have now climbed San Pedro a number of times, and revert to him when seeking a closer to home challenge that doesn´t require a full day out and multiple ruck sacks full of sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  My daughter has suggested that we climb him every month, seeing as our last ascent was in early January, con snow!  A bold idea and challenge – accepted.

Let´s see how we go…

A Walking and Chess Christmas

I didn’t think I could fall in love with Spain any more than I did exploring the south of the country during the summer holidays.  Having to stay put for Christmas wasn’t what I had asked Santa for… but stay put we were resigned to do.  It, in fact, turned out to be a brilliant Christmas, a staycation to remember, with very little staying put actually taking place.  I gambled and bought myself my first Spanish book, detailing walks in north Madrid and the Sierra.  It gave me the confidence to really drag the family out and to explore what is on our doorstep, discovering the many hiking trails and unbelievable vistas within minutes of where we live.  We walked almost every other day, soon abandoning the guide book and following new paths to hidden gems.  Many that we will return to again and again.  We found snow (before it officially arrived in January) and took our sleds up high, dragging them along trails and through the pine trees, where nobody else could be seen. 

It might be a good idea to start a King´s Soto family walking group – possibly meeting up once a month and sharing our favourite walks?  If you are interested then please do let me know.

Back home in the warmth, and during rest days, we re-discovered chess (mainly due to a popular Netflix series!).  We spent hours with the board and pieces, honing our concentration and making sure that each of us made less mistakes than the other to win.  It has got quite serious in our household, chess, my eldest has beaten me for the first time ever (in fact three times now), and my youngest is getting quite competitive when he concentrates.  We are talking moves, defence and strategy… I even see them playing by themselves at times.  It is good to see and to share with them.  I am sure we will now take a chess board with us on our next adventure away from home. 

I think Chess Club will continue to be popular in school, it is every Friday lunchtime in room B2F.  It would be great to have some inter-school competitions and a Soto chess tournament on a Saturday morning in school in the near future.  If you would like to be involved then please do let me know.  

Happy New Year to you all.

An Around the World Challenge

It has been a challenging and unusual few months, but the Student Council in my school have continued to meet weekly to share feedback and to work on new virtual projects that enhance the spirit of adventure and collaboration.  A challenge has been planned to replace the annual Summer Fair and to raise much needed funds for the four school charities. The challenge draws on the promotion of physical exercise and also community togetherness to reach a goal, at the same time raising funds for the charities.

Aim: To complete one full lap around the world as a school community (approx. 40,000 kms)

IMG_5167

The student committee has encouraged everyone to extend their physical exercise routines and to go above and beyond. This does not mean the usual walk to the shops, or a typical stroll around the block. They are encouraging you to do that bit extra, not only for yourselves but also for charity! This can include any form of exercise: running, walking, skating, swimming, climbing, skipping, rolling, cycling… as long as you have challenged yourself, covered a certain distance and recorded it. The students then ask you to submit your distance (honestly and truthfully) whenever you have completed it, this could be daily or weekly, it doesn’t matter. The website has been specially designed for this challenge by the students so that everyone can input their totals, make a donation, and monitor the collective progress around the world.  The website also includes information about the four school charities. 

The students would like to encourage everyone to be as honest as possible, and therefore recommend that one of the following apps, or similar, are used to record your distances when exercising specifically for the challenge:

  • Nike + Run App/Club 
  • Endomondo 
  • Runtastic
  • Runkeeper 
  • MapMyRun (Underarmour)
  • Strava
  • Cyclemetre 

SanPedroKomoot

Try and beat your distance each time and set yourself some personal targets.  Maybe even link these targets to a monetary amount that you (or more likely your parents!) will agree to donate if you achieve them. The important thing is to enjoy your exercise though and to be safe, always inform an adult of what you are doing and where you intend to go if you are exercising alone.

To donate is easy and very important. Ideally we want to raise as much funds as we do during a typical Summer Fair, so please do support this challenge and share our website with family and friends. They can take part too! There is a link to our GoFundMe page on the website, and here you can make your donation; once, twice, as many times as you like! A few ideas could be:

  • Set personal targets linked to monetary values for individual family members
  • Set a collective target as a family or group of friends over the two week period and allocate a monetary value to donate
  • Maybe donate an amount every 5,000kms achieved by the collective community
  • Maybe donate an amount on completion of the whole distance, around the world
  • Or do all of the above… it is really up to you – every little bit helps!

bomberasayudan

The total funds raised at the end of the challenge will be divided equally into four and donated to the four school charities listed below :

Porque Viven, ANAR, Nyumbani and Bomberos Ayudan

The students very much look forward to hearing about and seeing the journeys around the world, and thank you all in advance for your enthusiasm, support and kind donations.

nyumbani

Mystery Guest Round

I was in Phuket, Thailand, attending an IB course for geography teachers in November 2003.  The course was great, challenging and collaborative, just as you would expect from the IB programme.  My priority though was finding a television, one with the right satellite connection, this was our time! 

