Written by Lizzie, Head Girl
As I am sure we can all agree, 2021 has not necessarily been the year, so far, that we all hoped it might be. The optimism for a fresh new start at New Year was quickly quelled by the introduction of lockdown number three and the return to GHL. I am aware that this period, in particular, was challenging for so many people, especially being isolated from friends, family and teachers. But what I have learnt over these past months is that being disconnected from normal daily life, interacting with people only in a world of Google Meet, mute buttons and Zoom backgrounds, means that the moments in which people are brought together are suddenly more noticeable. Simply listening to other OHS students and watching the great things they attain has reminded me of this. Despite the boundaries that Covid has introduced, we can make things happen together.
Listening to the voices of young people talking about what they truly care about is one of the most productive things I think we can all do at OHS. And it’s not just the incredible achievements that students strive towards and accomplish, such as Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, essay competitions and sport successes, but the things that make us laugh or allow us to have fun: being on the Kahoot podium, wellbeing sessions, or Disney song renditions! Amongst the emailing, frantic rushes to clubs and flashcard-making we can find moments to take action on something that inspires or interests us. This could be in the form of organising a conference, feedback survey or charity fundraiser, which are some of the wonderful things students have done recently, but equally chatting about the new Olympic sports for 2021, top charity shop finds or the cool cinematography in a recent film. We are lucky enough as students to have the independence to get involved with matters that we have strong beliefs about, but I think that it can be daunting to feel a need to fulfil these opportunities. Therefore, I myself regularly reflect on the importance of contributing to chats with form groups, classes and friends, whether it be about top Netflix recommendations or past and future school trips. I also find that, as young people, it can be intimidating to see what others our age, or even younger, accomplish: Olivia Rodrigo was 17 when her song reached Number 1 in the charts, Laura Dekker was 16 when she circumnavigated the world in her solo sailing boat and Coco Gauff was 15 when she competed at Wimbledon. These are undoubtedly impressive, but unusual, achievements, and having fun with friends and classmates is, in my opinion, so important to our daily lives. And whatever you endeavour to achieve doesn’t have to fully succeed; my form group’s sunflower seeds, planted in a Sixth Form wellbeing PSHCE, were a disaster compared to other forms’ 30cm tall stalks, but we enjoyed sharing the responsibility of watering our seedlings, or laughing about the times we forgot to!
Now that I am reaching the end of Year 12, I have realised what an important skill listening and responding is, as a way of reaching out to others. The Hello Kitty wellbeing messages that are pinned up around the Ada Benson Building at the moment have made me smile every day and just show how thinking of others can have such a huge impact and connect so many students. By responding to such thoughtful actions we become involved in a network of young people supporting each other at a time when this can be a difficulty. As Head Girl, I have been fortunate enough to connect with people across the school, despite bubbles and zones. I really have enjoyed hearing students’ ideas about how to discuss current affairs or topical issues in school, fun virtual activities to introduce and ways in which to start a student-led club. Working with an amazing prefect team this year, I have realised how much can be achieved when we bring people’s ideas together, supporting each other and making sure not to dismiss any suggestions, even if it is the request for a Sixth Form waffle maker! We are all given invaluable advice, attend fascinating talks and listen to other people’s ideas on a regular basis, but what I now know is even more important, is to discuss these with others, start conversations and have some fun, even at a time when we are separated.