Housman Hall Blog

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If there is a will, there is a way

Last Updated: 09/02/2017 14:30:11

At my primary school, I was strictly trained in handwriting. Every day, the class was asked to practice several Chinese characters and then hand them in the following day. Poor characters would be erased by the teacher and a few days later, the work would be given back - students had to fill in the gaps from the erased characters and hand the work in again. I personally, had been writing the same character for three months because it had not reached the high standard of accuracy that was expected by my teacher. At that time, I despised this method and thought this training could only result in everyone writing in the same and unoriginal way and thus add no value to anyone. However, after I graduated from this school, I discovered that even though my peers had gone through this strict practice, they all had different hand writing.

There is always someone saying that your environment moulds a person’s personality, habit, vision and well everything! But according to my own experience, this view is apparently not the whole picture. This is due to the presence of the ego, and sometimes the super-ego; it is the persons themselves that determine what kind of person they are going to be. This is not an illusion of idealism. But the will of an individual can definitely outweigh the effects of the environment. Using the example of the handwriting practice, obviously when you are consciously trying to write beautifully, you can achieve more than when you are forced to passively practice handwriting.

Still, some may argue that in real life, most of the time it is a person’s surroundings that greatly affect them. This cannot be denied, but the explanation I propose is this: most people do not have a strong enough will or drive. I believe that people can plan their own life journey in spite of any obstacles they may encounter. If one cannot, the only reason is that he or she does not have a strong enough ambition or will. Therefore, a clear solution for someone with a disorganised life or poor self-control is a goal, a dream, that one would rather spend their entire life to striving for.

I know someone can continue to say that the formation of an ambition is also affected by the environment, including one’s family, friends, experiences, etc. However, there has to be something innate within a person that they are born with which is not affected by anything else. Personality may be a factor. Even children in an orphanage will have different characteristics. No two people are the same even if they have grown up within the same environment, everyone is unique and has their own personal motivation in life that will inspire them to keep going.
The power of ambition and will also affect how much one gains from an environment or a given situation. For example, if people were all treated the same, there would always be some that were grateful, whilst others would take it for granted and some would complain. The individual person determines what kind of experience or knowledge they can gain from all that is made available to them.

The point I want to make here is that ‘If there is a will, there is a way’. If our environment affords us the way, we still need the will to carry us through our journey. We all have that will somewhere inside us and I believe anyone can choose their own paths in life if we can tap into our own consciousness to set us on the right path.

How important is it to find a balance between work life and personal life?

Last Updated: 24/01/2017 12:11:39

How important is it to find a balance between work life and personal life?

As an IB student drowning in course work deadlines, a hurricane of exams coming my way and the pressure of interviews for potential places at university, I can honestly say that school life can be stressful.


The solution is simple! You have to be prepared for all these exams and you have to meet all those deadlines, so you better lock yourself up in your room or, even better, camp in the library.


Working to the point where information doesn’t sound coherent anymore can be destructive to your physical and psychological health; it can also lead to a fatal outcome for those feared exams. Instead of getting extremely stressed out and overdoing all that work, plan your life better, both on an academic and on a personal level.

Academically, we all work differently. Maybe watching YouTube videos works for you, while others might learn by simply glancing at their textbook. Due to all different types of memory and subjects we are preparing for, the revision process is highly unlikely to be identical for two people. It is up to every single one of us to address this topic and find the ways that work best for us.

No one should forget that there is still life outside of school, a very important life, actually. And this is the life that we all tend to neglect because of the stress of work - this actually has a massive impact on our academic studies that we strive so hard to achieve the perfect score in. A fatigued body that is deprived of sleep and/or food or a mind that doesn’t find joy in everyday life will not lead to good results. And this is what I will address today. Please find below my top 5 tips and highlights for a balance between the work you have to do and your own self:

1. An old Latin saying goes ‘A healthy body in a healthy mind’ which we should remember at all times. Intellectual work is like a workout, meaning it consumes energy. A LOT OF IT. Therefore, remember to always have the right energy income by having a varied and healthy diet. It is very important to stay hydrated as well.

2. SLEEP. SLEEP. SLEEP. And I am not talking about a nap at 4.00am when you fall asleep with your head on your desk. I am talking about proper sleep, at least 8 hours every night. I can’t address this aspect enough. When we sleep, our bodies recharge, they balance out hormones and metabolic processes, the brain takes a rest. Oh, yes, and information is actually embedded in your memory during your sleep. Talk about help for exams now. * wink *

3. Active rest is a magnificent concept most people don’t know about or are scared of. It pretty much means doing little tasks other than school work that would detach your mind from that stress. Going for a walk, going to buy something from the supermarket, watering the flowers in the house are all great ideas that can give you a quick recharge when you need it the most.

