December 8, 2014
We have been blessed this week to be immersed in the Arts. On Wednesday celebrated Poet, Dr Cilla McQueen, met with the students to share some of her poetry and hear them read theirs. Dr McQueen was Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2011. Her animation and sheer enjoyment of words enriched us all. Leon MacLaren, our founder, once said that it takes a poet to form a nation and Dr McQueen’s description of poetry being a seed like use of language expressed a similar sentiment. She described how words of poetry were a much livelier memory of an experience than a photograph. On Thursday we welcomed renowned Christchurch artist Clare Reilly who took time away from her exhibition in Howick to meet our Year Seven and Eight students. When asked by one of the children about her working environment, she replied,
“My studio is a room in my house that is calm and peaceful. It has cream walls and very good lighting and is uncluttered. I like to be able to hear the different birds calling in the garden as they come and go. My paintings have a poetic stillness or meditative calm in them, and where I work has to have that quality as well. Many people respond to that aspect in my paintings. I think it gives them a sense of peace and room to be reflective, something that becomes harder to find in our too busy world”.
Having these two artists whose approach to their work strongly resembles our own was an inspiration to us all. They seemed to bring with them that stillness which is the source from which all creativity springs.
On three occasions this week, we heard well researched and clearly expressed presentations of the Renaissance Trip from our Year Seven and Eight students. Tuesday saw a brilliant performance from Class Two of their Nativity Play. Their composure, their singing and their diction belied their years. That was followed by our Christmas Concert with speech and music from all quarters of the school. And finally, today our Year Four to Eight students have attended a performance of Dickens’ Christmas Carol performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
As this is the last newsletter of the year, I wish our whole school community and all our supporters a very Merry Christmas filled with good will and gratitude as we have for you all.
December 1, 2014
This time of year is filled with a wonderful array of events as part of the school calendar. On Tuesday our annual Music Competition took place with over sixty performers filling the hall with harmonious sound. On Wednesday seven Year Five and Six students represented the school at an event organised by Auckland Hockey. Although not a competition as such, they won every game they played. This afternoon we have our school Swimming Gala for Years Three to Eight which was introduced for the first time last year and proved to be an enjoyable event. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who wrote a considerable amount about education and has had a huge influence on western thinking, gave high priority to the importance of both music to harmonise the soul and sport to build courage and strength of character. There is more music and physical activity next week with the Class Five and Six camp at Kauaeranga Valley where they embark on a 10km hike and plunge into the river for a swim. And on the last day of next week, students from Classes Four to Eight will be attending the New Zealand Ballet School’s performance of A Christmas Carol. These events would not be possible without the enormous help provided by our supportive parent body who assist in numerous ways; not least of course in organising the Christmas Bazaar this Sunday which I hope many of you will be able to enjoy.
November 24, 2014
We had two excellent presentations in assembly this morning from senior students relating their experiences on the Renaissance Trip. All four presenters spoke clearly, articulately and with confidence. There is an old saying that “those who speak, lead” and if speaking well is one tool a graduating student from Ficino School can take with them, it is a most worthwhile one. First and foremost, speech needs to be audible because if it can’t be heard then it’s a vain exercise. Enunciation is also important, and the study of Sanskrit assists greatly with our students’ ability to speak clearly. In their Sanskrit lessons, the children learn to open their mouths and move their tongue to different positions making use of the oral cavity to full effect. Finally, and of utmost importance is that speech should be uplifting. This was evident this morning through the extensive preparation the students had obviously done.
Another example of the power of good speech was reported to me and came from one of the swimming instructors. She said that her experience that day when working with a group of Ficino students, reminded her of the reason she loves teaching swimming. She had two swimming groups of quite different abilities and when she asked one group to coach the other, she noticed a great rapport and respect within the group. She described those being instructed as attentive and respectful while those instructing were considerate and observant. She added that she had never seen this work so well in twenty years of teaching. Good speech arises from good values and being attentive to the need in the moment. Then it is both effective and uplifting for all.
November 17, 2014
Our Good Works assembly this morning showed a stunning progression of development as a student moves through the years at Ficino School. There was quite an array of composition work from the younger students right through to Year Eight. The whole of Year Six read poems they had composed based on ‘Until I Saw the Sea’ by Lilian Moore. Here is a compilation from some of their poems which create brilliant images through the use of literary devices such as similes, metaphors and personification.
