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Red Nose Day: Love or Justice?

The annual mix of merriment and madness that is Red Nose Day!

Mrs. Thomson showed us a very moving video which reminded the school just how lucky we are in this wonderful country of ours. She pointed out how unfair it is that some people have so much and others have so little. It was a fitting addition to our Collective Worship theme of Justice.

Did you know that in early translations of the Bible, the word LOVE was spelled “CHARITY” and this charity/ love, was seen as the greatest virtue? Jesus suggested that, like the Good Samaritan, we should all be on the lookout to care for others. “Charity begins at home” doesn’t mean our care  is restricted to those at home; rather,  it is a place from which to reach out to others.

To quote Shakespeare: (We need) a tear for pity and a hand open as day for melting charity.

So what did you do for charity on Red Nose Day? Any fun photos sent our way would be greatly appreciated!!!

 

Of cabbages and kings…

World Book Day, and I hold a galaxy of books in a brown paper bag, each little world imprisoned in a brightly coloured  cover. BUT… open the pages and out pours a cascade of characters, rivers of adventure, torrents of excitement and humour and emotion.The words are magic spells to brighten children’s eyes, then they gasp and chaffinch-chatter as they recognise old favourites or are intrigued by new ones.

Today, leading Collective Worship, I am dressed as a rather grumpy Goldilocks encouraged to practice Restorative Justice on behalf of the poor victimised bears. (In my defence, I hadn’t thought through being in costume ALL day. Some of us were even more exotically dressed but it may be kinder to move on! ) I feel like the Pied Piper with a flute full of tales to entice and tantalise, tease and enthrall. The children follow after as the story unfolds. They chase a shining ribbon of prose to the threshold of fantasy and plunge through the open door.

In stories, their imaginations explore new countries where kittens can talk and Viking warriors can defeat terrifying sea dragons. They can hitch a ride on a broom with an accident-prone witch in death-defying aerodynamic feats or laugh at kleptomaniac aliens who have a penchant for underpants. Children can have adventures abroad or on their doorstep: it all depends which book they open.

I saw that the £1 book vouchers were as valuable to many as  Willy Wonka’s golden ticket- as precious as pirate dubloons. Hastily, they were squirreled away as the promise of free passage to foreign lands. May that excitement and enjoyment never fade as they learn to climb the story mountain for themselves.

 

Spring is in the air.

I love snowdrops and white narcissi in the spring.  I love that their whiteness is like the remnants of winter snow (not that we’ve had more than a smattering this year) and that their fragile stems belie the strength which pushes them through frozen soil to reach the day.

All bulbs are fascinating: looking as lifeless as a stone but really as full of potential as an egg or acorn. They are not like seeds, with an outside and an inside; they are mysteriously layered, full of their own strange food and instinct for growth. It’s hard to see where their roots and shoots come from, but they invariably appear as the weather loses its chill.

And they’re not just “one hit wonders”. They can repeat the miracle year after year, hiding in the dark until it’s warm enough to sally forth, parading their fresh frocks for the new season.They saunter languidly on the arm of some roguish mossy bank, tossing their pristinely-coiffed petals to tempt our winter-jaded eyes.

Bulbs are like children: full of surprises and the energy of Spring. 

Cold, wet, windy and loving it!

News Flash!

We’ve just come to the end of our enrichment week and Growth mindset characters have been created, coloured and generally run wild through our imaginations.We are settling on the following, so see if you can match them to our mindset attitudes:

  • Curious Caterpillar who is always asking questions.
  • Team Wolf
  • Tiffany Tiger who can think for herself.
  • Leo Lion
  • Reilly the resilient penguin (my personal favourite)
  • Pluto the dog who aims high.

Do come into school to see your children’s wonderful artwork. I can see this term’s certificates are going to be a lot of fun, especially if you are called Leo or Reilly!

On the theme of perseverance in the face of adversity :  a group of us teachers took the Year 5s and 6s commando training on a wet and windy hillside. We ALL ran the obstacle course in pairs.(I can hear that laughter at the back!)  Mayanna beat me muddy hands down:she was Fierce! I was amazed at the sheer energy of so many of our wonderful children and their immense determination to impress our real live Army officers.

You can teach an “old dog” new tricks!

A New Year,a new term, a new school value to unpack. New beginnings are exciting…full of unfulfilled potential. As Anne of Green Gables said, each morning is a fresh new start with no mistakes in it -yet!

We are also at the start of a fantastic new learning tool in school. It’s more of a learning atmosphere really: Growth Mindset. This is a world away from the fixed attitude that there is only one right way to do things and a giant leap into flexible, creative learning. We are all encouraged to have-a-go and not be afraid to fail at times. This is is reinforced by this term’s value: Perseverance. “Just keep swimming,” to quote Dory.

Our brains are always capable of learning something new. There is scientific evidence to show that continuing to challenge ourselves, by learning new skills throughout our lives, keeps our brains healthy well into old age.

 

In school, our Growth Mindset qualities are:

  • Aspirational-aim high
  • Resilient-don’t give up
  • Brave-I can do it.
  • Investigative-I wonder if…
  • Independent-I can think by myself
  • Collaborative-I can work as part of a team.