4. Working out is viewed as a strenuous activity that leaves you sore and with no energy and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Low intensity workouts are good for your body and your brain. Working out releases endorphins which, in simple terms, give you a boost of energy and make you feel happier and more ‘alive’. Now this is what we all want when we are revising!

5. Even though I know how tempting it is to want to be alone with your own responsibilities and problems, friends and family can prove to be a true help in moments of stress and overload. There are people around you who care and are willing to listen to you and support you as much as they can. Moreover, your peers are probably going through the same things as you and it is a great idea for you to share your experiences, learn from each other and eventually you will all succeed together.

Good luck with everything you have to do, everyone! We will all get there in the end! * warmly hugs all the people who laminated their notes so tears can roll off *

Venom: A Killer or a Saviour? - Written by Nick Bedov

Last Updated: 21/11/2016 13:07:17

Think of a weapon that is capable of killing in a matter of mere seconds or torturing its prey for days. A weapon made from the fundamental building blocks of all living things, that can hijack your bodies processes and use them against you; this weapon is venom.

It has evolved on roughly 30 different occasion. It gives organisms a huge competitive advantage and this is the reason why thousands of animals are venomous – from snakes, arachnids, lizards, bees, mammals, fish, snails and even frogs – to name a few!

But before I go into further details about venoms, I need to point out the main distinction between venoms and poisons because they are not the same thing! Most people use the terms interchangeably because they are both toxins once they enter the body. The key difference is the fact that venoms are huge protein molecules that have to be injected, e.g. via fangs, stingers or micro-punctures. Poisons on the other hand, are small and simple molecules that can diffuse through tissues, such as skin – essentially they don't need to be injected. The other important difference is that the sole use of poisons is for defense, whereas, venoms evolved for killing prey, self-defense and to better adapt organisms to the ever changing environment in which they live. The latter being the case with the platypus, for instance.

Venoms evolved from mutated versions of the proteins that perform essential functions in almost every living organism on Earth therefore they are superior to poisons.

The toxicity of venoms, however, should not be confused with their danger. For example, snakes with the most toxic venom are found in Australia, however, they are not the most dangerous snakes as very few people actually die from these bites. In fact, more people die every year in Australia from falling in the bathtub than they do from snake bites; that's some dangerous bathtubs they have there! India's serpents, on the other hand, are not the most venomous, but the mortality rate is extremely high. Why? Well for one thing, there is less medicine available in India compared to Australia. Furthermore, most rural villages don't have an easily-accessible hospital. Thus, victims of an envenomation rarely get the proper antivenin on time.

Talking of which, we come onto the uses of venom. Quite obviously, to make antivenins one has to start with the actual venom but because of evolutionary relationships it is often possible to group certain “types” of venom together (e.g. hemotoxins or neurotoxins). This allows one polyvalent antivenin to work for many animals with similar toxins. There are cases, of course, when because of this generic approach, the antivenin simply doesn’t work and the venom is free to wreak havoc. Admittedly, I have myself lost a dear friend to the bite of a king cobra exactly for the aforementioned reason.

Nonetheless, venom is one of the most important sources for pharmaceutical development of drugs. Anyone taking medication for high blood pressure owes their life to the existence of the Brazilian pitvipers, as it was from the venom of these species that ACE inhibitors (like Captopril) were isolated. Saw-scaled vipers make blood-thinning venoms, which have been turned into an anticoagulant drug called tirofiban.

From the banded krait’s venom, α-bungarotoxin was isolated in the 1970s and is still used today to diagnose the neural disease, myasthenia gravis. Other drugs have been developed from neurotoxins in snake venom, which are used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as stroke and brain injuries. Bee venom is currently being developed as a cure for Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The venom of the Gila monster provides a cheaper but more effective treatment for type II diabetes. And the list goes on… in fact this is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar industry.

It is the great diversity of venom that allows scientists to test and match toxins with target diseases. But if the animals producing them were to become extinct, as thousands of species have already done because of human activity, we may lose the chance to discover the next wonder-drug that could save millions of lives.

Having conducted experimental research in this field (with many venomous species) I learned that each has evolved a truly ingenious delivery system and a potent array of toxins to match. Yet, again, without the conservation of these animals, there wouldn’t be a chance to study them. It is vital, therefore, if for nothing else, to protect wildlife for the benefit of unparalleled medical advances and our own success.