Matt_Dawson

The England rugby team had made it to the final of the Rugby World Cup and were playing their great rivals, Australia (the Wallabies) in the final, right smack-bang in the middle of our IB Geography course!  Luckily, our facilitator was a fellow rugby enthusiast and we were able to motor through the agenda and finish in time to find a suitable venue and watch this momentous match.  It was a tight game, and at 17 – 17 the match entered extra-time.  The England scrum-half, Matt Dawson (number 9) made a darting break through the Wallabies tired defence giving England territorial advantage in the dying seconds.  Matt picked himself up, re-positioned himself and spun the ball back to the England fly-half (number 10) Jonny Wilkinson… the rest is history!  You can watch it here

MattDawson1

Matt Dawson is now a TV and radio presenter and pundit for the BBC in the UK.  One of the shows that he features in is called ´A Question of Sport.´ To raise awareness and to support the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, Matt has been doing as many quizzes as he can, joining people from all over the world, online, to complete a quiz.  We were very lucky and honoured that Matt was able to join us for our weekly staff professional development session last Thursday and complete part of our starter quiz.  This was Matt´s 108th quiz so far since starting less than two weeks ago.  It was a real pleasure to meet Matt and to have the opportunity to reminisce with him about the 2003 final.  He was interested in every one of us and how we are successfully adapting our teaching and learning during these testing times.  He also answered a number of questions asked by the teachers at the Meet.  It was a real highlight of the school week and we would like to thank Matt again for his kindness and sincerity in joining us.  #NHSHeroes #StayHomeSaveLives #DawsDoesQuizzes @matt9dawson

Make the ordinary come alive

One o'clock...

One o’clock…

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.

 

A tree climbing gang

A tree climbing gang

 

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.

 

Sticks and rivers

Sticks and rivers

 

And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

By William Martin

The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

 

One teacher can make a difference

Post contributed by Karen Partyka

I follow on Facebook a page called Humans of New York and this site introduces you to different people in New York and they tell a little about their life. New York is full of a huge variety of people so there are many interesting stories and I enjoy the variety. On 20th January they introduced us to Vidal who is a young student. Vidal was asked who influenced his life the most, his reply was:

“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”

“How has she influenced you?”

“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

NY

I, along with many thousand people around the world read what Vidal said and was moved, shocked and surprised to see a young boy being able to articulate and understand what his principal was doing for him and his peers. As a teacher myself I thought about Mrs Lopez and what an example she was and how I could learn from her. The people who run the Facebook page then went to find Mrs Lopez a few days later. Her school is in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which is a very difficult area of New York. They interviewed Mrs Lopez about what Vidal had said and this is her reply:

“This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple, our scholars wear purple and so do our staff, because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math, and they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”

After reading what Mrs Lopez said my admiration for her grew. This is the type of person that young people should have as role models. Mrs Lopez is changing a generation and giving her students a chance to succeed. She is valuing them as people and giving them the respect they need and deserve.

NY2On the page over the last two weeks more of the teachers have shared their own stories. It is clearly a difficult school to work in for many reasons but their enthusiasm, passion and love for their students was immense. This is a school community that needs to be recognised, these teachers and students need to be seen. During an interview with Mrs Lopez and the teachers they were asked how could the vision of the school be taken forward. The school said many of the students had never even left New York and the neighbourhood has the highest crime rate in New York. The school was trying to sell them a dream of growing up and being part of society and doing their part in the world but the students could not imagine this as they had never experienced the world. So Mrs Lopez said she would like to have a trip for the Grade 6 class each year to visit Harvard. It would allow them to see where they could go. To date, $1,204,537 has been donated, by people, including myself, from around the world. This has meant that the Grade 6 trip to Harvard will become a permanent feature in the Mott Hall Bridges Academy calendar. Here is the fundraising page if anyone would like to find out more – https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/let-s-send-kids-to-harvard

Mrs Lopez is an inspiration to me, she made me stand back and ask how I treat my pupils. Do I show them that I respect them, value them and that I am trying to teach them to play their part in society? It is easy to get into the monotony of teaching and become stuck in the mud. Teachers must always be aiming high and realising and understand that we are teaching the next generation who will be our politicians, teachers, nurses, social workers etc. We must encourage them to work hard, be just and always aspiring to give their best.

