Aspire Monthly

Monthly musings from Blackburn Central High School

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  • Thank You!

    Thank You!

    To all the wonderful students and staff at BCHS,

    We are overwhelmed with gratitude at the warmth and support you have shown us during our time here. 

    After February half term, we arrived fresh from our first placement schools with lots to learn and develop on our journey to become qualified teachers. Each one of you has taught us so much about working and thriving within a busy school community (with plenty of characters!) Each day has presented new challenges for us to overcome and new lessons we can reflect on, but every time we have left this building, we have felt thankful at the experience we have had and the relationships we have developed with both staff and students.

    We must give a massive, extra special shoutout to the whole English department, who have guided us and have exemplified what we aspire to be. Mr Buckley would like to thank Mr Chothia for his wisdom, kindness, and enthusiasm. It has been a pleasure to witness and learn from a teacher of his calibre. Miss Callaghan would like to thank Mrs Shuttleworth for her unwavering support and spiritual guidance. The extensive grounding techniques will be carried forwards with her as she embarks on her new career. Furthermore, we would both like to thank Mrs O’Neill, Mr Tyrie, Ms Hussain, Miss Whitlock, and Ms Mason for all their advice, helpfulness, and support. If you are a student reading this, we hope you appreciate what a devoted team of English teachers you have. They are all passionate about their subject, have reams of knowledge, and are thoroughly dedicated to doing all they can to support you, guide you and make your dreams a reality. Next time you see them, thank them!

    We are sure that anybody reading this will join us in congratulating Miss Hussain and Miss Loonat on their appointments to be the new English teachers within the school. They are both truly wonderful and we wish them all the best in their new careers. 

    Beyond the English department we have loved getting involved with the wider school community, and we would love to extend a special thanks to Mrs Ibrahim for guiding us and trusting us with her wonderful form: 8F. Also, we extend our thanks to Mr Leathert and Mr Hayes for their professional support and direction. 

    We have felt extremely lucky to be a part of such a positive working environment and our journey towards completing our teacher training would not have been the same without you.

    Good luck to you all and thank you once again. 

    Mr Buckley and Miss Callaghan

  • The Monarchy: To Abolish Or Not To Abolish?

    The Monarchy: To Abolish Or Not To Abolish?

    OPINION

    Marrium Zaidi

    Is there anything more quintessentially British than the Royal Family? Widely celebrated as Britain’s “pride and joy”, the Monarchy has remained the jewel of England for centuries, treasured and adored by people the world over. The question is, (and please, take a breath before releasing the hounds), what do they actually do, and do we still “need” them? What did they do to earn such a prestigious title and win the hearts of the masses?

    Many citizens of the UK respect and adore the Monarchy, especially, Her Majesty the Queen, who, I’m sure we can all agree has been stellar in office and “hath borne her faculties so meek”. The recent celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee was testament to how people hold her in such high esteem. The masses gathered and paid their hard earned money to witness or celebrate this monumental event: a monumental event paid for by their tax money (Twenty-eight MILLION pounds to be exact, from the pockets and wallets of hard-working classes to cover the costs of the celebrations). Money that arguably could’ve gone to the unfairly treated, poorly funded NHS or millions of families still recovering from the pandemic, who are barely gaining enough money to run their homes, to feed their children or to live up to the new increases in bills and petrol. This money was, and I say this with the greatest respect, thrown away on account of some of the wealthiest people in the world on the backs of some of our most deprived.

    It is crazy to think that they are just like us, human beings, except with no worries, born with a golden ladle in hand, into wealth and power in their ivory towers. A caste system where you’re better than everyone else because of the womb you happened to be in. I don’t mean to be crass; it’s just difficult for me to get my head around. It just seems so unfair. And it’s not just the Royal Family either; it seems as if the laws that are made, in small, dark, inaccessible corners of the country never seem to apply to people of privilege, and when it seems like they do, the laws change. I’ll be here all day if I elaborate on all the scandals associated, (but not quite associated), with the Monarchy. 

