16th March 2018

Though I was focusing on the week ahead during the assembly on Monday morning, I expressed my gratitude to Mrs Scott Aiton and her hockey players for giving such a good account of themselves at the George Watson College hockey tournament the previous Saturday. In a tournament attended by so many large schools, reaching the semi-final of the plate competition was no mean feat. Well done to all involved. 
The theme of my assembly was “Reflections of a Schoolmaster”, written for the IAPS in the 60’s. These reflections set out what was deemed to be good practice for schoolteachers at that time. Much has changed since then, but the principles are the same: “Nothing is more important than the frame of mind in which the teacher enters and starts a class. They should take pains to clear their thoughts before entering the classroom, and to realise that the job is to help every pupil in the lesson.”  “The first few moments of a class are very important. Pupils may come to you raw and resentful from an experience in the last class (!). Spend a moment getting yourself and your class at ease together. A very mild joke will often do it.” These are just two examples of reflections provided by T. C. Elliott of Fan Court School. Elliott goes on to encourage teachers to “do everything in your power to make pupils understand that it is fine to find out for themselves and that this is the essence of learning.” Wise words indeed.
There were some smiles from the St. Mary’s pupils when I went on to read “pupils don’t object to being kept in order, but are bewildered and even offended by varying standards. Make your own, keep them and see that they are as much as possible in accord with those of your colleagues.” Whilst they might not have realised it at the time, I was actually equipping St. Mary’s pupils with the opportunity to conduct an appraisal of their teachers. I believe the more alert and astute have taken the opportunity to do so during the week, and even offer feedback!
Form 4 were certainly very impressed with their tour guides during their visit to Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday, and Mrs Scott Aiton was thrilled with how the day had gone, and delighted with how the St. Mary’s pupils had conducted themselves. Those of us who have the pleasure of teaching Form 8 pupils met with parents in the evening, and amongst the plethora of positive reports, sentiment featured in knowing that this was the last time parents of Form 8 pupils will gather for such a feedback session in this style. Meanwhile, Mrs Rawson and her boarding team took 19 boarders swimming at Galashiels pool. This now weekly activity is proving very popular.
On Wednesday, Form 1 headed for Mertoun Estate as part of their work with the Royal Highland Education Trust. Pupils inspected greenhouses and gardens, and were able to compare the difference at this time of year in contrast to their last visit in September. Later that morning, the all-weather area became a death-defying circuit, as Kindergarten pupils completed their annual pedal push. I am pleased to report there were no serious casualties! Several fixtures took place in the afternoon, but special mention must go to our U11 netballers, who won the IAPS Netball Tournament at Ardvreck for the second year in a row, and completed an unbeaten season.
The daily academic routine was impeded by the weather recently, but staff and pupils continued to work tirelessly to make up for lost time. This occasionally requires some rejigging, but we have been very impressed by the Form 8’s mature and conscientious approach to these alterations.

Mr P conducted the assembly on global geography this morning, ahead of his day with heads of geography and representatives of the IAPS here at St. Mary’s. His aim in the assembly was to pass on a few general facts, some of which were jaw-dropping, not least his description of the Philippine city of Manila, and its population density of approximately 71,000 people per km². This would equate to the population of Murrayfield, filled to capacity, living on the expanse that makes up St. Mary’s campus: a most thought-provoking and sobering statistic. The population density of the Scottish Borders is 24 people/km². How lucky we are!
Soon after Mr P’s assembly, Reception class headed to the Biggar Puppet Theatre, and we look forward to hearing how that has gone when they return. As I write, it is lovely to see Kindergarten in the library, as depicted in the photograph above, and preparations are underway for our boarders heading to the Scotland Club XV match against Ireland tonight at Netherdale. Tomorrow morning will see Form 8 involved in some catching-up lessons, and should result in them being back on schedule following lost time due to the snow.
Finally, congratulations to Oliver C, who gained the Flett and Joannides Scholarship for Classics to Fettes. Whilst Oliver excelled in Classics, his strong performance across the academic range has been fully recognised with such a prestigious Academic Scholarship Award. 
Have a good weekend.

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