It’s funny how these things creep up on one. How one can be aware of something that doesn’t seem quite right and yet not quite able to explain what it is; what’s missing. And on Monday, I worked out what it was that had been buzzing around the back of mind just out of reach of any sort of cognitive perception.
The recent lockdown had been ok; there was certainly plenty of work to do, students were doing their bit and beavering away diligently on the other end of the fibre optic and it was, as far as is possible under these circumstances, fun. I know that we were in the middle of an horrendous global pandemic and that, for the time being at least, life for all of us had taken a few unforeseen twists and turns and I was glad to be able to get back to school – back in front of my classes, to see my students and even some of my colleagues! But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t what had been twitching at my subconscious for the last few months. Then, at about half past eight on Monday morning, it suddenly dawned on me what I had been missing; what should have been there, around me all the time – it was the sound of laughter.
As I walked through socially distanced gaggles of masked and hearty students the place rang with chatter and shouts and excitement and laughter. Everyone I spoke to was happy to be back, happy to see their friends, happy to re-establish old routines, happy to pick up whatever Shakespeare script was closest to hand and just read it for the sheer pleasure of the work itself…well, I might have imagined that last bit but there was certainly no mistaking the sense of relief, happiness and camaraderie that reverberated around the school.
We are back at last.
My year 8 class (aptly christened ‘8 Magnificent’) returned in full force and I am delighted to have added to my class three new faces – well, we had met four times a week, every week during our online lessons but that’s not the same thing; today they were with us in person and I’m absolutely delighted with them. Harry, Parthena and Ez, you are all great additions to our ranks and I see a great future for you. This term we are looking at one of my favourite Shakespeare plays (and certainly my favourite of his comedies), ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. It’s a beautiful story and if you are unfamiliar with it I heartily recommend you find a copy of the 1993 Branagh production and remedy this defect; it will repay the watching many times over.
Year 7 are following on from work we started online and are looking at detective tropes in literature and have a keen eye for detail; they all assure me that they are not using the methods, clues and techniques we have studied to help them to avoid detection in their own crimes, but I’m not entirely convinced! We also welcome a new member to this class, and I have been delighted to see Isabella throwing herself into the lessons with vim and alacrity.
The year 9s worked assiduously throughout lockdown and as we re-emerge into the land of the living, we have begun work on Sherriff’s fantastic ‘A Journey’s End’; a play about a company of men in the trenches of World War 1.
Of course, eyes all around the country are looking to examination classes this term as we: teachers, students and parents alike, await with bated breath some guidance from the government or exam boards about what steps we are to take next and in order to give our year 11s and 13s the best possible opportunities to show what they can do we have outlined for the English students a carefully considered timetable running from now until the grade submission date in mid-June that details exactly what we will be teaching, revising and assessing and when. Throughout our remote learning we had a great deal of excellent work from these examination classes, particularly from our A2 students who have worked diligently throughout the entire two-year course so a very sincere ‘Thank you’ to Phoebe and Kyra.
I feel I cannot neglect to mention my tutor group who tuned in from all over the world at half past eight every week over lockdown for our tutor sessions and who, as sixth formers, form the backbone of our school community. We discussed everything from coping with the stress and anxiety of lockdown to fund raising to video games and to classical literature (those copies of ‘Manfred’ and ‘Don Quixote’ won’t read themselves, Mani and Head Boy!).
So, we’re back and it’s great to be back and as I listen to the shouts of laughter outside, I know that it is the Fyling Hall community that makes it great. Schools often talk with glib loquacity about being ‘a family’ but at Fyling Hall it isn’t a platitude, it isn’t hyperbole, it isn’t forced or imagined – it simply is.
Chris Thomas, Head of English