    What’s more, although it can be argued that the Monarchy is a symbol of national pride and state unity, one constant amidst this ever-changing world, for many, it remains a symbol of colonisation and feudalism that resulted in great suffering of people all over the world. All in all, the Royal Family is estimated to contribute £19 billion to Britain’s economy pre-pandemic, mostly through tourism; fair enough; the question remains, however, whether this is offset by how much is invested in them. Also, would people really stop visiting Britain just because the nation is no longer superintended by a Monarchy? I think not. To abolish or not to abolish? Well, need I say anymore?

  • Open Treason!

    Open Treason!

    This article is a news satirical piece for entertainment purposes only. Even though the individuals named herein are real people, it is not intended to communicate any true or factual information about them.

    by I. Chothia

    A great black cloud has hovered over the UK in the wake of the Queen’s jubilee celebrations, which marked Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne, the first British Monarch to reach this glorious milestone. More than 200,000 local events and street parties lined the streets over the four-day bank holiday weekend; masses, including celebrities, flocked to London to show their love, and millions more took part in celebrations from the comfort of their living rooms. The jubilation, however, has since become muted following publication of an article by renowned journalist, Marrium Zaidi, who held no punches in her opinion piece, The Monarchy: To Abolish Or Not To Abolish, read by millions across the country, in which she has accused the public of unduly pandering to the Royal Family. ‘Enough is enough!’ she states, each enunciated word a chilling blow to all those who have pledged their allegiance in favour of retaining a monarch, and a bold insult to the Queen, who has been the ultimate symbol of what it means to be British for centuries. One of our correspondents on the ground has gone as far as to say that even Her Majesty’s guards, renowned for their immaculate poker faces, have been caught wincing at the sound of passers by discussing the scandal, and presumably at the mere thought of a blasphemous Royal flush.

    ‘It’s absolutely nuts’, said one disgruntled member of the public. ‘We get extra holidays and evryfing! [sic] What is her problem!?’ he added. That said, many have sympathised with Zaidi, implying that she’s only saying what others are thinking, and some suggesting, rather ironically, that she should even be knighted for her bravery. Zaidi, who refused to justify her stance or retract any of her statements, was simply witnessed leaving her office in the early hours, yelling, ‘I identify as a guy…Guy Fawkes’, with some questioning her distasteful outbursts and wondering how she could waste such an opportunity for damage limitation.

    Although we are yet to receive an official response from the Palace, we have it on good authority that Zaidi will likely be charged with treason and that Beefeaters, the Tower Guards, are believed to already be preparing one of its torturous cells in anticipation of her arrrival. Could it really be that the Tower of London awaits one of Britain’s most decorated journalists? The nation is divided in half lest Zaidi be quartered!

    What happens next? Who knows? We’ll leave the guessing to you; leave the investigation to us.

    Update to follow

  • Let’s Get Brainy! Video games and Violence

    Let’s Get Brainy! Video games and Violence

    by Toni Grosvenor

    I’m sure at least the majority of you are familiar with this question, and the massive debate it has sparked throughout the years. You might have even had to deal with the gruelling lectures from your parents about the nonsensical way your computer or console transforms your brain into a mindless mush, or how every act of teenage gun violence in America is a direct result from hours and hours of flicking controls to shoot fictional NPCs. But, is the link between video games and violence really reliable, or is it just another reminder that correlation does not equal causation? Well, there’s no need to quarrel with your parents any longer, Gamers, because in this month’s edition of Let’s Get Brainy, I will be investigating why video games are a unique variety of storytelling compared to books and television, the effects of video game addiction, as well as finally resolving the heated debate of video games and violence once and for all!

    First and foremost, video games are far different from many other types of media that people enjoy, and it seems like that ultimately comes down to one crucial aspect of the medium: Agency. The ability to fully interact with the characters, the setting and the plot of the game, allows players control over what occurs in the adventure they immerse themselves in. This increases with every click of a button, and as an alternative to the comparable passiveness of reading or watching a programme, players learn game mechanics that can arguably have real world advantages. 

