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.
In my short welcome, I focused on four things, all of which you have heard me say before:
· Our Keystone Confucian values and how they guide us, in decision making, behavior, action, and much else – we are indeed a values-driven school;
· Our second keystone of ‘character and community’ and how our residential program fosters self-management and self-reliance, and allows us to grow good people as well as good scholars;
· Our learning, which combines content and skills, with a focus on approaches to learning that equips our students with the capabilities to be productive learners anywhere, at any time of their lives;
· Our college preparedness – the combination of personal and scholarly independence, of learning how to live and how to study – that makes our students ready to thrive at college.
I was so proud of all the other messages that I heard on that absorbing morning that I want to share a short summary with you.
Our Dean of Admission, Chris McColl, and Tingting Xu, one of the Associate Deans of Admission, spoke with sensitivity and diplomacy about the admission process, and what we look for in newly admitted students. Meredith Phinney and Diana Martelly reminisced about their great joy in and love for Keystone, and for the culture and country of China. In different ways, they mentioned the importance of individual growth and character formation. Our incoming Head of the High School, Régine de Blegiers, talked in a recorded message about tapping into everyone’s talents and specialities. Jason Roy explained how complex, but also enjoyable, our multi-faceted Math curriculum has become, with challenges for everyone. Jaime Weiler addressed thoughtfully the issue of English language phases, and the fact that English language success is directly linked to our objective and deeply considered placement of students in appropriate phases. Finally, Kelli Sanchez offered a lovely description of our residential life program and its power in nurturing each individual student to grow in distinction and distinctiveness. Amongst other things, she showed the long list of varied weekend activities happening that very day. All of the above may indeed be somewhat familiar themes and tropes of our school and community, but they were delivered with an articulate passion that was mesmerizing.
I spent some time with the parents on the parent panel, just before they took their seats. I asked each one to give me a quick response to the question: ‘What do you like most about Keystone?’ Here is a succinct compilation of their responses: my child loves to go to school; she really enjoys studying and learning here; the mentoring in advisory groups is invaluable; the confident self-expression of the students is beautiful; all students, especially the older ones, really do learn how to take care of themselves; my child has grown so much in independence; the cultural breadth of the Chinese Thread is amazing.
The students on the student panel responded to a range of challenging questions with confidence and flair. It was a pleasure to listen to them. They spoke about the excitement and diversity of the Keystone Activities Program (KAP) and how much they valued being able to take the initiative and start their own KAPs. When responding to a question about transitioning to the Keystone residential community, one student who had come in as Grade 8 boarder reflected warmly on quickly finding older brothers and sisters in the community. When it came to the academic transition, students spoke with insight and conviction about the assessment here of many learning skills, not just narrowly defined academic achievement; about the adjustment to self-management as a boarder; about taking initiative, learning how to learn, and working in collaborative groups; and about the fact that teachers talk less here, and students are required to work more actively doing their own research. One student spoke about learning to learn through failing the first time round: she said how important it was ‘to accept failures with an open heart’.
I want to come to a conclusion with that phrase: “Accept failures with an open heart”. We talk a lot in schools these days about learning through failing as well as through succeeding. Both are viable ways of learning new things. When we fail to achieve or master something the first time, or even the fourth or a later time, it is our attitude towards not reaching what we were aiming for that is so important. If we persevere, we will succeed, we know that. But the words ‘persevere’ or ‘perseverance’ sometimes sound dry, even severe. That’s why I love that phrase ‘an open heart’. It encapsulates perfectly for me the spirit that stimulates success.
Many of the families who attended that day have already accepted their places for next year. I am delighted with their decisions, but not surprised, such was the persuasiveness of all who represented Keystone on that morning.
With warm regards,
Head of School