Head of School's Corner

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I simply have to begin this letter, one that marks the end of another school year, with a brief commentary on what happened here on our campus last Saturday morning.  Initiated by the PTA Committee, and assisted by many Keystone parents, colleagues, and students, we had a large number of you on campus for a truly inspiring community morning.  It was great good fun, for young and older, and included the expert, entertaining, and forever young Dad’s Band.  As I said at the end of the morning, we raised a lot of money for a very worthwhile service project in Sishui County, Shandong.  This will deepen our curriculum and the learning opportunities offered our students, at the same time as doing good and assisting others in need.  As important, we also raised a lot of Keystone family spirit.  The two went together, a warming confluence.  What a fine way to come to the end of the year.

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Did you know that our secondary division has its own student broadcasting station?  Every morning during the first break, for just a few minutes, students bring us up to date with school and other news, opinions, interesting facts, and the like. The students do a very fine job. I was recently recorded by some of our student broadcasters giving my responses to the eight questions below that they asked me. These ‘answers’ will be part of a program next week on Wednesday. I want to share those questions with you here, and give you my slightly edited and perhaps more considered responses in writing, essentially the same as in the broadcast, but modified just a little.

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

This week I wish to tell you a little about Rosalind Wiseman and the work that she does through the organization that she founded, Cultures of Dignity.  Rosalind was one of the keynote speakers at the recent ACAMIS Conference hosted by Keystone, with our theme of Values Added.   She works with schools and school groups across the United States, and also now elsewhere. I knew a little about Rosalind and her work as she has offered her consultation services for a few years, and in a hugely beneficial manner, to The Lawrenceville School near Princeton, where the Head, Steve Murray, is an old friend.  She delivered an inspiring address to the whole ACAMIS group at our conference in April, and led two smaller workshops, all virtually.  I hope that you will, young and older, take Rosalind’s message of dignity for all to heart, and act on it. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/05/31-2021/​06/​06

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

On Monday April 19, about a month ago, our seniors took part in a most important culminating experience.  This was their demonstration, in public, of what our second keystone has meant to them during their lives in our school.  As you know, the keystones of our school are three: bilingual immersion in Chinese and English, building character and community throughout our residential setting, and promoting Chinese culture and identity in a world context.  And, in our mission, we claim that our students “will know how to apply their emotional intelligence, character, and zest for learning to help develop and improve the communities in which they live.”

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Last week I wrote in general about what is for me a hugely exciting long-term community project linking up with various people and agencies in Sishui County, Shandong.  In the coming months, we’ll be aiming to rent a house close to the Shengshuiyu Primary School and refurbish it to accommodate Keystone students, teachers and, I hope, some parents.  I say ‘some parents’ as the PTA Committee is keen to arrange for a few parents to visit the area soon to gain a deeper understanding of what we are setting out to do.  We plan to take various groups there in the first semester of the coming school year, and maybe one or two before that.

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Many of you have heard about a long-term link, based on mutual sharing and service, that Keystone has been developing with some schools and organizations in Sishui County, Shandong Province.  I have spoken about this and referred to it on a number of occasions.  I know of a small number of far-sighted schools in some other places which have similar long-term projects within their own countries with communities that have quite different, and less privileged, life situations.  I am delighted that we are doing something similar here.  Groups of Keystone teachers and students have visited Sishui County six times already, and a high-level delegation from this part of Shandong has been to Keystone.  Our PTA Committee is excited about the project and has been for some time.  They will be assisting in helping to move our ambitious program forward. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/05/03-2021/​05/​09

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Welcome to our second long, long weekend.  We have enjoyed a lot of literature, a huge amount of reading, and visits by authors in the past week and a half.  Love of Reading Week, book swaps assisted by parents, and a magical fireside chat by Grace Wang on the beauty of the Chinese language have contributed to this mosaic.   In introducing Grace’s talk on Sunday evening April 18, I admitted happily that I was totally unqualified to speak about the Chinese language.  However, I did say that I had started reading the great classics of the Chinese poetic canon, in translation, when I was 13 or 14, and that I have sensed for over 50 years now how elegant, lovely, and evocative Chinese poetry can be.  

