Turning in ‘Othello’

By David Anson, Head of English

The first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s play Othello was on Hallowmas Day, November 1, 1604. James I had been king for just over 18 months and he had very recently overseen the Treaty of London which concluded 19 years of conflict between England and Spain. It was a time of great change, a time of unification and much longed for peace.

On Wednesday, Bedales English Literature A Level students were joined on Microsoft Teams by fellow Bohunt English Literature students to take part in a short lecture programme organised by myself and Deana Buchan, Head of English at Bohunt. We were joined remotely by Dr Kath Diamond, a Renaissance specialist who lectures at Goldsmith’s College and Queen Mary and Westfield, and who delivered a fascinating lecture on ‘Turning in Othello’.

Amongst other things, Kath’s lecture recognises the significance of this period of political and cultural change in Jacobean London and the bearing it has upon the action and motifs to be found within a play which presents a ‘spiralling vortex of change’. The play opens in the turmoil and business of a bustling Venice, centre of trade and commerce and the seat of much public debate and discussion about the ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire in Cyprus. It narrows to the defeat of the Turkish army before narrowing again to the private matters of Othello’s marriage to Desdemona and then ends with yet a further narrowing to the marital bed; site of Desdemona and Othello’s tragic end and loaded with much dramatic symbolism. The play is a play of change and a play of turmoil that leaves both its contemporary and 21st century audience somewhat unsettled (though for different reasons) and yearning for the kind of peace and order that a king like James, Shakespeare’s patron, ought to bring at the start of his reign.

The students then explored the way the masculine and the feminine may be considered in the play through shorter presentations led by myself and Deana; a useful foundation for further classroom discussion. At a time when we can’t take our students to the theatre or to lecture programmes, this was a superb opportunity for both 6.1 and 6.2 to revisit their study of Othello and it ushers in the start of more exciting joint projects between Bohunt and Bedales that Deana and I hope to be able to realise in face to face events next year.

Poetic composition with Ernest Hemingway

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

Block 3 have been studying Ernest Hemingway’s novella The Old Man and The Sea in their English composition lessons this term, which has led to all sorts of fishy descriptions and discoveries. Last week they tried a form of poetic composition which involves taking lines from the text and rearranging them to create a poem.

Everyone had called him The Champion
He always thought of the sea as la mar
The strange light the sun made on the water
He loved green turtles and hawksbill with their elegance and speed
He was happy feeling the gentle pulling and then he felt something hard and unbelievably heavy
He held the line against his back and watched its slant in the water
I love and respect you very much.
He is a great fish and i must convince him
They are our brothers and are like flying fish
I hate cramp. It is a treachery of one’s own body.​
‘I’ll kill him though, ‘Now is when I must prove it.’

– Nicky, Block 3

The Human Fish

Fish, I love you and respect you very much
You let the female fish always feed first.
You are good, play jokes and love one another
Take some rest fish
Chew it well and get all the juices

Fish, I love you and respect you very much
But through my treachery,
My big fish,
I will kill you dead before the day is over

It was the saddest thing I ever saw
The female made a wild and panic stricken fight.
Still, through my treachery,
I love you and respect you very much

– Jake, Block 3

La Mar

In the dark the old man could feel the morning coming,
The boat moved slowly through the dark water,
 He was sorry for the birds,
The small delicate dark terns,
Always flying and looking and never finding,
The birds have a harder life than we do – he thought,
Why did they make birds so delicate and fine,
When the ocean can be so cruel?
She is kind and very beautiful,
Yet,
She can be so cruel,
It comes so suddenly and such birds that fly,
Dipping and hunting,
Their small sad voices are made to delicately for la mar,
But – he thought,
She gives or withholds favours,
 And if she did wicked things,
It was because she could not help them,

– Shoshana, Block 3

This poetic composition exercise is something that you can do with any text and which produces a very wide variety of outcomes. I thought you might like to have a go yourself, maybe with your family, so here are some instructions:

  1. Choose a novel or short story that you love or know well to work with.
  2. Choose 10-15 phrases or short sentences and write them down. The tricky bit is to not think too much but to trust your instincts and choose lines that ‘speak’ to you. You could also experiment with choosing lines at random.
  3. The quotations you’ve chosen may well have some sort of shared theme. You could use the theme as the title of the poem or you might choose one of the lines to be the title.
  4. Re-arrange the quotes into some sort of order that makes most sense. Try not to think too hard but go with what feels right.
  5. You might need to leave out one or two of your original choices but try to include them all if you can.
  6. You might need to alter the grammar of some of your quotations slightly to help it make sense.
  7. Read it through again and again and make any alterations it needs each time.