Creating a string of useful habits

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Post contributed by Kyu Bak Lee

I am a Korean national who grew up in Thailand. During my time in Thailand, I attended an international school that largely followed the British model. So, one can say that I saw the meaning of the word “education” being used and explained in many different ways. For the most part, due to my exposure to three different “worlds” (in a nutshell) from such a young age, my immediate answer to the question of ‘what makes a good education’ would differ tremendously in different cultures. However, now that I have gone through the likes of university, first job and now at a point where I can safely say that I have a career ahead of me, I have yearned for the ‘simple’ things in life.

A good education provides a student with a clear definition of what they are studying. Having a clear understanding of what they are studying provides not only guidance but fosters curiosity. Being curious is, and always will be, the pillar of human innovation.

A good education encourages the student to ask why and how.

A good education shows the student real-life case studies of what they have studied, so that they understand from the beginning that there are external and indirect factors that need to be considered.

A good education provides questions, discussions and potential scenarios for the student to show their understanding, and their ability to apply their knowledge.

A good education provides feedback that opens up a dialogue to foster more discussion with the interested parties.

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team - student leaders

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team – student leaders

I believe my time in University had the most profound impact on my life. You are at a place where everyone was a star pupil in their high school, the quarterback, the debate champion, the community leader, the superman of their respective school and organization. It was a place where I knew I had to challenge myself constantly. Not only that, but the responsibility that life threw me during my days as a university student was also a great lesson for me. From having your teachers, parents and friends help you one way or another to having nobody in a foreign land and culture put me on survival mode 101. I was excited to see myself change and adapt and I also learned to be appreciative of the people that I have in my life. I saw a new me that was scared, excited, sad and jubilant. Some turbulent times that proved that without education, there really is no basis in life that you can turn to. Another thing that I want to mention here is to look at “failures” differently. A profile in failure is as important, or even more so, than a profile in success. Failure should be welcomed if you want to better and further yourself in any given situation.

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

So far, my greatest achievement that I have experienced thus far is surrounding myself with awesome people. I have always believed in the power of storytelling and discussions. If you are able to surround yourself with people that not only carry different experiences but also are able to effectively communicate that with you, then you have all the tools you need to succeed. Human beings have always seen each other as part of a collective unit; part of something much larger than them. It only makes sense that we are able to draw out the best of ourselves through the collective help of people and their diverse and dynamic experiences. Finding the “right” group is always hard and I am not saying that it will always come naturally, but how do you know what works for you and what doesn’t from the beginning? You always need to fail, to succeed and to achieve.

DSCF5347

My next challenge is to push myself and become the owner of my own business. One of the things that I learned about myself in university was that I liked the responsibilities, I liked the leadership, and I liked the fast pace and ever changing environment that I found myself in. This all pointed to one thing, and that was entrepreneurship. I tested myself with a few serious projects here and there during my time in university, but those all failed. They were absolutely fun and enriching, but they all went up in flames. The failures only cemented my view that I would need to be my own boss and it only made me content that I was fortunate enough to do what I wanted and fail at it, and be okay.

Being reflective

Being reflective

I would like to share what I wish I had heard when I was a student at school; which is “to create a string of useful habits from a young age.”

Get in to a habit of carrying a small notepad around to write down your thoughts and opinion at any given time. In this day and age, it could be an app on your mobile device, but I like my piece of paper and a pencil. People could argue that they have diaries that they keep but having to recollect your feelings and ideas at the end of the day is a daunting task. So, why not keep it simple by writing it down throughout your day? By doing this, you will find your own efficient way of note-taking and drawing diagrams that you can always go back to and reflect on your days, weeks and years.

Get into a habit of reading. Whether they are books, magazines or online articles; find your interest and passion, and read about them and other people’s, take them on to help you gain an all-round understanding of your interests and passions. This will not only put you closer to your interests, but it will also surprise you as it will expose you to thoughts and ideas that you would not be able to generate on your own.

Get into a habit of playing sports. Playing sports is a great way to make new friends and to learn more about yourself as well. How are you different to playing team games to individual sports? What is it that gets you motivated? Was it the spirit of competition and sportsmanship? Was it the chance to win something? If you play sports, you will always learn more about yourself.

Get into a habit of joining social clubs. If you are a part of a club, then you start experiencing different responsibilities that will be different to finishing your group project, or your homework or your class presentation. It gives you a glimpse of life outside of school that we all need to prepare for.

 

What will you achieve in 2015?