    An example of this is in the fourth chapter of a 2018 platformer called Celeste, a game that tells the story of a woman named Madeline who struggles with her mental health and is attempting to climb a Canadian mountain that is inspired by the real Mount Celeste in Vancouver. Towards the end of the chapter entitled “Golden Ridge”, Madeline and her friend, Theo (whom you meet in the first chapter of the platformer) become trapped in a gondola, and not the kind that swims around the flooding Italian city of Venice. This results in Madeline experiencing a panic attack, and requires players to try and calm her down; Theo recommends that we attempt to control Madeline’s breathing by making the feather slowly float up and down in synchronisation with its steadying rhythm, which successfully results in ending the panic attack. 

    We can argue then that the high player agency in this scene enables the player to learn not only the game mechanics to calm Madeline in future scenes, but to also calm a real life anxiety attack, as deep breathing actually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the branch of the nervous system that dominates the “Rest and Digest” conditions whilst the sympathetic nervous system dominates during the “Fight or Flight” conditions), and the vagus nerve, which is responsible for bringing your heart rate back to normal after a particularly stressful situation. Undoubtedly, the high levels of interactivity and control that the player has in this scene further cements the coping technique into their brains, as active media allows the player to either consciously or unconsciously learn this strategy, which is an ability that is extremely specific to the medium of video games. Hundreds, if not thousands of people who, like Celeste’s protagonist, struggle with anxiety, have found a valuable calming technique in this little five minute cutscene.

    Behavioural research in this area has found that video games have both positive and negative effects on the brain. For instance, two studies both conducted within the same month by the American Psychological Association (APA), provide evidence as to how video games, especially video games where the story is predicated on violence, are connected to increased aggression. The first study involved 227 participants, all college students, who completed a measurement of how aggressive they were, and then reported both their video game habits in addition to their actual aggressive behaviours in their recent pasts. The results of the study showed that, according to Anderson – the lead author of the APA article and from Iowa State University – “Students who reported playing more violent video games in junior and high school engaged more in aggressive behaviour,” and “We also found that amount of time spent playing video games in the past were associated with lower academic grades in college.”

    The second study only consisted of 210 college students, who either played a violent video game (Wolfenstein 3D), or a non-violent video game (Myst). After a short span of time, the students who played Wolfenstein punished an opponent, receiving a noise blast with varying intensity, for a longer period of time in comparison to those who played Myst. Dr Anderson eventually reached a result that identifies a correlation between video games and violence, as he stated that, “Violent video games provide a forum for learning and practising aggressive solutions to conflict situations. In the short run, playing a violent video game appears to affect aggression by priming aggressive thoughts. Longer-term effects are likely to be longer lasting as well, as the player learns and practises new aggression-related scripts that can become more and more accessible for use when real-life conflict situations arise.”

    On the contrary, studies have also proven that video games can bring out several benefits for your brain. For example, video games increase the amount of grey matter in your brain, which is associated with muscle control, memories, perception and spatial navigation, thus heightening these functions and boosting brain connectivity. Past research involving children also concluded that children who played video games were more likely to have better social skills and build better relationships with peers due to the collaborative nature of numerous genres of gaming, which seems to contradict the studies which suggest otherwise.

    However, irrespective of the truth behind the link between video games and violence, it is difficult to deny that addiction of any kind is often a pit of despair which you do not want to fall down, no matter how innocent, innocuous and enjoyable it initially seems; video games are no exception. Despite the fact that it hasn’t been classified in the DSM-5 (the most up to date edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is a book that American psychiatrists consult when diagnosing patients with psychiatric disorders), the World Health Organisation added “Gaming Disorder” to their medical reference book in 2018, “International Classification of Diseases.” The best treatment for a gaming addiction is to see a therapist, as you would with any addiction, as a type of therapy called CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you alter your thoughts and behaviours, to minimise the impulse to keep playing a game for hours on end, and so the issue doesn’t escalate and subsequently result in strained relationships, poor academic performace and other, more damaging mental health problems.

    Symptoms of video game addiction include:

    • Excessively thinking about gaming
    • Feeling bad when you cannot play
    • Needing to spend more and more time playing to feel good
    • Not being able to quit or even play less
    • Not wanting to do other things you used to like
    • Having problems at work, school or home because of excessive gaming
    • Continuing to play despite these problems
    • Lying to people close to you about how much time you spend playing
    • Using gaming to ease bad moods and feelings

    In conclusion, there are advantages and disadvantages to playing video games, but it is something that should be approached with caution. Despite the fact that violent games can cause increased aggression, this does not necessarily mean that the person playing it will commit a serious, violent offence even after years of playing. In addition, although many people hypothesise that the increased player agency will teach the player how to act violently in conflict situations, player agency, as Celeste explicitly demonstrates, can help players empathise and learn valuable life skills that many other forms of media cannot teach as effectively. Furthermore, the structural changes your brain undergoes, like the increased amount of grey matter in your brain, have tremendous benefits in regards to muscle control and spatial navigation, just to name a couple of benefits. Therefore, whether you’re just a casual gamer or an enthusiast, as long as you balance the time you spend invested in these pixelated, incredible universes with the time you spend living in this equally incredible one, it won’t harm your brain to play every once in a while. If you do think that you or someone you know may be struggling with video game addiction, though, don’t be afraid to seek help. 

    Further reading:

    Below are links to all of the video game scenes, as well as the studies I have referenced in this article. Be sure to stay happy and healthy, and tuned to read the next edition of Let’s Get Brainy!

    Celeste panic attack scene – https://youtu.be/p84U0Yum-Jg 

    APA studies – https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/04/video-games 

    Positive effects of video games – https://www.geico.com/living/home/technology/9-reasons-to-give-video-games-a-try/#:~:text=Video%20games%20can%20increase%20your%20brain’s%20gray%20matter.&text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20playing,perception%2C%20and%20spatial%20navigation.) 

    Video game addiction symptoms and treatments – https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/video-game-addiction

  • Short Story: A Mere Bet

    Short Story: A Mere Bet

    by Arooj Muhammad

    The sky let out a rumble as the clouds darkened, a deep murky grey devouring the horizon. I felt my heart race in angst as I looked at him. His soft, sandy blonde hair, that I had once run my fingers through lovingly, blew hideously in the wind. He looked different; the once loving, soft expression on his face, shown only to me, had changed to a look of pure indifference and callousness. His electric blue eyes once holding so much compassion and love were now empty, drained of their pure pools, now reflecting only hurt and pain and anger and impassivity. It was almost impossible to attempt to guess what he was thinking, his face painted with indifference. 

    ‘Listen, it was just a bet,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think you would get so attached!’ He spoke harshly with a roll of his eyes.

    Was that all I was to him? A mere bet. Every soft spoken word, every hug, every kiss that we’d shared: it was all a bet? Of course it was. Why would it ever be anything different? I looked down, avoiding eye contact, my vision blurred and betrayed by tears painfully pricking at my eyes. My heart shattered with every prolonging syllable of time. In this heartache the sun won’t shine, birdsong passes as if the melody can’t glide through the air as it once did before; but the truth is, I’d rather forgo comfort than keep a lover who doesn’t love. So, instead, I will let this heartache be my teacher and the reason to keep seeking one who can hear the playful calling of their own soul. I nodded silently, refusing to look up. I can’t look at those blue eyes the same. After months in the darkness, the sun is unwelcome to the eyes.

    I remembered how much I loved those blue eyes: they glowed like fire that survives in water, if you can imagine such a thing. They were playful, yet serious when he became the man the world needed him to be. My heart ached as I held my breath in, a futile attempt to not cry in front of him. No, I can’t let him know how much it hurts. I nodded again, this time more clearly before I meekly muttered a soft ‘okay’. 

    A scoff escaped his lips as he stepped forward, bridging the gap between us.

    ‘Okay?! How could you possibly be okay with this?’ he spat painfully, his voice laced with a venomous pain. ‘Aria, look at me,’ he snarled, grabbing my chin and forcing me to look up at him. I felt tears streaming down my face; I couldn’t take it anymore, my heart bleeding out in agony. Tearing his hand away from my face, I turned my back on him. His look of once pure aggression, in an instant, was replaced with a visage of sheer shock. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered, his head hung low.

    ‘Just go’, I said, each syllable a choking struggle. Falling to my knees, I heard him turn his back to walk away. A life of higher joys is a life with more tears of all kinds. Every blessing is a curse. A painful wracking sob escaped my trembling lips as the heavens gave way to their buden; it poured. Rain mercilessly covered the starving sod as I grabbed strands of grass, letting out all those locked up emotions into a sob. My sadness is that you broke your promise to cherish and love, to protect, to honour, to care. If ignorance was bliss, may I never know peace.

  • Recipe: Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

    Courtesy of Tayyabah Jones

    Have you ever wanted a taste of Jamaica without paying the price of the flight? Well, my jerk chicken recipe  is the perfect way to tantalise your taste buds, and allow them to travel to Jamaica without breaking the bank (and minus the post-holiday blues). The only thing jerk chicken really requires is to be cooked with some love, joy and the right seasoning.  

    An authentic taste of Jamaica

    This recipe is truly splendid and flavoursome. I suggest you try it immediately since it brings a whole family, if not a community, together in a bundle of joy. It is also a beautiful summer barbeque idea which will no doubt make it one to remember.

    Jerk Chicken FAQ 

    What exactly is Jerk seasoning?

    A blend of various spices and herbs which is wet marinated or dry rubbed on a variety of different meats. Its origins go back to the indigenous tribes of Jamaica (the Arawak, Amerindians and the Tainos) who intermingled with runaway West African slaves.  The three main key ingredients for any Jerk seasoning are Thyme,  pimento berries (allspice, which can be described as an aromatic mixture of cinnamon), clove, nutmeg and Scotch bonnet, which is a very hot, yet sweet and fragrant chilli pepper.  Other common spices and herbs are also added to this.

    What is the best way to cook Jerk Chicken?

    I would say cooking jerk chicken over the barbeque grill accentuates its gorgeous flavours and textures. Although preferences vary, my advice is to cook jerk chicken in the way that is easiest and works best for you.  

    Can you have Jerk Chicken on its own or do you HAVE to have it with something else?

    Honestly, it really does not matter and also it depends on how much time you have on your hands because the dish can be quite a time-consuming work of art. However, if you have some time on your hands, I’d say cook it with one of our favourite side dishes, such as Jamaican rice and peas, or dumplings (watch this space for these complementing recipes)!

    Ingredients

    (These portion sizes are just guidelines as we Jamaicans like to improvise and usually end up putting a lot more of everything in!)

    • 6-8 Chicken pieces (I like to use chicken thighs)
    • 3-4 Spring Onions (scallions) 
    • Half a large onion
    • 4-5 Garlic cloves
    • A few sprigs of thyme (adjust to your taste)
    • A small part of a Scotch Bonnet pepper (be careful, these are hot!)
    • 3-4 teaspoons of olive oil 
    • 1-2 teaspoons of Jamaican Chicken Seasoning (I use Dunn’s River, yum! But whatever you can get hold of)
    • 1-2 Jamaican All Purpose Seasoning
    • 1-2 Pimento berries and/or allspice (you can grind up the pimento berries)
    • Pinch of ground black pepper
    • Pinch of mixed herbs 
    • 2-3 teaspoons Cajun spice (if you desire)
    • Paprika (again optional)
    • 2-3 teaspoons of Olive oil

    To make a sauce:

    • Tomato ketchup 
    • Sweet Thai chilli sauce
    • A small drop of honey
    • A few teaspoons of Browning sauce (don’t overdo as it will make your chicken black! You only want enough to turn your chicken a nice brown colour)

    Method 

    • First thing is to make the paste. Add your spring onion, half an onion, thyme, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, a little olive oil. Put into a blender and mix it into a paste. 
    • Wash your chicken in lemon juice; once this is done, add the paste to a bowl of  chicken.
    • Next, add (to your bowl of chicken) your chicken seasoning, all purpose seasoning, pimento berries (allspice), ground pepper, mixed herbs, cajun spice, browning sauce, paprika. Rub this well into your chicken and leave this to marinate for at least an hour (preferably overnight).
    • Add your marinated chicken into a baking tray, cover the tray with foil. Add to a preheated oven on a gas mark of 6 for about 30-40 minutes. 
    • Next, you need to make a sauce, so add to a bowl your tomato ketchup, thai chilli sauce and a bit of honey. Then add some boiled water to thin it down slightly and mix together. Make as much or little sauce as you want but if you are making rice alongside the chicken make more sauce so it overlays the rice too.
    • When your chicken is almost cooked through, remove the foil cover and coat the chicken with sauce.
    • Put the chicken back into the oven and cook for a further 20-30 minutes (I tend to turn the chicken over after about 10 minutes then turn back over). Cook till the chicken is cooked through. 
    • Your chicken can also be barbequed once you have marinated it. 

    Take time to enjoy and feel free to share this recipe with others.

    I’d love to hear from you, so let me know how it turns out for you!

    Happy eating!!

  • Let’s Beat Bullying!

    Let’s Beat Bullying!

    ADVICE

    by Isra Latif

    What is bullying?

    Here’s the dictionary definition: seeking to harm, intimidate or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable.

    Even though I may have given you the definition, bullying is something that can be difficult to identify and even more difficult to measure in terms of its impact. Whether you yourself have experienced this widespread virus, or have been lucky enough to avoid it, or feel immune to it, every individual, child and adult, is aware that it exists. Why, then, does it so often go undetected?

    What are its harms and why is it normalised in this ‘forgiving’ society?

    Since bullying has become such a normalised part of today’s society, especially with the rise of incidents on social media, the focus has shifted from tackling the problem at its roots, to simply teaching people how to be resilient. Are we happy to send out the message that it’s now OK to bully because we’re teaching people how to better “deal with it”? This is the message that we’re getting.

    Being fed and nurtured lies can create unrealistic ideas of who we should become. So, when seeing ideas like this on social media and real life, we slowly adjust to hide our feelings to suffocate ideas of weakness and emotions. Why? Because we’re taught to “get on with it.” Most professors of behavioural psychology agree that there are many side effects that start to creep into the lives of both the bullies and the bullied.Being bullied can lead to suppression of self-expression and feeling powerless. Suppressing emotions can detrimentally impact all aspects of life, whether it’s maintaining relationships, focusing on school, and self care, or generally trying to find a hint of motivation in your life. All these harms are extremely unhealthy and can stop us from reaching our full potential. As a bully, this could manifest into a false sense of control, lead to oppression and a life of crime. It can also lead to people becoming social pariahs, compelled to live a life of fantasy detached from the real world.

    How do we abandon sources of negativity?

    Of course, bullies will always be around; there’s no stopping this. One thing we can all do is join forces and play an active role to eradicate this disease once and for all. This takes courage, but we can’t expect others to stand up for us tomorrow unless we’re willing to step in for others when we can today. I believe a lot of bullies feed off others’ fear, so let’s show them we’re not scared. Also, social media is a cesspool of negativity. I’ve felt and seen just how deep-cutting the impact of social media can be. We can’t base our self-image and perception on the world on the ‘perfect’ lives on display like some deceptive catwalk where models struggle to breathe, suffocating in the false fabric of their make-believe lives. Oftentimes, we bully ourselves long before we hear others’ piercing words. Platforms like Tiktok can be useful, but are also littered with influencing trolls, claiming to be experts, who indirectly misdiagnose users for their own measly gain. With this in mind, it’s important that we fully manage those things that are in our control, such as our social media usage and phones generally. I’m not saying you have to cut it out completely, but certainly minimise its influence. From personal experience, I can tell you that not yet having a phone is the best thing to have happened to me. It has allowed me to lead a relatively stress-free life and be more involved with my family. You do have to ponder whether your social environment is doing you any favours for your mental health. In order to cleanse yourself of negativity, you have to filter the people you hang around with and think whether they’re not also bringing feelings of neglect and insecurity into your life. I’ll leave you with this:

    “Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you, doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.”

    ~Lisa Olivera, Author

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