I’ve also recorded creative writing sessions which anyone can use which can be found here: Description, Home, Poetry and Speech.

The joy of learning languages

By Christopher Grocock, Teacher of Classics

This week I had the pleasure of taking Jaw, something I have always enjoyed doing, and talking about my experience of learning languages over the 60+ years I have enjoyed doing it (I include English – we all learn at least one language of some kind, even if we don’t realise we are doing so at the time!) It was interesting to have the opportunity to reflect on this since Latin (and some Greek) have been a part of the ‘Languages’ department – and not just administrately – for the last year and a bit. This also mirrors my own experience as a linguist – I have both learned and taught ancient (dead) and modern (living) languages. They are all languages and there are similarities in the way we get to grips with them (learning) and teach them (passing them on, education) but there are many differences, too.

Doing this Jaw also gave me the challenge of trying to answer the question ‘Why bother with language?’, especially now there is Alexa and Google Translate readily available to help us out. I think there are multiple answers to that question. First, though, I admit that new languages can be a real challenge to us. You have to find ‘traction’ – ‘hooks’ so you find your footing in a new language; and you may find yourself with lots of unfamiliar shapes in the way that the new (to you) language is written. Studying ancient languages can seem very dry and dusty – the experience of the playwright Patrick MacGorain at school was that “the little grudge I bear is directed against those men who taught me the literature of Rome and Greece and England and Ireland as if they were little pieces of intricate machinery… we were so engaged in irregular verbs and peculiar declensions that we never once smelt blood or felt gristle”. He couldn’t see the wood for the trees. This is a familiar experience when you are doing ‘first steps’ in anything – but persevere, and you begin to see a more complete picture. Better still, you begin to ‘feel’ the sense of the original – to taste it, almost. As Lucy Nicholas from the King’s College London Classics department notes, when you start to immerse yourself in an original text, you get more than you can from even the best of translations; writing about Vergil, she says “he plunges us into real life, the lives of the dispossessed, the disoriented, the vanquished, the triumphant, the dying, the lovelorn. His poems don’t offer words, words, words, but blood”.

The poet Robert Frost once said that “poetry is what gets lost in translation” – though a good translation can have a musicality of its own, as Patrick Leigh Fermor found when he got into conversation with a certain Baron Reinhardt von Liphart-Ratshoff, a man of frankly alarming culture (in A Time of Gifts, pp. – the whole book is well worth a read!) Asked if it were true that the German translations of Shakespeare were as good as the original, the Baron said: “Not true at all, but it’s better than any other foreign language. Just listen!” He took down four books and read out Mark Anthony’s speech in Russian, French, Italian and German. The German had a totally different consistency from any other utterance I had heard on this journey: slow, thoughtful, clear and musical, stripped of its harshness and over-emphasis and us; and in those minutes…I understood for the first time how magnificent a language it could be.

As diverse a knowledge as that might be beyond us now – but learning a language means that the knowledge is yours, not Alexa’s or Google Translate’s. You don’t feel at a loss in the world; you know where you are because you have an idea of where you and your language, your culture, have come from. Even more, you can get into another culture ‘from the inside,’ and knowledge and understanding becomes a part of you. The critic and philosopher George Steiner sums it up very neatly: “A sentence always means more. Even a single word… It can, and usually does. Each language speaks the world in its own ways. Each edifies worlds and counter-worlds in its own mode.” In short, “The polyglot is a freer man”.

Careers update – National Citizen Service and Meet the Medics

By Cheryl Osborne, Teacher of Biology and Careers Advisor

Last Friday, Harry Draycot from the National Citizen Service (NCS) joined the Block 5 assembly via Teams. He explained what the scheme entailed and how they could get involved. This year they are offering two or three week placements covering outdoor pursuits, life skills and in the third week helping to plan and bring to life a rewarding community project. Considering students have been locked away from their peers and have lacked the much needed socialising that they would normally do, this scheme seems more important than ever to get involved in. This will enable them to meet new people and gain some very valuable skills, as well of course, having lots of fun. More information about what is involved and how to apply can be found here.

