In praise of… praising

Final feast of the year

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge

One of the main perks of being Head of Academic Enrichment is getting to come along to feasts held by Keith and Moony (see good manners, above) for those students who are working really hard, making excellent progress and showing determination in their work.

They’re really positive events, made even the more special by the fact Moony makes the brownies herself (when the dog doesn’t eat them…). Many schools are good at rewarding academic achievement, but Bedales is really good at praising determination, dedication and academic interest.

It seems to me much more valuable to praise the qualities we want, rather than simply good products. Qualities such as determination and resilience are essential for future learning and careers. In fact, many suggest that ‘grit’ – perseverance – is a better predictor for achievement than IQ  – if we can praise good dispositions, and reinforce those, that seems to be an excellent thing. Moreover, praising the effort over the product avoids students getting fixated on replicating work of exactly the same kind – if my work has been praised, I’ll keep doing that. If my qualities have been praised, I’ll keep working in that way.

This feeds into a growth mindset way of talking to students about academic ability – all learners (including oldies like me!) have progress to make and things to improve. We want to praise students who take this challenge whole-heartedly.

Block 3 experience The Tempest

To support the study of Shakespeare, the English department took all Block 3 to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre matinee performance of The Tempest in Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday 12 January.

This was a very exciting opportunity as the production has had rave reviews including: ★★★★ ”Simon Russell Beale’s superb Prospero” The Guardian, ★★★★★ “State-of-the-art stagecraft” Financial Times and ★★★★ “The visuals are true to the hype of a breath-taking order” Daily Telegraph. The students also attended a Workshop about The Tempest at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the morning which very effectively introduced them to the main characters, themes and ideas about staging and interpretation. The overwhelming response from the students was that it had indeed been a wonderful experience. Read some of their anonymous responses below…

256px-rsc_theatre_stratford-upon-avon_13f2005Last week, I saw The Tempest, written by Shakespeare, and performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, directed by Gregory Doran. 

The plot of The Tempest was about two people, a father and daughter, banished to an island by Prospero’s brother, who now fills his position as Duke. On the island, Prospero has two slaves, one magical and one monster. With the help of Ariel, his sprite, he traps his brother and the rest of the royals in a storm out at sea not far from the island. When the royal party are swept ashore, Prospero makes them suffer as he once did.

Throughout the performance of The Tempest I enjoyed the character of Ariel, played by Mark Quartley. As Ariel was a sprite, his movement was very quiet and elegant – he really made you believe that he was invisible and magical.

I also enjoyed the performance of Stephano (played by Tony Jayawardena), one of the people from the ship wreck, he was the King’s butler, and throughout the play, played a very drunk character.

One of the parts that truly made the show stand-out from all the other productions of The Tempest and made it exciting to watch, were the effects, the lighting and the stage set. When Ariel first appeared on stage, he was shown as a projection on a cylinder.  One of my favourite special effect moments was a part in the storm when Gonzalo went from being on the ship, to being underwater – they showed that very well…

See what the audiences are saying about The Tempest:

Read a review of The Tempest published in The Stage
View images from the production

…The Tempest was an amazing play about Prospero (Simon Russell Beale) who was overthrown from his Dukedom by his brother Antonio (Oscar Pearce).

Prospero managed to survive thanks to Gonzalo (Joseph Mydell) a trustworthy servant who gave him books of magic, food and water.

After the wedding of the King of Naples’ daughter, a storm brings them to an island where Prospero and his daughter Miranda are stranded.

My favourite character was Ariel because he played exactly as you would imagine: light and dainty but could also be cheeky and moody. Ariel’s costume was also how most people would imagine: it was blue and it had parts with glitter and green, his hair was also quite spectacular and it had been slicked back into three spikes. Another character I thought was amazing was Juno, one of the spirits, because she really looked like a goddess and acted like one. Her dress was very big and she moved very elegantly, almost floating.

Prose, poetry and coursework in the English department

By David Anson, Head of English

It is a busy season for the English Department; 6.2s have been beavering away at a very important piece of coursework and the Block 5s are working towards the final hand-in of their coursework folder. Nevertheless, we have found the time for some superb enrichment. On Tuesday 15 November we had the pleasure of welcoming two visiting writers. Our first was acclaimed children’s author Jon Robinson who joined us to be our annual writer in residence. Jon’s Nowhere trilogy is highly acclaimed and has been awarded a number of notable prizes as well as receiving a nomination for the Carnegie Medal in 2014. Jon spent the morning with our colleagues at Dunhurst helping young writers in Block 2 and then in the afternoon Jon worked with 6.1 students who are taking the creative enrichment course – this year run by Jen Moore. Jon’s one-to-ones were extremely valuable and year on year we find this attention generates the most astonishing creative writing – look out for the 2017 ‘Poet’s Stone’ and our creative writing celebration in the Spring term.

