WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/05/17-2021/​05/​23

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.”

For me, the focus on character and community, these two in combination, is especially resonant.  In so much of what we do in Keystone, we try to bring together the best of the east, the west, and the international.  In some eastern countries, and indeed southern ones, the sense of each person being part of a greater whole is especially strong and cohesive.  It is often noted that eastern societies have a tendency to dilute the individual in the interests of the communal.  That’s community, for me.  In many western societies, the opposite can be found.  Character, the expression of each individual’s sense of herself or himself, can be dominant.  Our residential focus, therefore, which seeks the expression of character through community, is a beautiful blend, and a powerful one.  When achieved, as it frequently is, it really does set up our young women and men for life, in this case an inter-national life.  I see that clearly in so many of our growing number of alums.

To be awarded the Keystone Diploma, students in grades 10, 11, and 12 are required to demonstrate proficiency in all three keystones.  This year, proficiency in the second keystone was assessed though participation in that exhibition on April 19.  It is appropriate to write about this the day before the Class of 2021 graduates.  So just how did our seniors do this?  In sum, they were asked to work under an umbrella theme of “Transformations” and to do three things: first, find or create one or more artifacts that illustrate the theme from the perspective of your own journey; second, write a commentary on this in about 800 to 1,000 words; third, present both artifacts and commentary on the evening of April 19 and answer questions on this from viewers, of whom there were many, parents, teachers, and students. 

These three actions or activities were meant to reflect three stages of growth:

·      Past: Who you were before you came to Keystone;

·      Present: Who are you now? How have you changed since you’ve been here?;

·      Future: How you will use the lessons you’ve learned at Keystone in your future.

 And, in order to make all this more precisely focused, the students were asked to tie their reflections to up to three items from the following list of descriptors:


Student serves with a generous spirit and makes a positive difference to the community where we live and learn.


Student treats everyone with kindness, empathy, and understanding.


Student is keenly aware and proactive of taking care of his/her physical, emotion, and spiritual well-being.


Student demonstrates an understanding of the shared values of the community and seeks to foster harmony, inclusiveness, and self-control.


Student treats everyone fairly and takes courageous actions to correct injustices and unfairness.


Student demonstrates an understanding of the environment and exhibits sustainable practices and behaviors at school and beyond.


Student leads and serves in ways that benefit the common good of the school community.


Student demonstrates awareness of how his/her social behaviors affect others and acts to promote harmonious interactions in the community.


Student is proactive in developing an understanding of others and demonstrates he/she values others’ ideas and beliefs.


Student makes thoughtful decisions that consider self, others, and the common good.


Student pursues personal enrichment and knowledge through reflection and learning from others.


Student learns bravely from failure and demonstrates resilience.


Other: if you have an idea for a descriptor that you would like to write, please contact your advisor for approval.

From this list, you can see exactly how deep the changes are that we wanted our students to explore and comment upon.  They rose to the occasion in a wonderful way.  Their reflections were substantial, and they spoke of their growth and maturation with an articulate passion that was moving and impressive.

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes, a famous American Justice of the Supreme Court, who said this of Theodore Roosevelt in 1933: “A second-class intellect. But a first-class temperament!”  Holmes was using ‘temperament’ as a loose equivalent to ‘character’.  If I had to choose between intellect and character in a leader, I would probably come down on the side of character in most situations.  However, there is no need to feel compelled to make that exclusionary duality in general terms.  It is perfectly possible to have leaders who are first-class in both intellect and temperament.  Schools like Keystone must endeavor to produce such graduates.  Our world needs them now more than ever.


With warm regards, 

Malcolm McKenzie

Head of School