The View From My Study – 2nd Feb
The native North American Indians trained their boys with the greatest possible care and legend has it that one of the most important ordeals was that of “The Vigil”.
A father would take his son deep into the forest to a region that would be unfamiliar to the boy. Towards sunset, they would share a meal and then, as darkness fell, the father would say “good night”, turn his back and depart, leaving his son alone in the forest. The boy would have to spend the whole night in solitude, sometimes wearing a blindfold to add to the darkness, with weird animal sounds and fears of cultural ghosts and evil spirits echoing in his mind.
Eventually, in the morning, the light would arrive and with it would come the discovery that the boy had not been alone after all. Standing close by, and there all along, was his father who had shared his vigil and been there throughout the hours of darkness. This was very much a test of character but one which demonstrated to the boy that he is never alone, even when he thinks he is.
Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year it centres on the theme of ‘My Voice Matters’. It is important our pupils understand that there are people to talk to, people who are willing to listen. We all face challenges at times and our ability to persevere can be tested but our resilience is always strengthened when we know we are not alone. With a listening service in place, access to a counsellor, the use of Mindsafe mood journals and apps like Whisper, I am confident we give the children opportunities to speak up and learn how to be self-aware. In short we strive to ensure Biltonians understand that they are never alone.
As a related aside, let me share an anecdote of the above in action. Each week, as part of their service programme, a small group of 6th Formers head to Anya Court Care Home to engage with the elderly residents there. By the nature of being there, some of the residents find it hard to engage and their mental health is weakened. This includes one gentleman who rarely speaks and can appear to resent company, especially teenagers. Then one week, as he was doing a jigsaw puzzle with a vacant chair next to him, one Biltonian who is also not known for excessive talking, decided to sit and do the jigsaw as well. Few words were exchanged but there were smiles and a sense of enjoyment was palpable because they were sharing the experience. Now, every week, it is what they both do.
We are never alone!
We have the HM’s Bacon Butties as normal from 8.15am. Please do come along to engage with other parents and staff. Or, before that I might see you at the FAB Parents’ Quiz this evening.
Have a good weekend everyone!
Gareth Jones, Head