What challenge have you set yourself this year: learn Russian, take up the bassoon, train your dog to sit on command? Sorry…I must be off, I fancy learning to Salsa!

Angel voices, St. Matthew’s rejoices.

What a fantastic Carol Service! We had a wonderful turnout from you lovely parents. As always, thank you for your support in bringing the children back to school through the dark and gloomy night.As soon as we entered the church, with its atmospheric, candled windowsills and holly wreaths, there was a buzz of anticipation.The children sang like angels (and that was not just the ones dressed like angels…but the shepherds, Mary and Joseph and numerous whooping Native American braves.)The readers were so clear and had some very tricky vocabulary to cope with. Instrumentalists kept rhythm fantastically. I know that many of us really enjoyed the variety of music and the enthusiasm with which it was sung (thanks to Mrs. Fairley’s expertise.)I found particularly touching, the moment when Baby Jesus appeared, visited by Indian chiefs. Christians believe that Jesus came to all peoples of the world as a saviour. What a lovely way to show it…and it was a cross-curricular triumph!The song which has been in my head ever since, was the beautiful Y5/6 song New Boy Born. The haunting words by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy have a contemporary resonance.

Out of the pinpoint light of a star,

Out of a journey cold and far,

Out of a seed in the wind above,

Out of the human need for love

Out of the clouds into snowflakes torn

Out of the night’s desire for morn

Tonight a new boy born.

In these challenging modern times, in the “night” of difficult news and trying circumstances, our children once again brought us the Christmas message of light and peace and love.

 

Pied Beauty

We are coming to the end of our Collective Worship journey through “Thankfulness”. I thought I would share something from my favourite poet on this theme.Gerard Manley Hopkins was one of the greatest of the Victorian poets. He was a Catholic priest, working in poor and isolated communities. He drew much of his inspiration from the beauty of the natural world.

Image result for images Gerard Manley Hopkins

 I particularly love this poem which celebrates all things patchwork-coloured. It is a hymn of thanks to God for his creativity.The line about fresh-firecoal chestnuts aptly describes the glossy conkers that always find their way into my pockets at this time of year. I like to think it even mentions our cows on the common.

Pied Beauty (1877)

Glory be to god for dappled things-

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow.

Image result for images sunset over stroud

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Image result for images trout in river

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches wings

Image result for images conkers

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow and plough:

And all trades, their and tackle and trim.

Image result for images farmers fields

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.

Count your blessings.

“Count your blessings one by one,” is a childhood song familiar to many of us. This week we have been trying to collect 100 blessings as a school. Here are some examples of things we count as blessings:

My pets and family

My Russian dwarf hamster, Hannibal.

My sister

The first time I went to a football match and my team won.

Pokemon Go

I’m thankful because I’ve got a house.

Y5 and Y6 class assembly listened to Miss Szarko tell a rhyming verse of Aesop’s fable: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

“How lucky that I live here,”

Said the country mouse one day.

“I’ll ask my friend the town mouse

If he’d like to come and stay.”

So the chubby mouse from Slough

Visited his chum

But he was filled with horror,

“Pal, you live in a slum.”

The country mouse was envious until he walked a day in his friend’s shoes (or is that “paws”?) and realised that bigger is not necessarily better. He returned home even more thankful for what he had.

Miss Szarko’s final thought for the day was:

“The grass is not greener on the other side; it’s greenest where you water it.”

Add a little sparkle to your day

Gratitude is an attitude.

Our shiny new term starts with the shiny new Collective Worship theme of

THANKFULNESS.

Mrs Thomson shared with us the great memories which make her smile: special birthday celebrations and a sunny beach with her lovely boys. These are things which she continues to be thankful for. If a day is feeling rather grey, or if nothing seems to be going right, she unpacks these memories, dusts them down and remembers how good they made her feel. They add sparkle to even the dullest must-do jobs!

This week, in St. Matthew’s, one of those sparkle moment has been this fantastic Friday. The school was a chatter of children as we all trooped to that wonderful staging post: Cainscross Roundabout. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the Olympians hurtling by on their bicycles like a flock of winged mercuries.

The anticipation built as a stream of police vehicles ostentatiously roared ahead. The ambulance crews were friendliest: honking horns and waving as they passed. Then wonderfully, gloriously, our heroes  streaked by. The vanguard of four super-cyclists were through in a flash. Four minutes later, the pursuing pack swept on in a breathtaking swirl of colour, power and pounding pedals.

As the poet Tennyson said: for all of us there, this moment is now one of those,

“Jewels…that on the stretched forefinger of all time, sparkle for ever.”

cycling-gif

Simple pleasures

Stroud What a beautiful time of year: buds bursting, primroses primping themselves and      bluebells burgeoning in the shady woodlands. Wonderful Spring is sprung, heralding a  long awaited Summer. We are so lucky, in this area of outstanding natural beauty, that  we have ample  opportunity to feast on such delights if we will only seize the moment.    

