This morning Mr Doodes gave an awe-inspiring and motivational assembly to the Senior School following the Prime Minister’s disappointing announcement last night. Mr Doodes reassured pupils that virtual King’s is firmly open and we, as the King’s community will tackle this challenge collectively. You can listen or read the full assembly below.
Good morning to my pupils at home, the 60 Key Worker children here at school, and all my staff at King’s.
Many of you, like your teachers, your parents, and me, will have watched the announcement last night by the Prime Minister of the introduction of another severe lockdown with sadness, tears and perhaps an element of rage.
Today I should have been welcoming you back from your Christmas Holidays. These were holidays that you had earned through hard work, perseverance and grit. You undertook your responsibilities last term with fortitude, determination and chutzpah. You took to the new rules, the need to bubble in marquees, the need to wear masks, to socially distance, to not mix with other years groups, in great spirit. By doing this in such a way, and by respecting these rules, we managed to get through an entire term without the need to send an entire year group home.
The way you adapted was also mirrored by the way my teachers adapted. Faced with novel ways of teaching, with their daily norms and all the thing that they love from their profession taken from them, teachers showed the same determination as you, all with the requisite wit, humour and great spirit that you would expect from exceptional teachers and school leaders. Throughout the last term, I feel you were taught with passion, with spirit and with the high standards that are required from one of the country’s leading schools. All behind masks, screens, and in rooms suffused with the smell of hand sanitiser and anti-viral desk cleaner.
And this happened whilst many of you were deeply anxious about COVID and the effects it might have on your family. There are just over 800 of you sitting at home at the moment, and 60 here at school as the children of key workers. That’s nearly 900 individual stories. Each and every one of you has had to cope with worries about the virus affecting you, but many of you even more worried about how it has affected your older relations. A number of you have faced tragedy. Each and every one of you has had a silent, invisible cross that you have needed to bear which has weighed you down, yet as you have walked that onwards you have managed to do so without it affecting your daily life. Tragically, over the holiday a number of you have had to deal with losing someone immensely close to you. My heart goes out to you, and the prayers of the community are with you.
In addition to the lockdown and the need to revert to online teaching and learning, there is now a lack of clarity about the summer exams. The Prime Minister last night stated that exams ‘will not go ahead as planned.’ At this moment, we don’t know what that will mean.
Whatever happens with the exams, we will be teaching you the full curriculum as planned.
We will be working on all the information that we are given and will keep you, and your parents informed and updated immediately we receive it.
But whatever advice and guidance we are given, the summer exam session is six months away. And that means, after the long and academically busy Autumn Term, we have a huge amount of ground to cover, not just in exam year groups, but also in every year group.
I want to make it very clear. King’s has not closed. King’s is open. Our provision has changed because we have been forced to change. But our teaching will continue, and those of you who have experienced this in the last major lockdown will know that in many ways learning online is far more intense, and often far harder, than learning in school. It requires focus, and it requires hard work.
And just because King’s has changed the way it delivers the curriculum, it doesn’t mean that it changes its expectations on you. Assembly will take place every Tuesday morning at this time. House Time will remain the same. Lesson times will remain the same. Breaks will remain the same. My expectations of your behaviour is the same.
In addition, I will be speaking to staff about innovative ways in which we can help muster the community spirit whilst you are all at home. We will keep the community spirit alive, and we will ensure that this period is also great fun.
Tuesday assembly will prove to be even more important to you, as it will to your teachers and especially to me. On a personal level, I have spent the last six months needing to crisis manage and lead this school through one of the most difficult periods in its history. And in doing so, the things that matter the most to me, that I selfishly enjoy the most, have been denied. Those things such as being able to sit having lunch with pupils, being able to walk into house rooms and sit and talk, being able to celebrate success through matches, drama productions or music events.
But you may remember, at the very start of the year, that I talked about what matters most in life. What I said to you was this:
‘When everything is gone, when material riches pass when the bareness of life is exposed, it is love that endures. Love is what endures through those times which are not easy, either professionally and or personally.
A phrase I’ll often use to you, and to staff, is this: life is not about how high you fly, but about how well you bounce. It’s about how you move on from tragedy, personal disappointment, and professional pushback. It’s about how you encourage and propel yourself, not letting the fear of failure becomes a barrier standing in your way.
Whether you have already or not, every pupil across the Foundation will have to face challenges and setbacks. As we look to bounce back from these moments, it will be love that sustains you.’
Once again we are going to need to bounce back. Once again we are going to need to collectively move on from personal disappointment and from professional pushback.
In addition to working hard and not losing our focus on academic development, we need to use this time of challenge to develop our resilience, our strength of character and love for each other. We must also use it as a time for self-reflection and personal development. We must use it to realise that to be happy is not to have a perfect life and that we alone are the authors of our own destiny. Many a time you will be told that you can be anything you want in the world. And you’re told that because you alone are the authors of your own destiny, the captain of your own ship. We either use this period to mope, wallow in self-pity and neglect our own souls, or we look to the horizon, hold our head high, and bounce back. In short, we crack on, or we crack up.
One of my colleagues, a wonderful, gentle and cerebral man who looks out for his colleagues and his pupils alike, shared with me some writings this holiday of Pope Francis. Little did he know how significant they would be to us today. And therefore, as we prepare ourselves for period 1, and as we get ready for two months of hard work, for a new normal, for Virtual King’s, we keep in mind these words which I will email you all this morning and end this assembly with today. Remember them as you go about your lessons today and prepare for the months ahead.
‘You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust.
Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.
Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord.
It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.
Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.
To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author. It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.
Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a “no”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified.
It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us. To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple.
It is to have the maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes”. It is to have the courage to say “I am sorry”. It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you”. It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.
May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. That in spring may it be a lover of joy. In winter a lover of wisdom
And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.
You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance. Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculptor serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.
Never give up.
Never give up on people who love you.
Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.’