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/04/26-2021/​05/​02

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

On Saturday, April 10, almost two weeks ago now, we hosted a Welcome Day for the families who have been offered places in our Keystone secondary school division next year.  Prospective parents and students attended.  I mentioned this meeting in passing in my letter to all of you on Tuesday last week, when I commented on how good it was to be able to start relaxing our visitor policy and to be able to welcome groups of parents back onto our campus.  On that Saturday morning around one hundred visitors gathered in the West Lecture Hall at 9 am.  They left after noon. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/04/19-2021/​04/​25

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Today and tomorrow, April 16 and 17, Keystone is honored to be hosting the annual ACAMIS Leadership Conference.  This is the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools.  As you may recall, we were due to host this conference around the same time last year.  We have had to postpone it more than once, but now it is finally happening.  Our two keynote speakers are from America, and their speeches are, of necessity, virtual.  Stedman Graham spoke this morning on his book Identity Leadership, and Rosalind Wiseman, the founder of Cultures of Dignity, will be our guest speaker tomorrow.  In addition to these two renowned educators, there are many strands of face-to-face workshops and presentations which cater to different areas of expertise and interest.  It is very exciting, and indeed an honor, to host this event.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/04/012-2021/​04/​18

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

In some of my recent In the Loop pieces I have touched on the importance and value of community service, as well as on the feelings that both give rise to wanting to serve and that grow and develop through service.  Members of the PTA Committee, with the assistance of Zadok Huang, the Keystone Director of Service Learning, have been exploring new services that allow us to work with more agencies close to campus.  We have also been developing more and more internal services for our students and adults to contribute meaningfully to our campus community.  All this excites and pleases me, and many others.  In one or two further articles in the coming weeks I plan to write in more detail, with Zadok, about various Keystone community service opportunities.

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

On Monday, at the start of this week, our Grade 10 students spent the whole day in a special event, our 3rd Annual Model United Nations Day.  This has become a Grade 10 tradition, and a very inspiring one it is too, where the Department of Mathematics teams with the Department of Individuals and Societies in a rich and rewarding interdisciplinary day.  Dr. Deb Johnston, the Department Leader of the I&S Department, invited drop-in attendees like me with these words.

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I am writing this on Saturday afternoon, March 20.  I was going to write a piece, perhaps the first of a few, on community service but, on reflection, I have decided to hold these for a few weeks.  Instead, I wish to share with you now a few of the events and activities that have happened here in the past 24 hours, most of them this morning.  As I walked around the campus, I saw, joined in briefly, and became a fleeting part of the following:

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Tomorrow you, our current families, will receive re-enrollment documents for the school year 2021/2022.  I hope sincerely that you all respond positively, and soon.  Initial offers to new families, and students, will go out at the end of this month of March and the beginning of April, and we need to know how many places we might have for new students.  We are therefore asking you to pay your deposit of 20% of next year’s fee by April 2, if possible.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/03/15-2021/​03/​21

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Looking back to 2015, it seems a long time ago now that we were starting out on our second year as a school.  At that point we had just more than doubled in size, from around 300 students in our first year to about 650 in the second.  Near the beginning of that second year, in the early fall of 2015, I wrote a paper for all my colleagues which I called “Challenges and Opportunities at Keystone Academy, Year 2”.  I outlined 12 areas where I wished us to place particular focus in that year.

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

At the end of this first week with our students back, and what good energy and enthusiasm they have brought to our campus, I have some excellent news for all.  I am so very pleased to tell you all that Dr. Régine de Blegiers will take over as Head of the High School at Keystone in July this year, after Dr. Diana Martelly leaves.  This is such good news for Keystone. We have conducted an extensive and patient search, starting last summer, to end with this exciting outcome.   We had a first round of interviews with candidates from within China here on campus shortly before the break for the western New Year.  After that, we carried on searching on a rolling basis, with our consultant agents RSAcademics interviewing about 10 new selected candidates in January.  Régine met a number of senior leaders in extensive virtual discussions in February and came through this process as our top choice.  I feel very fortunate that we have someone of Régine’s expertise and experience to take up the outstanding legacy of Diana Martelly.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/03/01-2021/​03/​07