Public speaking

Public speaking

As we begin 2015 I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the the Global Citizenship Award website and to review some of the statistics so far.  I would like to thank everyone who has followed the development of the site and award over the last six months and especially to all those people who have contributed, commented and (especially) achieved their award – 9 amazing global citizens so far.  I am sure that there will be many more in 2015.

Patrick and a piano

Patrick and a piano

A London underground train holds 1,200 people. The GC Award website was viewed about 7,850 times in 2014. If it were a London underground train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.  The busiest day of the year was November 11th with 328 views.

The most popular post / blog was: One Man and a Piano.  This post was inspired by a talented young man, called Patrick, who we met at Heathrow Airport back in November.  He was playing one of those stand alone pianos and instantly caught the imagination of my two oldest kids.

A Christmas Gift

A Christmas Gift

The next four most popular posts in order were:

2. Thailand Reflections

3. The Rice Challenge – A Scottish Perspective

4.  A Christmas Gift

5.  Congratulations to Karen Partyka on achieving the Global Citizenship Award

 

Where are you reading about the GC Award?

Where are you reading about the GC Award?

 

People who have viewed the GC Award website are from 101 different countries; with the UK, Thailand, US, Australia and Brazil the top five countries that have made the most views.

The New Year has arrived and what better time than to make new targets and to challenge yourself to bigger and better things through learning and reflective practice.

Personal target setting

Personal target setting

The GC Award team would love to hear from you and will monitor and celebrate your progress as we bring new ideas and developments together through a global citizenship approach to education. Remember you can choose to submit all 16 Identities together once completed (see these Global Ambassadors for example) or submit them one at a time as individual reflections / posts (see this post by Manoj on service learning).  You can submit your post / reflection/s here.

We will always give individual constructive feedback and can guarantee that your achievements and experiences are inspiring others elsewhere around the world at the same time helping you to build a digital portfolio of personal achievement through global citizenship learning – something you will always have and use in the future.  Don’t let those amazing opportunities and experiences be wasted.  2015 is your year – go grab it!

Teaching people, not content

singing

 Post contributed by Karen Partyka

In the music department we start preparing for Christmas in September so in many ways it is a relief when the Christmas concert arrives! This year I was taking the Junior Choir. I had 30 wonderful pupils aged 11 to 14 who came to rehearsals every week without fail. I had chosen two songs to perform at our Christmas concert and we worked for many weeks. The pupils were very excited about our concert and they were all looking forward to it.

old people

I knew the pupils would get something from being in the choir and performing in the Christmas concert. I also organised that during our last week of school the junior choir would visit two care homes to sing Christmas carols. Some of the residents were quite sick and frail, the pupils had bought small presents for the residents. The residents were very touched by the presents and some were very emotional, that children who did not know them had brought them a gift.

choir1

However, I have a senior student in my music class, who I will call John. He moved to the UK two years ago and did not speak any English. Through that time he has managed to learn English and learn about British culture. He lives with his mother but his father lives in a different country. He has found the last two years extremely difficult, he could not speak English at the start so it was difficult to make friends, culturally he did not fit in and in many ways he is different from other students his age.  He loves music!  He is in the music department before school, break time, lunchtime and any free periods. He loves listening to music, composing and performing music.

guitar

As we approached the concert John was not in a group that was due to perform but just a few days before the concert the principal of music asked John to be involved with the backstage team and he was given the role of operating the curtain. He was delighted, he was desperate to be needed and feel involved. Over the next few days I watched as he worked and prepared with the backstage team who were all boys and close in age to him. In the short space of time he started to make some connections and even friends with these boys. On the day of the concert the backstage team were ordering Dominos pizzas. I could hear John laughing with the other boys and it was priceless. He had found some boys who had similar tastes and interests and just maybe he was now on a slightly easier road.

On the evening of the concert I arrived at school and bumped in to him. I was blown away. He scrubbed up so well!  Being a typical boy he didn’t seem to wash his hair very often, but that night he was showered, hair brushed and put up in a ponytail as he has long hair. He had black professional clothes to wear. He looked the part! During the concert I was so proud as everything he had to do was done to perfection, all his cues he executed superbly.

choir

The whole concert went really well, the pupils had a wonderful night. All the hard work was worth it just for John to be involved, all the work was worth it that he had the opportunity to feel needed, given the chance to be a part of something and start to make some friends. Secondary school can be very hard especially if you are a little bit different, but even if you have just a couple of friends it is a whole lot easier. The term has finished and John is working towards his qualification in higher music, it has been touch and go whether he will be presented but at this moment in time it is full steam ahead!  I want all the pupils in my higher class to do well and gain high grades, but my biggest achievement will be if I can ensure that John achieves his higher music.  For him it will show him he is worth something, I know he is bright and he can achieve.