On Monday, five Old Bedalians – Luke Austen, Adam Osborne, Claudia Anholt, Ollo Catton and Molly Graham – joined a group of students from both Bedales and Bohunt to describe their experiences of applying for, studying and practising medicine. It was fascinating to hear how they had found the application process; three had got in first time round, one had to take a gap year and reapply, and one was unlucky enough to fall short of the grades required, but despite this they showed huge perseverance, first studying Biomedical Science and reapplying as a post-grad. After what will have been eight years of study, they are very keen to start their career.

Students were provided with advice about the importance of volunteering, for example in a care home, rather than just observing doctors at work, although the latter is useful for students to gauge whether they feel the job would be right for them. The different course styles of the five universities (Bristol, Exeter, Manchester, Oxford, and UEA) were described and, although there are some differences, most follow a similar structure with lots of hands on experience. Oxford was the exception, with three years pre-clinical, leading to a Medical Sciences BSc, followed by three years clinical. Research into what suits your own style of learning was strongly recommended. The pros and cons of intercalating (taking a year out to study for a BSc/BA) were also discussed.

It was refreshing to hear that the two qualified doctors are loving their jobs, and their ability to study alongside working, particularly during and after the second foundation year after graduating, when study time is given. This has led one to take on a Master’s in Global Health and Expedition Medicine and the other to be appointed as Clinical Fellow in Acute Medicine. It was interesting and reassuring to learn that there were plenty of opportunities for qualified doctors prior to deciding on a specialism and embarking on up to eight years of further training.

All the OBs said that they are happy to be contacted by students thinking of a career in medicine and I would like to thank them for this and for giving up their time to attend the event. Their bios will be available to students on the Professional Guidance area of Firefly and their contact details are available from Cheryl Osborne on request.

Spring is in the air in Outdoor Work

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

The change in the weather has really brought the farm to life, which is so wonderful to see. Last week our ‘spring’ flock of Southdown and Southdown X Jacob sheep started to lamb. As I write this we have 10 adorable little black lambs running around; we are just waiting on our three Southdowns (Sammi, Saoirse and Sophie), as well as our two Herdwicks, to deliver!

Our two sows, Little Pig and Bessie, didn’t want to miss out on the action either. They have been crossed with a British Saddleback (Basil). Between the two girls they farrowed 18 beautiful little black pigs, each with a white belt around their shoulders.

Running a school farm is a unique and rewarding job. Connecting students to the land and working with the animals is mostly a joy. Showing students across all three schools around the farm is one of my favourite things to do. Finding the balance between education and farming, whilst keeping animal welfare at the heart of everything we do, is a constant thing and something I believe we do very well here. We are not a petting farm nor do we want to be one. We want to educate students about food, farming and the environment, and how they are all linked.

Last weekend was a very strange one. It was probably the first time we felt that fine balance becoming a little unstable.  A combination of new arrivals, shining sun, schools reopening and the prospect of some return to normality, saw – to use a fashionable word – unprecedented numbers of visitors at the Black Barn.

When you have a large number of young, excited children, ramblers, dog walkers and picnickers, the tranquillity of giving birth very quickly disappears and the animals get stressed. This was very evident for a period of time. Everyone thinks their child and dog is safe, but to a sheep every dog is a wolf. Standing chatting beside a very pregnant sheep while dipping into some hummus may sound idyllic, but I’m confident the sheep wouldn’t agree. Likewise noisy children around little piglets and farrowing sows causes distress, resulting in squashed piglets and anxious mums.

So, although I don’t want to sound like a grumpy farmer, maybe this is a timely reminder about the countryside code. It is such a wonderful time of year and being able to experience nature so closely is so very special. Let’s try to remember the animals and their needs, alongside our own, human wants.

For all the latest updates from Bedales Outdoor Work, make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Twitter.

Global Awareness social entrepreneurs continue to make a change

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness

Block 5 Global Awareness students have continued to practice the art of social innovation whilst learning remotely, utilising even more their skills in campaigning, particularly through social media and internet resources.

Ava Sender Logan has been motivated by the very current topic of food poverty. Ava said: “This lockdown, we have been working on campaigning in Global Awareness. During this project I was interested in the topic of food poverty. For my project, I self-published a book to Amazon; 30 Bites on a Budget. In this book you will find my illustrations, a QR code to a video I have made about food poverty, a poem I have written and 30 meals to make on a budget. The idea behind this is was linked to the new school meals policy where school lunches are no longer free in the UK. I have made 30 lunch ideas which will feed a family of four. These meals cost between £1-2 per person. The book contains a month’s worth of cheap lunches. All profits from this book go to my local food bank. So far, we have raised £80. Please check my book out here.”

