Wednesday was the first competitive hockey fixture of the season with the Block 3 side (pictured above) taking on Block 4. Both sides had started to show some good improvement during their training sessions, so this game arrived at a perfect time and the girls did not disappoint.
A competitive game in the best sense of the word saw both teams play with attacking intent and impressive levels of intensity, but ultimately it was the Block 4s’ ability to retain more possession and a better understanding of their team structure that saw them home as deserved winners. However, a re-match is in the pipeline, and with more exposure to the 11-a-side version of the game, it is likely that the Block 3s will pose an increasing level of challenge.
As the nights draw in and we all remember the reason for the winter festivals that feature lots of fire and warmth, it’s time for the English department to spread some cheer, as we did at the Block 3 Fireside Night last Friday. This is an evening event, at which students and staff are invited to perform memorised poetry, stories and songs in the great hall of the Bedales Dining Room, lit only by fire from the enormous fireplace and a few candles. As it is difficult to photograph an event held in near total darkness, it must retain its mystery, but here is what it’s all about…
The students had been asked to think about life without phones, TVs and electricity, and what homegrown entertainment would look like without those things. Before the Fireside Night, Bedales English teachers had shared their own feelings about performance and how nerve-wracking it generally is. I had also been to the Block 3 assembly to reassure students that no one would be looking for perfection in this kind of performance, and remind them that we all need to forget what we see on our screens everyday, as it is not a fair representation of a live performance.
So, with the fire crackling and candles twinkling, students arrived at a dark hall last Friday to recreate the kind of entertainment enjoyed by our ancestors. Julia started the evening with a haunting rendition of Where the Boats Go by Robert Lewis Stevenson and then introduced her students: Ivan reciting a Robert Frost poem called Nothing Gold Can Stay and Grace with Babysitting by Gillian Clarke.
The bravery of these first performances was a wonderful catalyst for the others. Later on – having decided they were brave enough – others from Julia’s class also performed: Freya, with Anne Hathaway by Carol Ann Duffy and Lotty, who chose a powerful poem about Greta Thumberg. Our special guest, Clive, spoke the words of an ’80s rock ballad, making them far more profound in the process, and was, of course, cheered to the rafters.
Mary-Liz’s stand-out performances were from Caspar with Do Not Go Gentle by Dylan Thomas, which was impressive in its sophistication, and Seb, who confidently gave us two contrasting poems – one about death and a comic piece written by himself. As head of department, David might be expected to give the most impressive performance of all but, with terrible irony, his carefully rehearsed speech from Hamlet (in which the title character muses on the excellence of human-kind) flew out of his head. Thankfully, his students made up for his memory loss with faultless performances including raucous group singing from Bay, Leo and Kit.
Louise’s rendition of The Raven was followed by some keen performances from her class. Eliza performed Leisure by WH Davis, fully exploring the poignancy of the poem through her interpretation; Sienna gave a powerful version of one of her favourite poems, A Day by Emily Dickenson with confidence and poise; Hendrix lifted our spirits with his confident performance of the amusing poem, The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay and Alex approached the task with his signature confidence and performed his poem to great applause.
My own class was represented by Shoshana and Xander, both performing classics of the nonsense genre, The Jabberwocky and The Jumblies which provided welcome relief, I’m sure, after my own version of Jolene, a song I might not have performed quite as well as Dolly Parton herself, though not for want of practice. Jen’s classes were last with honourable mention going in particular to Oscar and his hilarious performance of My New Pet and Roan’s stirring and dramatic version of Dulce et Decorum est.
The evening was rounded off with a soulful Let it Be from Zeb, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar which gave us all a wonderful atmosphere to go out on.
Please do take the opportunity to ask students about their experience of the Fireside Night – they were an amazing and appreciative audience and deserve praise for this as well as their bravery in performing.
My Block 3 students have been practising writing poems using extended metaphors.
In class, we read The Beach by William Hart-Smith, Winter Morning by Roger McGough and In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound to inspire us, observing that none of the poems used full rhyme or a particular rhythm; instead, they’re constructed using one long sentence.
Students then worked together in small teams groups, looking at a range of images – a skiing scene, traffic on a motorway, a mountain top and a red London bus – and coming up with a number of metaphors and similes to describe aspects of the picture (mountain tops as “Stegosaurus spines” in the skiing scene, for example).
Next, they were asked to turn their collective notes into a descriptive sentence that uses at least one metaphor, then turn that into a poem.
In the five weeks before half term, Block 3 students were engaged in a project for Biology, researching an ecosystem. They chose their own ecosystems, which ranged from rainforests to cold deserts, coral reefs to wetlands. They were asked to identify three habitats within their ecosystem, to look at the biotic and abiotic factors affecting each habitat, and then finally to look at the adaptations of three organisms within each habitat.