It reminds me of the opening lines in

W. H. Davies poem, Leisure:

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait ’till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

W. H. Davies (1871-1941) was a Welsh poet and writer who spent a significant part of his life as a gold prospector and train-hopping hobo in America. He became one of the most celebrated poets of his time, writing especially lyrically of Nature in all her glory. Although born in Newport, he spent the last years of his life in Nailsworth, so we can count him as one of Gloucestershire’s sons. It was said of him that he could, “…find in those simple things of daily life… a wonder that consecrated them…In an age that is mercenary (he) reminds us that we have a capacity for spiritual enjoyment.”

stroud valley

One of our own beautiful Stroud valleys.

Builders or breakers?

Builder3  As part of our theme on friendship, Mrs. Thomson started off the week with a collective worship on being builders or breakers in life. With a pile of empty shoe-boxes at her feet (evidence of a sartorially elegant footwear collection?) she called a group of highly trained Y6 volunteers to the front of the hall.One brave, young man was asked to build a tower using these shoe-box “bricks”. Every time a friend made an encouraging comment, our volunteer put another shoe-box on his tower. It was looking impressive by positive statement number five. Along came number six: whose single, negative statement brought the whole edifice crashing down. There are audible gasps from the children.Builder 2   We all sat there thinking, “Are we someone who brings down those around us with our litany of woes and criticism or do we make an effort to be supportive  and encouraging?” In the Bible, the book of Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” ( Chap 18)Mrs. Thomson left us with the challenge, “What will we choose? Are we going to be a builder or a breaker?”builder   

Things children say

We all have anecdotes about the amazing things that our children say. Often these are funny little phrases that pass into the family annals as “in-jokes”. In my own family, we still talk about being covered in “pimple-gooses” when we are cold. I also remember one of my off-spring seeking reassurance by asking, “What do BIG spiders do to little girls?” and her father rather unhelpfully replying, “Eat them!”We have similarly entertaining experiences with the children in school. One colleague, taking a Nature Club asked, “Where would you find a coot?” “I know! I know!” was the excited reply, “On a coot hanger.” When asked about their ideas of the afterlife recently, some accounts included an “angle of pinkness and redness” and massive walk-in wardrobes!More often our children challenge us with their pragmatic spirituality. As Mrs. Thomson said in the Easter Service, “Our children lead the way.” These are some contributions taken from our new school “Worship Books” and class “Thinking Books” where the  children have a chance to respond to the term’s Christian value theme and also to the class RE topic:The after life: 

  • I think people change into angels and can transform into anything peaceful because God, and the people that believe give them magic. I think angels are very tall.
  • I don’t know.
  • They go up to heaven and God cares for all of them.
  • Heaven is a place to start a new life.

Forgiveness is like:

  • an animal being set free.
  • love in your heart.
  • starting your work again on a new page.
  • sitting in a warm bath and watching all your worries go down the plug-hole.

Friendship:

  • Friends are like a mini-family. They are very important to everyone.
  • Friends mean everything to me because I can look up to them, I can play with them, I can care for them, and they can help and care for me.
  • Friendship is happiness and kindness: loving, caring and being interested in what other people think. Treat others how you want to be treated – always!

Messages from God to our world:

  • Don’t worry, I will never forget you. Do not let your worries take over you. Remember happy times.
  • Always have courage.
  • Be strong, be bold, be helpful, be imaginative, be kind. Be what I will be.
  • I am thinking of you.

Collective Worship and Courage

Every term at St. Matthew’s our collective worship is based around one of our core Christian values as a |Church school. The theme is explored mostly through stories: from the Bible, as well as from other faiths and cultures. This term’s theme is COURAGE.Our worship usually starts with a thought-provoking power-point and soothing music (unless we are acknowledging the passing of David Bowie, in which case it was a quick burst of “Starman”.) Tales are told  with actors, props, video or the seasoned story-spinner’s voice (Mrs. Thomson!) Mr. Baird will often introduce a modern or historical twist. We finish with a song, a prayer and a call to, “Go and do likewise,” as Jesus said.Some of the children are currently setting themselves a “Courage Challenge” where they learn a new skill requiring determination and resilience. If you would like to send in a photo of them attempting or even achieving their goal, it will be added to the “Heroes of Courage” display. Mr Ahmad Whilst we are on this theme, I would like to say a belated thank-you to two people of courage who visited St. Matthew’s last term. They were answering questions about their personal faith as part of the Juniors’ RE curriculum.Mr. Ahmad talked about how his Muslim faith influenced his daily life. He patiently answered all our questions and the children were left with a picture of a courteous, caring and peaceful faith practiced by more than one billion people globally. Thank-you, too, Mr. Ahmad for the beautiful Qur’an you left with us.Mrs. Ahmad came prepared with photos and artefacts galore to help tell the story of her Christian faith. It was so refreshing to hear how someone’s personal beliefs can support them in good times and bad. The children were fascinated and had a LOT of questions. I hope you didn’t feel it was too much like being “thrown to the lions”, Mrs. Ahmad!Our curriculum is hugely enriched by the willingness and knowledge of such visitors.