We have almost come to the end of a long and very busy term and the whole school community is looking forward to a well – earned rest! The last two weeks have been fantastic as I have enjoyed performances of “Cinderella Rockerfella” (Year 3) and Year 5 singing Christmas Carols in Touchwood shopping centre. I am looking forward to seeing “The Sleepy Shepherd” (Nursery to Year 2), the Year 11 ”Nativity”, our Senior School pantomime and the Carol Service at St. Alphege Church next week.
It has been a busy and fast paced term throughout and December has been no different. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff for their hard work and commitment this term; to the teachers and assistants for inspiring learning and to the invaluable support staff who ensure that school runs smoothly, day in day out.
November was a very special month for me as we celebrated the founding of our school with the Commemoration Prizegiving Ceremony, the service at St. Alphege Church and the wonderful ball organized by the Parents’ Association. I was truly moved by the speeches given by our Head Girl Niamh Robinson, the Deputy Head Girls Samantha Galbraith and Rosie Mann and our prize presenter and “Old Girl”, Caroline Zyla. Niamh spoke passionately about the fantastic education she has received at School, academically and in music, sport and drama. She summed up that a Saint Martin’s girl is “… encouraged to be confident, speak her mind and stand up for what she believes in.” Samantha talked about the rich and varied extra-curricular opportunities including the recent study visit to China and exciting school productions such as “The Little Shop of Horrors” and our forthcoming production of “Blood Brothers”. Rosie spoke of the charity fundraising efforts of the whole school and the many sporting successes. Caroline’s speech began with her memories of being a Saint Martin’s pupil, starting in the infant department in Alice House and leaving in the Sixth Form as Deputy Head Girl. Caroline studied Engineering at Warwick University and is proud to be a female engineer. She shared her thoughts on life lessons of the working world and encouraged the girls to find a job they love; to be a rounded individual with a varied CV, not just an academic; and finally to be proud of Saint Martin’s School.
These three public events to celebrate the founding of the school coupled with a superb Commemoration party lunch organized by Mrs Frain and her excellent catering team were a fitting tribute to our founders Miss Christine Tucker and Miss Zelie Bull who had the determination, resources and courage to open a school for girls in Solihull seventy three years ago. Our founders wanted girls to achieve at the highest level academically and enjoy success in music, drama, art, sport and public speaking. Were they to be with us now to enjoy the Commemoration celebrations 73 years later, Christine Tucker and Zelie Bull would without doubt be proud of what has been achieved and would be unstinting in their encouragement of Saint Martin’s School as it moves forward.
At the end of November I attended the Girls’ Schools Association Heads’ Conference where I heard inspirational lectures given by Professor Tanya Byron, Dr JoAnn Deak and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai. The lecture given by the key note speaker Dr JoAnn Deak was particularly relevant to teachers, students and busy parents – even more so at this time of year. Dr Deak is a former teacher and a trained psychologist who specializes in brain development. She talked about the problems linked with multitasking and the effect it has on the ability to think, learn and concentrate. Multitasking is pretty much seen as a necessity in the modern world. The ability to do several things at once is taken for granted. But the belief that engaging in several tasks at once means we are more productive is in fact a myth. Instead of saving time, multitasking not only takes longer but also mistakes are more likely. Even though the talk was specific to education and learning, it has implications for all of us as we chase around preparing for Christmas. Dr Deak provided a scientific explanation to back up her belief. She stated that “in the long term multitasking changes the brain from being able to focus deeply on a single task to being what we call a rifle, jumping from one thing to the next”. So as we chase our tails doing last minute Christmas shopping, preparing food, wrapping presents we must remember the effects all of this is having on our brain.
As we finish for the Christmas holiday I would like to leave you with this quotation from Calvin Coolidge the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929):
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
With Silent Night in our hearts and with Jingle Bells on our lips, we anticipate the holiday to come. I wish all members of the Saint Martin’s School community a very happy, peaceful and restful time with family and friends.