Kam Nelson-Clayton and Fifi Phillips began their research investigating period poverty in the UK, a very real issue at the moment, developing their understanding of sustainable period products and the importance of these being more widely available in schools. This led to a business relationship developing with a social enterprise providing sustainable products around the world, with a focus on supporting schools to provide free sanitary products to their students. Kam and Fifi have written a developed business plan and presented this at Bedales, proposing a partnership with Bohunt. This has gained traction and we are hoping that these products will be available in bathrooms around the school and the boarding houses before too long.

Millie Kennedy has been researching far right radicalisation – what causes it, how it happens, how to prevent it, and how to help those affected. Recently, and particularly after the capitol riots in Washington, we have all been on alert to the rise in far-right movements. Milly says: “I wanted to understand why this has come about and how to prevent it from happening in the future. After my research, I came to conclusions about what I could do.  I will be working with the well-being department to add to the curriculum – e.g. how to spot dangerous material online. I have also been in contact with Damian Hinds, MP for East Hampshire, asking what the government is doing about the growing threat, and I will be working with Block 2 pupils at Dunhurst, teaching a lesson on what to look out for on social media and online, to hopefully spread awareness amongst the most vulnerable age group.”

Skylar Cazac has been looking at how to encourage the roll-out of microgrids for rural electrification in South Asia and Africa. Skylar says: “Approximately 13 percent of the world’s population currently live without reliable electricity supplies, and are mainly situated in rural areas of South Asia and Africa. Often, these people have to make do with old diesel generators that are expensive, highly polluting and at times very dangerous. With the rapid decrease in the cost solar and wind power plants and the roll-out of energy storage solutions, renewable energy powered microgrids can provide an excellent climate friendly leapfrog alternative, to enable mass rural electrification. This said, these systems can still be expensive to set up due to technology being used. I have been researching hybrid financing solutions to enable a mass introduction of these systems into areas in need as an important tool in the energy transition. The type of systems that I envisage would combine three strategies to raise equity in order to sponsor and foster the rapid development of microgrids: 1) charitable crowdfunding schemes; 2) a “carbon trading” platform, to raise capital from Western companies that wish to offset their CO2 emissions by financing renewable energy production in developing countries; 3) microgrid finance schemes for the villagers who would benefit from green electricity provided by the highly subsidised microgrids. I would like to collaborate with impact focused financial investors to achieve scale in this project.”

Wellbeing update – Resilience and nutrition

By Kirsten McLintock, Head of Wellbeing & PSHE

Over time, we have seen the conceptualisation of resilience shift from being a trait – you either have it or you don’t – to a characteristic, something you can change over time that is very internally focused. Ultimately, resilience is a process one has to continuously cultivate. This was the message in Wellbeing lessons before half term.
 
Nutrition can help you build resilience, so you aren’t as affected by stress and are able to weather the storm when difficulties and struggles come your way. This is a good thing because it means that when it comes to using your diet to up your resilience, you can continually work to improve (and if you decide to have cake for dinner one night, it doesn’t mean you have failed!)

Often I hear students complain of fatigue, poor concentration, low mood, anxiety and sleeplessness; before exploring the wellbeing of their mind, we need to examine their food lifestyle. Potential deficiencies in vitamins and minerals (few adolescents are eating an optimal  diet), what they are choosing to eat and drink (see food pyramid below), portion size and timings (breakfast is vital for teenagers) all affect mood, sleep, motivation and wellbeing. 

Arming adolescents with nutritional knowledge and the self-awareness of how food affects their bodies and mind is key to building resilience and wellbeing. For further information on diet and nutrition for teenagers, I recommend following The Nutrition Guru, Tina Lond-Caulk. Tina has just released The Teenage Health & Wellness Guide. As well as tasty and nutritious recipes and advice, the book also includes recommendations such as encouraging teenagers to consume a daily quality multivitamin and mineral, and the importance of supplementing vitamin D, magnesium and calcium. The latest scientific research also strongly suggests a link between mind health and gut microbiome; Symprove is an excellent choice of daily probiotic.
 
If we focus on eating for wellbeing, realise that we can love and take care of ourselves and have self-compassion, and focus on what we’re consuming, we tend to be healthier in both body and mind. 

