As we enter our second period of Covid lockdown, it has been wonderful during this first week after half-term to see and hear such positivity among the boys. The memories of the young can be short, but there is still a tangible relief that they have their routine back. They may not necessarily admit it to you, but some of your sons have acknowledged to me how bored they had grown of life in front of a screen and that lockdown has helped them to understand how being under-stimulated is far worse than being worked hard.
There does not seem to be the same sense of foreboding as that which accompanied the closure of schools in March. This may not necessarily be a good thing in the population at large: certainly some seem rather blasé and Loughborough has appeared rather busier these last couple of days than one might wish during a pandemic. However, we should be pleased that our boys are managing to retain their perspective amidst the uncertainty. I can reassure you that they continue to take our Covid-provisions seriously. The government has now applied our rules of indoor mask-wearing to schools throughout the country, but it’s clear that boys have now grown used to this expectation. I have certainly noticed that the well-trodden path to my PA’s door to obtain an ‘emergency’ disposable mask has been much quieter this week. Nevertheless, boys are not letting Covid run or ruin their lives. Year 7 cricket in the Quad has remained joyfully competitive, and older boys are displaying admirable focus on their academic priorities. I think it is inevitable that things will get tougher with the effect of winter nights drawing in and the cumulative tiredness of term, and it’s at this point that we adults will need to help our sons to remain positive. I am convinced that positivity can be a conscious choice. Thursday’s assembly given by Deputy Head Boys Finley and Robert spoke eloquently to the school about how sleeping, eating and exercising can help keep stress at bay. We know to look after our physical wellbeing through eating healthily and keeping ourselves clean and warm. Let’s not forget the importance of doing the same with our mental health during this new period of restrictions.
I am also very ‘cheerful’ at present about how the boys are responding to the pastoral challenges we have set them this year. I have spoken on numerous occasions about the importance of kindness and fellow-feeling as we continue to work with boys to think twice about the male ‘banter’ that can sometimes prove abusive. My colleagues and I have noted in boys this term a greater sense of awareness of one’s impact on others, and a greater recognition of the importance of others. Teenagers will always have moments when anger and other negative emotions rise to the surface. In such circumstances, parents can help us greatly in the task of developing more sensitive young men by asking their son to think about how others might perceive his words or actions. The process of turning young boys into great men is both gradual and non-linear. There will be setbacks along the ways which nevertheless can prove to be powerful learning experiences. However, I know that the boys who leave us at the end of Year 13 do so with a firm moral compass and with the inter-personal skills to thrive in adult life. This was emphasised at our Open Day on 2 October when visitor after visitor complimented me on the quality of the young man who had been their guide.
So I am cheerful about the resilience of our boys to cope with the privations ahead during our second period of lockdown, and my colleagues and I want to work with you in maintaining positivity during the weeks ahead. In time, I wonder whether we should be considered privileged to be living through Covid. Perhaps it will make us more appreciative of what we had, and make us determined to shape what we will have. Parents have spoken to me about the positives of their summer: increased family time; better communication with their son. Perhaps Covid will also give us a greater sense of awareness of the present and help us to live for the moment?
Let’s also think about the little things that will keep our spirits up. I think I’m going to put up the Christmas decorations…