- Nick the Adventurer

Remembrance Day - Written by Katie Akers

Last Updated: 21/11/2016 13:07:09

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month an armistice was signed between the allies and Germany. This armistice bought an end to one of the bloodiest wars Europe and indeed the world had ever seen – there were over 38 million military and civilian casualties and deaths world-wide. The “Great War” as it was dubbed was meant to be the war that ended all wars, sadly we now know this was untrue. It is customary to hold a two-minute silence on the anniversary of this date, in remembrance of all those who died in battle fighting for our freedom, specifically but not limited to World War I.

In the weeks leading up to this date the people of Britain and of the Commonwealth countries, from the Queen of England to students like me, don a poppy as a mark of not only respect but of remembrance. Flanders Fields is an area of land on the border of France and Belgium and it was one of the main battlefields in the Great War and the site where many young men died. Once the war ended thousands of poppies grew hence the tradition of wearing a poppy. In Britain, the proceeds from the sale of poppies are used by the Royal British Legion, a charity which aims to care and campaign for the Armed Forces and their families.

At Bromsgrove, remembrance is no different to anywhere else in Britain and the Commonwealth. At 11 o’clock on the 11th day of November, which was a Friday this year, there was a two-minute and a small CCF parade. The headmaster and the Reverend each said a few words and then a two-minute silence was held, the “Last Post” was played to mark the beginning of the silence and it was ended with the sounding of the “Reveille.”

On the Sunday after the 11th there are remembrance services across the U.K. in churches and at cenotaphs alike, to mark the occasion. This Sunday there were two services in order to accommodate the whole school and some of their parents who also attended. During the service there was a larger CCF parade, hymns of remembrance were sung, poppy wreaths were laid at the alter and there was another two-minute silence, which like the silence on Friday was preceded by the sounding of the “Last Post” and proceeded by the playing of the “Reveille.” Prior to the silence the headmaster quoted from “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon (this is normally quoted in remembrance services.) I think these sentiments sum up the war and are extremely profound: 

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning –
We will remember them.”

The Headmaster spoke of the immense fear and sadness the young men must have felt going into battle, World War I was a war of attrition – it was essentially a stalemate, call to battle almost certainly meant no return. Many of the young men were just leaving school, thus they were similar in age as present 6th form students at Bromsgrove – too young to be faced with the prospect of death. The headmaster also spoke of the despair the mothers of the soldiers must have felt knowing their sons were in battle. World War I affected everyone, not only the men going into battle but their families and friends who stayed behind and made up the home front.

Whether you are religious or agree with the political situation in today’s world it should not matter when it comes to remembrance. We should all reflect upon the sacrifices that were made by the brave people of the past that have enabled us to lead the that lives we do. We should all also be very grateful for the privilege lives we lead and the fact that most of us do not go to bed every night worrying about our fathers, brothers, sons and friends going to war. It is so easy to complain and take things for granted – I myself am guilty of this – but it is important to remember just exactly what we have and how lucky we are. Similarly, the events of World War I and II should inspire us to strive for a better and brighter future.

- Katie Akers

Inter-House Song Competition - Written by Ana Ose

Last Updated: 07/11/2016 08:59:12

House Song is special compared to any other inter-house competitions that take place at Bromsgrove. It is not just choosing a song and then performing it in front of 1000 people before half term – which yes, it is a VERY PRESSURING MOMENT (take a deep breath!), it’s much more than that, and this is why.

Let’s think about the effort and dedication behind it. We went on stage as a House, as Housman Hall, the 116 individuals both boys and girls with a vast variety of different cultural backgrounds and life experiences. Wait though, what happened before that? What happened before the show?

Well weeks before the show (five to be exact), we started planning and preparing for our moment in the spotlight. From actually choosing our song, to learning the lyrics and dance moves, harmonising our voices and learning to work as a musical team. We walked together on what many of us considered a difficult and tiring path. The final rehearsal was, in my opinion, the most intense moment before the actual competition. We were so close and so ready… but yet, so nervous...

Being the second House on stage gave us the advantage of performing in front of a fresh audience. We were not intimidated and we gave it our best shot. Maybe as individuals we never felt the need to “fly to the moon” with someone we love yet, but Housman felt the passion and the energy of the song. So much passion in fact that it’s clear the audience felt it too! We were proud; proud of our hard work and commitment, proud of our team, proud to have given such an amazing performance to such a wonderful crowd of people. All of this made me so proud to be Housman and I know it did for others too!

I hope we made everyone who always supports Housman proud as well – Mr. Jones, all the tutors, and our families. Please, find attached below a link to the school’s official YouTube channel where you can see the Housman performance!


It was such a nice way to end a successful half term!

- Ana Ose

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