Beyond Bedales: Meet the Medics – 1 March 2021

By Cheryl Osborne, Teacher of Biology and Careers Advisor

The next Beyond Bedales event, Meet the Medics, will take place on Microsoft Teams on 1 March at 5.45pm. Six Old Bedalians currently studying or practicing medicine – Luke Austen, Adam Osborne, Claudia Anholt, Ollo Catton, Molly Graham and George Sinclair – will be joining us for this event. Each of the OBs will talk about their application journeys and where they are now, and students will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

This event is a must for anyone who is interested in medicine or another healthcare career,Students interested in attending this event should contact me at cosborne@bedales.org.uk so I can invite them to the event via Teams.

Luke Austen, Clinical Fellow in Acute Medicine, Edinburgh

Luke studied at Bedales Sixth Form from 2010-2012, before doing pre-clinical medicine at Pembroke College, Oxford from 2012-2015 and clinical medicine at Harris Manchester College, Oxford from 2015-2018. He completed FY1 & FY2 year at University Hospitals Birmingham before moving to Edinburgh, where he is currently a Clinical Fellow in Acute Medicine. His main interests are simulation-based education, clinical human factors, resuscitation and critical care. He is pursuing a career in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine.

Adam Osborne, F2, Aberystwyth and Masters in Global and remote Medicine, Plymouth

Adam left Bedales in 2014 with A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, and an AS in Physics. He studied medicine at the University of Exeter. He spent four years in Exeter (two mostly lectures and learning life sciences, two placement based) and one year in Truro, Cornwall (all placement). He chose not to intercalate but he is now completing a Master’s degree in Global and Remote Medicine at the University of Plymouth (long distance due to COVID) whilst also working as an F2 (18 months out of graduation), in Aberystwyth for the year.

Claudia Anholt, Fourth year, University of East Anglia

Claudia left Bedales in 2014. She did not get into medicine first time round and did not put down a fifth choice, as she only wanted to do medicine. She was going to re-apply following A Level results, but with AAB she applied to the University of Liverpool to do Biomedicine through clearing. Once she completed this degree, she re-applied to medicine and is currently in her fourth year at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Ollo Catton, Fourth year, University of Bristol, and intercalating BSc Childhood Studies

Ollo left Bedales in 2017. He went straight to the University of Bristol where he is in his fourth year. Ollo is currently intercalating in a BSc in Childhood Studies. 

Molly Graham, Second year, University of Manchester

Molly left Bedales in the summer of 2018 and is currently studying at the University of Manchester in her second year.

Classics in lockdown

By Christopher Grocock, Teacher of Classics

I am utterly indebted to the cooperation and cheerfulness of the Bedales students who have joined in wholeheartedly as we have kept our classes in Latin (and a bit of Greek) going! When we started in the latest lockdown I wasn’t sure how well we would get on – but we have all coped with the challenges of poor internet and strange work stations in our various homes (mainly by laughing when things go wrong – what else could we do?) Looking back over the past couple of months I am intrigued by the good progress we have made, in all the year groups from Block 3 to 6.2.

What’s made this happen? I can think of a few factors. The fact that Latin and Greek are ‘dead’ languages has helped – we don’t depend on the immediacy which is a key positive part of learning a modern language. There is the fact that in isolation students have had more time (with fewer distractions from other students around them!) to work at their own pace, and had the courage to ask for help whenever they needed it. Above all our progress has been helped by the sheer goodwill of all the students (and sympathetic and supportive parents – thank you!) right across the year-groups.

We have accepted that things would go wrong, technologically; we wait. We have coped with strange differences in time-zones and the issues that brings. We have accepted that working from home is challenging and if for any reason a student can’t find the set text book they used only two days before, we give them time to get it; and if it has been buried under something we find something else to do which usefully helps us make progress. And progress we have… to my delight (and relief, let’s be honest!)

I am looking forward to being back in a classroom and seeing students without strange backgrounds on their screens. It will, I admit, take some adjustments. But there has been more thriving than surviving and I hope that everyone involved – myself included – has come out of the experience with lots of lessons learned about how we learn and how we can motivate ourselves when we are ‘back to normal’, however the new normal looks.

And to close, here’s a challenge to all the Bulletin Readers. This is a passage from our Block 3 workbook, with a quiz at the bottom – put the sentences in the right order.

To help you, I am including Siena’s completed storyboard. Try it for yourselves!

Walking in lockdown

By Chloe Nicklin, Head of Netball

This week, students have been sharing the view from the walks they have been completing as part of their exercise in lockdown. Thank you to Clara Stannah, Lula Goldring, Maia Blake, Maya Martin, Milly Trench, Nissi Mavurah, Posy Kingsley-Pallant and Rosy Riley for their contributions.