The Start of Year Assembly in College Hall on Thursday 3rd September was a live-streamed event, using the newly installed Wi-Fi in College Hall, to broadcast this assembly to various School group bubbles and others who were unable to be present in the Hall itself, due to social distancing rules.
Dr Mark Dorsett (Hon OV) opened with a prayer for the School; he said this was the first time in 25 years of being at King’s that the Start of Term Assembly had been in College Hall and Dr Dorsett talked about the Benedictine heritage and that the rule of St Benedict had been to focus on how people can learn to live together, questioning how we all have shared values and purposes and yet recognise the individual needs of the community. He went on to say that people believe what you do and not what he says. Dr Dorsett asked the School to think about how we can practise tolerance, compassion and forgiveness and talked about the cumulative effect of a “thousand small sanities” (Adam Gopnik) which can transform every day experiences.
Dr Dorsett said that, as we adjust to the new normal, “let’s not forget the core values of the old normal that have sustained the School throughout the centuries” and asked that everyone looks out for each other, especially those in Lower Fourth and new to the School. He said that this year is going to be a “tremendous ride” for all of us and “every single one of you can play your part”. Dr Dorsett then read the School prayer, before passing to the new Headmaster, Mr Gareth Doodes, who introduced all the Heads of School, monitors and Heads of Houses to applause from the assembly.
The Head of School, Olivia, then welcomed everyone back to School; she talked about the challenges to individuals’ mental and physical health of the remote working of the previous term. Olivia talked about being optimistic and how she had been very shy as a new Lower Fourth pupil but that she had learned not to let fear of failure dim her optimism. She ended with a quote from Helen Keller: “Optimism is a belief that leads to achievement. To be an optimist is not to face no challenges but to be resilient in the challenges that you do face.”
The Headmaster, Mr Doodes, then addressed the whole School. He said that he was very honoured to be the 36th Headmaster of The King’s School and talked of the warmth and love that first attracted him to King’s and the family nature of the School community. As he and his family have settled in to King’s, he has felt the warmth from everyone, from (Hon OV) Fred the caretaker, (Hon OV) Tracey who keeps his office clean, to Miss Oliver and Mrs Beever (Hon OV) amongst many others. Mr Doodes has a well-used phrase that he wanted to share with the School: “Life isn’t about how high you fly but about how well you bounce.” And we shouldn’t let fear of failure be a barrier to stand in our way. Everyone will have challenges but love will see us through. Love must be shown in kindness at all times: in how we talk to each other and interact with each other. “Good people”, he said, “become good because they get wisdom through failure.”
Mr Doodes spoke of how the teachers will be adapting how they teach in the current situation and he has asked the teaching staff to promote creativity, intellectual thinking and leadership through their academic teaching, as well as providing the best pastoral care to ensure the best experiences. He wants to promote good mental health, that we should admit when things are tough and said, “It’s alright if everything is not alright.”
The Headmaster said that, whilst it is important to work hard academically, it will be the events outside the classroom that will mould the students, mould their character and develop their resilience. As they leave School and apply for jobs later in life, it will have been important that they work hard now to get the best grades possible in order to secure an interview, but it will be their characters which will get them the job. He talked of his high expectations and the importance of leadership. He said that he will be delighted by “positivity, excellent behaviour, ambition, laughter, respect for the environment, smart appearance, kindness” and he is looking forward to being “constantly delighted”.
Mr Doodes reflected on the last year and the tragic death of Mr Armstrong (Hon OV), the impact of coronavirus on the School life and thanked Mr Ricketts (Hon OV) for his leadership but, he said, the last academic year is past and he went on to talk about the coming year and that the success of the School will depend on the collective ability to work together with love, kindness and forgiveness. He said, “Look after each other, be kind, be the change you want to see in yourself and never let fear of failure stand in your way.”
Mr Ricketts then welcomed the School back and explained how students should use the marquees that are now around the School.