In the evening we had the treat of poet, playwright, novelist and critic Glyn Maxwell reading in the Olivier Theatre as part of the Bedales Poetry Series. Glyn has won some significant awards for his work over the years and has extensively edited the work of Derek Walcott who is a particular favorite of mine. It was really quite special to hear both his poetry and prose being read in the theatre. Glyn had supper with some of our Sixth Form English Literature students at 50 Church Road beforehand; something we try to arrange every year. Our students had a rare opportunity to ask some very candid and insightful questions of a writer at the peak of his career.

Outdoor Work: reaping the fruits of their labour…

In Outdoor Work we have been very busy gathering the harvest produce on our doorstep and making it into all sorts of delicious winter goodies. Just some of the things we have been making are: Apple and tomato chutney, pickled rainbow beets, poached pears in elderflower champagne, elderberry cordial, hay cordial, hay salt (trust us, it’s delicious with roast lamb – Maldon sea salt with smoked hay from the Bedales fields), jam, hedgerow jelly using crab apples and hawthorn berries, plum compote, cider vinegar, apple pies, cakes, bread, pizzas…. The list goes on. There will be a selection of this produce available at reception after half term, and then before Christmas (after the 6.2 Christmas Pudding Bake) there will be mince pies and puddings. We are also expecting the lovely Jacob fleece we sent off last term to be delivered back to us before Christmas as beautiful shawls, scarves and blankets, woven by our mill in Wales. We will also be busy planting up winter bulbs and making other crafts which will make lovely gifts! Available this Saturday from 12.30 -1.30 at the bakehouse: handmade sausages from our very own Oxford Sandy and Black heritage pigs. Two piglets are for also sale – please contact Andrew for more details (amartin@bedales.org.uk).

 

End of term news from ODW

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On Sunday 12 June, Rob the shearer came to Bedales to give our 45 Jacob sheep their annual haircut. This gave us over 50kg of fleece which we have been busy sorting and combining with last year’s in order to send off and have spun into yarn to make blankets and shawls ready for Christmas.

Including this year’s lambs, we currently have over 80 sheep – some of which we would be happy to sell should any parents be interested (please email fcharpentier@bedales.org.uk).

On the pig front, Cher had her first litter of seven little piglets on Tuesday 21 June; mother and babies are doing well – she’s a natural! We are currently fattening four of the February litter ready for butchering in September. If any parents would like to discuss ordering a whole or half pig for a special event in the autumn, please get in touch.

Thanks to the BPA, our first incubation project has gone well: producing 7 chickens from 8 eggs, five are cockerels. On behalf of everybody at ODW, thank you for your support in buying our produce this year. Year-on-year we and the students hope to become more self-sufficient, learning new skills and giving back to the school as a whole.

 

Thoughts from an outgoing 6.2

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Over the past few weeks, 6.2 flat has grown increasingly quiet as more of us depart having finished the last of our exams. It has not been unusual to see those leaving become emotional when it hits them: when their bags are packed and they leave their friends still swamped in folders and practice papers. Having finished the last of my exams on Tuesday, l don’t believe it has quite hit me yet.

As an initial reflection on the past year and my time here as a whole, I can’t imagine another place I would have rather conducted and concluded my school education. It strikes me as a rarity to find a place that can offer the freedom this school does. The freedom and space to think, to exercise and to spend time with the people you have grown to love and care for- especially during the exam season – is often taken for granted.

I believe it is this freedom which truly motivates and sustains us. At this time, conversation does tend to turn to the future and the dreaded question: “and what will you be doing next year?”, but there is also a fond reflection on the past and “what more would you have done?” Discussing the latter with fellow 6.2s, we settled on one main thing we would have done if we relived our Bedales education. We decided we would have written a diary starting at Block 3, if not sooner, not just for comic-value but as a reminder and record of all our experiences. I think of this, what it would look like and how full it would be; I think Bedales encourages people to leave with a weighty volume, a full and well-used diary.

While the many empty pages ahead will always be daunting, I am immensely grateful for the freedom I have had so far to fill the pages with numerous and various experiences and to have shared them with such a supportive and special bunch of people.

Prize Work

Bedales Memorial Library Interior

How do you reward outstanding achievement if you don’t want to encourage competition between students? Bedales did away with comparative class lists very early on, because we believe that encouraging students to do their best is better than encouraging them simply to do better than others. This is a typical Bedalian dilemma, but one for which Badley had an elegant solution.

‘Prize Work’ was “…not for competition but as reward for anything that was shown up of special merit…for many years the annual show of ‘prize-work’ was one of the most characteristic features of the School” (J.H. Badley, Memories and Reflections, p.124). In order to recognise some of the outstanding independent academic work our students undertake, we are reviving the tradition of Prize Work this year. All students are invited to enter a piece of independent work they have done over the summer. It can be in any academic subject, and could be any kind of thing, for example…

  • a sketchbook of technical diagrams of birds or leaves
  • a program or an App
  • a project to research an area of interest, and write an essay
  • a translation of a short story or poem

It must be their own, and it must not be school work, as this has been assessed already. It can, however, build on school work with additional research and editing. It is a great thing to do if a university application is imminent, and a great way for students to stretch themselves whatever Block they are in. I would like to encourage you to take part!

Submission details here.

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Academic Enrichment and Religious Studies and Philosophy