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Last week I wrote about some aspects of our school’s varied and innovative curricula that make me feel positive and optimistic.  I say ‘curricula’ in the plural as it is so important to understand what we offer our students at Keystone taking place both in and outside the classroom.   As we move into the Year of the Ox, here are a few more thoughts on this theme of positivity, this time linking our school to the world through service.  I’ll start with the two paragraphs below, that come from my graduation address to the Class of 2020.  I was asking them to consider my opinion that the use of the word ‘unprecedented’ is all too frequent in the context of COVID:

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

A month or so ago, we were all hoping to move into the Year of the Ox with our students on campus, and with our usual creative celebrations.   Now we cannot do so.  This is sad for us all.  The virus is certainly keeping us vigilant, and health and safety have to be uppermost.  Think positive, test negative is my mantra of the moment.  Both are so important, and I keep on reminding myself that I have full control over the first, even if I do not over the second.  

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Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I am collaborating this week with my colleagues in the leadership group of the Middle School.  They have done much of the work for this piece.  All of us are passionate readers, and advocates for the great richness in our lives of the love of language, and reading, not only joyful literature but many other types of text as well.  Clear, efficient, and purposeful uses of language are critically important for the ways in which we communicate, and grow, individually and as communities. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/01/11-2021/​01/​17

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I wish you all a happy New Year, now one week old.  Perhaps I should say ‘happier’, as many of the difficulties engendered by the pandemic are still with us globally, and locally. We have been suddenly awakened again to this as a result of a small outbreak in Shunyi, mostly contained now, and of how this will affect our school in January.  

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/01/04-2021/​01/​10

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Towards the end of October I wrote to you about commitments, and how the commitments that we make can be related to our five shared values.  I included a short document called: Keystone Shared Values and Supporting Faculty Commitments.  This had been put together by Keystone teachers a few years ago, in an attempt to show the types of behavior that might exemplify our five values.  When it comes to modeling behavior, it is so important to translate abstract values into concrete action types.  Our school and our students need this. 

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​12/14-2020/​12/​20

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

Every Friday afternoon at Keystone, in our secondary division, the last period of the day, indeed the week, is given over to what we call a Head of School Assembly.   We meet in the Performing Arts Center.  In the earlier years of our school, it was easy to fit the whole secondary school, students and teachers, in there.  Last year, for the first time, we needed to split the High School and the Middle School, and so each group met on alternate weeks.  This year, with the need to distance socially, and to have a one-seat gap between each member of the audience, we have a three-way rotation in which the Middle School is split again, into Grades 6 and 7, and then Grades 8 and 9.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​12/7-2020/​12/​13

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

I know only a few people who love meetings.  Most of my friends and colleagues do not.  I do not love them, for sure, but I can certainly find them enjoyable and useful. And they are, small or large, still one of the best ways of sharing and planning.  Many of our meeting types have changed in these pandemic months, and digital meeting spaces have come to rule our days, and nights.  Face-to-face meeting fashions come and go, and there are any number of guidebooks on how to run and participate in effective meetings.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/30-2020/​12/​6

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

On Tuesday, November 10, I was privileged to participate with others in a 90-minute Zoom conversation with Michael Sandel, the renowned Professor of Government at Harvard University.  He is perhaps best known for his book Justice, published just over 10 years ago, and the very popular course at Harvard that he teaches on this subject.  Sandel’s most recent book, just out, is The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good.   Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, writes this: “The Tyranny of Merit deftly exposes the flaws and fallacies of meritocratic philosophy. In lucid, illuminating prose, Sandel makes a compelling case for uprooting inequality and building a fairer society shaped by true principles of justice.”  Anyone and everyone connected to schools such as ours needs to be aware of some of the key ideas in this book.  I have not yet read it, but I can report in this short piece on Professor Sandel’s conversational summary of some of its main themes.

Read More about WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2020/​​11/23-2020/​11/​29
HEAD OF SCHOOL

Malcolm McKenzie

Malcolm McKenzie is the Founding Head of School of Keystone Academy. He grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and studied at the Universities of Cape Town, Oxford, and Lancaster.

 

LETTERS FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL