Head of School's Corner
Weekly Message from Head of School 2017/11/13-2017/11/19
What does a school born and bred on courtesy look and feel like? I have asked this question before. I ask it again now. It seems appropriate to do so in a week that is ending with parent-teacher conferences. These should be engaging and productive meetings where teachers, students, and parents come together to explore, within a framework of courteous and constructive conversation, the learning journey of precious individuals, your children, our students, here at Keystone. This three-way partnership is crucial for all of us if we are to bring optimal benefit to what we do and to what our children learn.
For me, and my senior administrative colleagues, courtesy begins each day with greetings at the school gate, and this year also at the back of the school, where the buses now drive in. I believe strongly that our presence there, saying hello to our students as they enter the school, sets a tone of civil behavior for the whole day. We do something similar with the boarding students when they come to breakfast, and when they cross the quad to enter their academic building for the beginning of classes. Courtesy such as this is linked to a feeling of stability and security. Both these are essential for a productive learning environment. What we do at the start of the day is not some musty old-fashioned mannerism – it is part of the context for learning that we all share, and should all nurture. And, for many, it carries on through the day. Visitors to Keystone often comment on the genuinely civil way in which they are greeted as they walk around.
I would go further. Courtesy is connected to caring, to what was called caritas in ancient Rome, a word from which our modern ‘charity’ derives. Courteous people care for themselves first, and because they are mindful of themselves their considerateness and empathy extend naturally to other persons. This care also extends to things in the physical or natural world. A school filled with courteous people would not be dirty, and there would not be litter thrown or dropped on the ground. A courteous community would care deeply for its immediate surroundings, and by implication and extension for the state of its city, country, and earth. You can begin to see why I think that courtesy is so important, and how it can and should influence so much of what we do.
And you can also begin to see why I become upset when there are provoking examples of discourtesy at Keystone. Perhaps I should have put this concluding paragraph at the start of my short piece for the week. But I needed to frame these final comments within the context of the links among courtesy, learning, and our Keystone culture. I hope that you have all read to this point. I want now to wag a finger at any and all of us who think that it is appropriate to raise our voices and shout, in order to emphasize the strength of our feelings and to try to get our way. Some parents sometimes shout on our campus in a manner that is offensive and unacceptable. And others take to WeChat in ways that are the social media equivalent of shouting. That does not work here at Keystone.
I tell teachers from time to time that the only occasion when it is right to shout at a student is when that child is in physical danger. My response to other types of shouting is simple: if you cannot behave according to our 5 shared values, and our Community Partnership, all of which you know about, you should not come onto the campus until you decide to abide by our ways. Please remember that the courteous culture that I have been trying to describe does not just occur, without effort. It takes time and attention to build and sustain it. And we must never take it for granted, or allow it to be undermined by those individuals who raise their voices inappropriately.
Head of School
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