The project enabled students to be independent in their learning and to be creative. They learnt research skills and the need to reference the websites that they used. Those who looked at the marking criteria carefully performed really well. The projects were presented as PowerPoints, word documents, posters and even a website (which can be accessed here).
Block 3 have been prompted to reflect on ‘character’ from The Guardian article, The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months. For centuries western culture has been permeated by the idea that humans are selfish creatures. That cynical image of humanity has been proclaimed in films and novels, history books and scientific research. But in the last 20 years, something extraordinary has happened. Scientists from all over the world have switched to a more hopeful view of mankind. As we are living through this unprecedented lock down and as our theme in Wellbeing for Block 3 this year is ‘empathy’ I felt this cross-curricular article would resonate with Bedalians. The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other, and that we should always look for what is good and positive in people. As a Block 3 student reflects: “I enjoyed reading this article a lot. I found it very interesting and I enjoyed the expectations vs reality of it all. Books make it appear as if people being trapped on an island together will lose all sanity. Good to know that isn’t necessarily true!”
For Block 4’s theme on identity this year we have been exploring self-awareness and acceptance. Dr Brene Brown’s research and teachings permeate the entire Wellbeing curriculum provision at Bedales, so it was opportune to task students with watching her two TED talks. Dr Brown is perhaps best known for TEDx talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Recorded at an event in Houston in 2010, the talk is one of the five most popular in TED history, with more than 60 million views. It summarises a decade of Brown’s research on shame, vulnerability and courage.
On 11 October, Block 3 students were invited to attend and participate in a poetry event in the Dining Hall. Welcomed by members of the English department dressed in sheepskins and cloaks, and surrounded by candles, students and staff stood up to perform a poem they had learnt by heart in front of the roaring fire. Some took on Shakespeare and others invited the audience to join them in a rendition of a nursery rhyme.
Lilibet Viner gave a dramatic performance of Helena’s speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Sam Coleman told us what it was like to be a cupcake cooking in the oven; Clara Gardiner-Cox gave a moving rendition of Mary Elizabeth Frye’s Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep; and Miranda Robertson sang a luxurious yet spine-tingling version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
It is all one chase. Trace it back: the source might be nothing more than a teardrop squeezed from a curlew’s eye, then follow it down to the full-throated roar at its mouth: a dipper strolls the river dressed for dinner in a white bib. The unbroken thread of the beck with its nose for the sea, all flux and flex, soft-soaping a pebble for thousands of years or here after hard rain sawing the hillside in half with its chain. Or here, where water unbinds and hangs at the waterfall’s face, and just for that one stretched white moment becomes lace. – Simon Armitage
I read ‘Beck’ by the poet laureate Simon Armitage shortly after disembarking the Ullswater minibus. Perhaps it was fatigue that compelled me to pick up a poetry book, but this poem really reminded me of Ullswater.
We did encounter many becks – Block 3s camped beside them, the rushing water the least of their problems – and we scaled ‘the waterfall’s face’, albeit in ridiculous wetsuits. If you replace ‘the sea’ in Armitage’s poem with ‘Lake Ullswater’, you have a description of this trip.
Ullswater 2019 really was an abrupt end to summer for the new Block 3s, what with the ‘hard rain’ and singular hash brown for breakfast. This sounds quite miserable, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t!
Northern weather is always expected to be far less superior than here in the South. Actually, I know for my tutor group, the bad weather brought people together. There was a general consensus as we were freezing whilst rowing or when the smaller members of our tutor group were almost being blown away near the foot of Helvellyn, that everyone was (literally) in the same boat, so we might as well get on with it!
And everyone did. I speak for every Block 3 tutor group. The week was marred by the weather, but what these Block 3s achieved is truly astounding. From ‘the source’, the menial tasks like organising kit rooms to the de-gunge at the end of the expedition, I’m sure everyone had worn a huge grin on their faces at some point. The Block 3s should be proud of themselves, as should the dozen 6.2 Badley Seniors who accompanied them.
Ullswater 2019 was a cyclical moment for me in my Bedales career. I remember Ullswater as a Block 3 vividly, from being dumped in a sail boat and half-rolling, half-falling down a hillside mid-expedition. (To be fair, the backpack was bigger than me!) The sixth formers who valiantly sacrificed their first week of their final school year had to endure creaky beds that had the authentic asylum experience and lacing up countless walking boots, although I’m sure everyone will say it was worth it.
To be back to where our Bedales journey started was super special. I know everyone has so many memories to share – more than I can put on one page. On the other hand, I bet the only thing that sticks out in the teachers minds is how loud we were every evening playing a notorious card game…