Until I Saw the Sea
I did not know
That rolling waves
Could shatter into shards of seamless glass
On the shore
I never knew
That drops of water crashed repetitively
In a musical harmony
Nor did I know before
The sea’s beauty could reach
My heart’s core
In the work presented we are beginning to see combined effect of the structure of the Cambridge curriculum alongside our strong tradition of using the finest material. These two factors provide both the right scaffolding and the open heart to produce outstanding work.
This expression of creativity was not just in composition but could also be seen in some of the beautiful artwork presented; much of which is displayed around the school.
November 10, 2014
At our Commendations Assembly this morning, many children received praise for the excellent work they are doing. It is lovely to see the variety of aspects of school life that are worthy of recognition, from feats of academic prowess, to real measurable progress being made in areas a student finds challenging. Then there are those commendations for seemingly little things that can mean so much, for example; “always engaging in conversation when saying good morning to the teacher” or “being respectful of others and listening to what they have to say”. Both of these commendations recognise the theme of our philosophy lessons – respect. What a powerful, respectful practice it is to listen to what others have to say, so simple yet easily forgotten as we turn our attention to assembling our own thoughts. Stephen Covey author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People said “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. Our society, slowly but surely, is losing its ability to listen. It is rare these days to attend a lecture that is not accompanied by visual displays. When reading newspapers these days (reading is a kind of listening) one finds the same information being repeated three, four or five times within an article; because the general level of comprehension of text is diminishing. So if you are still reading and managed to get this far, congratulations, after all this is one long paragraph. Developing our auditory learning faculties in the primary phase of education is crucial, and it is clear from watching our students in assembly that they are good listeners.
Year 5 and 6 Girls performed a joyful, energetic dance in this morning’s assembly. Their timing, rhythm and sense of togetherness were excellent; especially considering the dance teacher was unwell and couldn’t attend. This is all down to listening and watching. I was reminded of one of the founding statements of our dance programme, which was evident this morning. “Where the hand goes, the eyes go, where the eyes go the heart goes, where the heart goes, there love arises”. A seemingly simple statement, but dance has the potential to bring both freedom of movement and freedom of spirit if practised attentively and gracefully.
November 4, 2014
The Friday assembly this week was an opportunity for three of our students to showcase their entries into the Japanese Calligraphy and Handwriting Competition, which is run by the Ministry of Education in Japan. The competition is open to all students in Japan as well as those residing overseas. It was plain to see from the work they produced, which incidentally was beautifully mounted on traditional scrolls, that there is a lot of discipline and accuracy required They all achieved excellent results with one student’s work achieving an award only given to the top 2% of entrants.
This weekend a number of Ficino students will be running the last 2.195 km of the Auckland Marathon. They have all already run the other 40km in their own time; many of them completing this at the Ficino School Running Club which takes place on Friday mornings before school. Should they arrive early on Sunday, they might see their Principal limping over the finish line at the end of the quarter marathon. Well done to those who have entered and we hope they run hard on the day.
October 20, 2014
A warm welcome to our fourth and final term for the year. It is full as always and we can look forward to the Music Competition, the Nativity Play and Concert and presentations from our Year 7 and 8 students on their recent Renaissance Trip.
Our theme for Philosophy lessons this term is Respect. This follows from our third school value which is to respect all. What does it mean to respect all? If we look at the etymology of the word respect, we see that it comes from a Latin root and means to ‘look again’ or to consider. This gives some insight into how we can learn to respect whoever is in front of us. The first step is to take another look at what is there; to look again. Allowing time and space to regard someone fully, enables freedom to see and practise what is good. This leads us to our fourth school value to practise what is good, with resilience and courage. First and foremost comes respect and then good practice.
Our Head Boy, Tristan Pang, was interviewed recently for MENZED magazine, and his answer is a fine example of respect in practice.
MENZED: What is the greatest piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
TP: I remember when I was about two years old and living in England, I received a present from my Mum’s sister in New Zealand. It was a framed piece of Chinese Calligraphy by Confucius. The English translation was similar to Charles Kingsley’s “Do as you would be done by”. She asked me to live by this proverb. I later found that it’s the Golden Rule of reciprocity: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”, and, “One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated”. The similar concept appears in the Bible as well. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12. In the past 10 years, when dealing with people or handling situations which I am not familiar with, I try to ask myself, “If I were him/her, would I like what I have done to him/her?” This helps me to judge what is right and what is wrong.