15th November 2019

With Monday’s assembly falling on the 11th November, and following a very well attended Melrose Town Parade the day before (20 well turned out St. Mary’s pupils, just as many parents and 6 members of staff), I expanded upon my short address from the previous Friday with an assembly on six different war memorials from around the world.  I provided a picture and brief information on each of the following:

HM 1 HM 2 HM 3 HM 4   HM 6 HM 7
  • London’s Cenotaph (an empty tomb to commemorate fallen soldiers) where The Queen and other dignitaries lay wreaths each year to commemorate the lost soldiers of World War I.
  • Whitehall’s memorial to the women of World War II depicting 17 different uniforms symbolising the different jobs carried out by women including a nurse’s cape, police overall and Land Army uniform.
  • The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge ‘In memory of the officers and men of the Commandos who died in the 2nd World War 1939-1945. This country was their training ground’.
  • Animals in War Memorial dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied Forces in wars and campaigns (horses, elephants, dogs, camels and donkeys.)  ‘They had no choice’
  • ‘Hope for Peace’ Memorial, Yarze, Lebanon.  This is a structure measuring 30 metres in height and weighing 5000 tonnes.  It contains 78 real vehicles including Soviet T-55 tanks. 
  • Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand.  This moving, silent place is dedicated to the 12,600 allied Prisoners of War victims, and 90,000 Asian labourers who died building the Burma Railway (‘Death Railway’).  Note the poignant end of the railway tracks in the foreground.
  • The Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium.  This World War I memorial commemorates British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the area, and the 55,000 soldiers buried in unmarked graves.  The Last Post is bugled by the local Fire Brigade at 20:00 hrs every day, with traffic halted from passing through the archway during this daily sounding.

This then led me to contrast how little recognition of Germany’s 7 million soldiers and civilians killed in WWI and WWII exists.  In quiet corners of some German villages and towns, low-key memorial plaques can be found but there is no public remembrance of these victims, many of whom gave up their lives following orders.  It is important that our pupils understand that these men and women were grandchildren, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and in many cases, parents.  All attended schools like ours, but who pauses to remember them and their sacrifice?

Pupils then headed off to tackle the week ahead, which has included middle school assessments, middle school production rehearsal, a busy fixture programme with some excellent results and various progress meetings behind the scenes.
This morning Mrs Hardie and Mr Rawson coordinated a super assembly delivered by Form 7, on the fantastic achievements of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.  We heard of the two being the first to conquer Everest, but also of Hillary’s continued dedication to the Nepalese people through his Himalayan Trust.  This provides schools’ hospitals, clean water supplies and air strips to land aircraft.  Quite a ‘Thank You’ from a man who never forgot the people of Nepal’s kindness to him.

The presentation included pupils in winter wear, a power point presentation, and we even came across two ‘yetis’.  That is more than can be said of Hillary and his party, who identified footprints, but never came across the elusive folkloric ape-like creature.
This afternoon we anticipate a bustling Friends of St. Mary’s Cake Sale, and thank you to the FOSM for the coordination of this popular initiative.  Proceeds are for Children in Need so please give generously. 
Finally, I will conclude with the same plea I made at the end of this morning’s assembly.  As teachers of young people, we recognise the value of assessment and the importance of our checkpoints throughout the academic year.  These checkpoints are for us to address issues, adapt our approach, adjust teaching techniques, and assist the young people in our charge with their learning.  No pupil intentionally sets out to perform badly.  Laziness and complacency does exist but is uncommon.  Assessment anxiety is the most stifling of problems and needs to be kept to an appropriately low level.  Let us guide, instruct, encourage and, where necessary, chivvy. 
We are grateful to Mrs Flora Maclay who will be providing her own expert guidance to our senior pupils on how to keep those anxious feelings at bay, and to help them maintain that all important sense of perspective.
Some revision at the weekend for seniors would be sensible, as would a significant amount of rest and recuperation.  Remember, these are November assessments – you are not going to war.

Enjoy your weekend.       

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