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Mehr Licht!

I write this entry on a beautiful spring day in March, with my dog, Max, barking in the sun next to me. It is, however, very much the ‘morning after the night before’.

On Monday evening at 8.30pm, the Prime Minister announced unprecedented restrictions on our daily freedoms. I think we all feel a huge sense of responsibility and determination to do our bit to help support the national effort, but also a real sense of loss of some of the simple pleasures that have become so integral to our daily lives. I suspect we are all feeling a mixture of emotions at the moment. On the one hand there is optimism in the face of adversity, and an intense creativity in how we now manage to connect and do the things we used to take for granted. Upwards of 800,000 children across the nation are taking part in Joe Wickes’ daily 9am PE lesson, and things like virtual tours of galleries, including the Louvre, and concerts moving to Instagram Live show just how creative the human spirit can be under challenging circumstances.

Similarly, I think all of our teachers feel a sense of optimism about our brave new world of Guided Home Learning. On a personal level my first lesson was really quite stressful, as I dealt with unprecedented levels of online interaction with Year 7 during their Latin lesson! However, once we had established the golden rules of communication, my second lesson was so much easier and I felt a growing sense of confidence that I could master all the skills I needed to make this a success. When I had a staff meeting later in the day, on Microsoft Teams, I was bowled over by how committed my colleagues were to this massive educational project. If this situation goes on for longer than we might wish, then I am hopeful that we will see lots of creative ideas for making things even better. We have already started rolling out our Mehr Licht enrichment programme, to accompany formal lessons for Year 7 to 9.

On the other hand, I suspect we are all struggling with the loss of our personal freedoms. We can’t experience all the things living in London has to offer. We can’t even go out and meet a friend for coffee, or run our errands.  Chores that we used to perform on autopilot, like grocery shopping, are now expeditions where we are lucky if we find half of the things we need. I think, though, that the important thing to remember is how committed we all are to making these short term sacrifices; that in the grand scheme of things, this is but a short period in our lives. We are living through History, and I hope that when we look back on this period we remember not so much the social distancing and the isolation that we felt in physical form, but more that sense of community and people coming together online. I am sure I am not the only person thinking ‘thank goodness this is happening in 2020, and not 1920!’

I suspect that boredom will be a feature of all our lives over the Easter holidays. We are going to have to learn to live with a little bit of boredom and find ways of overcoming it. We encourage all of your daughters to read – to find comfort in a quieter way of life. I have asked all pupils in Years 7 to 9 to keep their reading records up to date by reading for at least 30 minutes a day every single day, including in the holidays. I encourage older students to do the same.  Out are the exciting overseas adventures and crazy outdoor activities, in are the quiet opportunities to be together as a family, to play games, to reflect, to play music, to watch old films we might never thought have watching. I would encourage all of your daughters to do as I have urged Years 7 to 9: to create your own Coronavirus Bucket List. Top of mine is to finally get round to reading War and Peace.

Whatever the next few weeks bring, I think we can feel really proud as we look back on a successful if turbulent term at South Hampstead High School. We can be proud of the incredible Gym and Dance display that we did manage to pull off. We can be proud of the wonderful Gala Concerts for the opening of the Waterlow Hall. We can be proud of all our Debating successes, including our English Speaking Union award. We can be proud of some of the amazing victories of our sports teams, including the Under 15 Netball team reaching the quarter finals in a national competition. We can be proud of so much.

As we look forward to the next term, I think we should approach it in a spirit of excited trepidation. There are definitely some challenges, but also just as many opportunities, and we will work together to make the very best of it.

Inspired by the National Trust and their ‘50 things to do before the age of 11¾’, we have created our very own ‘50 things to bring Mehr Licht in lockdown’:

  1. Clear out your wardrobe (my ‘no new clothes for a year’ challenge feels rather appropriate at the moment!)
  2. Think sustainably by repairing or upcycling any items that need it or that you haven’t used in a while
  3. Host a virtual coffee date with your friends online
  4. Take an online tour of the night sky via the Sydney Observatory
  5. Take a virtual tour of a museum e.g. the Louvre or the British Museum
  6. Make a dedication to someone you miss via a radio show
  7. Take time to think: what have you accomplished in the last year, and what are your goals for the rest of 2020?
  8. Create a shared document of films and TV shows you are watching, and invite friends and family to rate and review them
  9. Learn a new skill (e.g. DIY, juggling, knitting, calligraphy, origami) by following YouTube videos
  10. Follow a recipe and cook a meal for your family
  11. Or travel the world by cooking different cuisines from your favourite places each night!
  12. Plant some seeds, or even start a vegetable patch, or a windowsill herb garden
  13. Start a blog
  14. Organise an indoor scavenger hunt
  15. Find a new podcast
  16. Send an email to your future self
  17. Take an online course
  18. Start meditating (the Headspace app is offering free content at the moment)
  19. Attend a live stream concert
  20. Watch a TED talk
  21. Visit the European Film Festival online
  22. Play a board game with distant family members or friends on Skype
  23. Invent a home exercise routine
  24. Join a virtual choir
  25. If you have a garden, have a barbeque in the warmer weather
  26. Or camp in the back garden for an outdoor experience!
  27. Start bird or nature watching and make homemade bird feeders
  28. Watch a play online, e.g. Alan Bennett’s ‘The Habit of Art’
  29. Plan your next trip or adventure
  30. Use the extra time to set up new routines: sleep habits, study skills etc. that you can continue with
  31. Solve Rubik’s Cube!
  32. Follow people who inspire you on Instagram
  33. Make a list of books you’ve been meaning to read, and read them!
  34. Make an uplifting playlist on Spotify
  35. Ask everyone at home to pick a favourite film, and host a family Movie Night
  36. Look through old photo albums, and ask your parents to tell you the stories behind the photos
  37. Teach your dog a new trick
  38. Use Google Earth to explore London and plan places to go, that you might not have considered before
  39. Do a daily gratitude list – write down three things each day you are grateful for
  40. Invent a dance routine to your favourite song, and teach a family member the choreography
  41. Make up challenges and teach crafts to younger brothers and sisters for example a homemade marble run
  42. Invent your own board game using cardboard, dice and playing cards
  43. Put together a time capsule, things around the house that represent this stage of your life
  44. Write a thoughtful letter to a loved one, or someone who has a birthday during the lock down
  45. Write a lock down themed poem
  46. Attempt drawing a self-portrait using a mirror
  47. Write a family book. Pick a character and each family member writes about their adventures. Read it together
  48. Rearrange your bedroom to make it feel like a different space
  49. Write a song, or remix the School Song!
  50. Sleep, rest and reflect!

Our Sixth Form wellness team have shared plenty of ideas with the girls and I am sure your daughters will come up with many more. My good wishes to you and your families as we embark on the holiday period.  Sending you all ‘Mehr Licht!’  

Blog post by Vicky Bingham, Headmistress from 2017 to 2023.  

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