WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM HEAD OF SCHOOL 2021/09/06-2021/​09/​12

Dear Parents, Students, Colleagues,

A tradition at the start of the school year is that all our Keystone colleagues come together for a short meeting, and after that we share a festive supper.  The meeting is serious, but the meal is joyous.  Our full employee roll now numbers just under 500.  We are a large group.  We met in the PAC at the end of the last Friday afternoon in August, just before the boarding student leaders started coming back.  I addressed the gathering, and I was accompanied by Jia Lili, Dean of Curriculum and Associate Head of School, and Qianli Liu, Assistant Head of School, Business.  At the end of the meeting, I asked my colleagues to read along with me the letter below, which was posted in both our languages on the large screen on stage.  Please read it to and for yourselves now:

Friday, August 27, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Our theme for the orientation for faculty two weeks ago, and indeed for all of us for this school year, is prominent on the lovely green T-shirts that so many of us have been wearing recently: “We Grow as We Learn”.  Thoughts about learning as a growing process for all of us, no matter how young or old, lie behind this phrase.  So, too, does the metaphor of gardening and its connection to learning.  The gentle planting of seeds, then watering them and allowing them the space and the sun and all the other qualities needed for their good growth, is an apt emblem for what we do in a school, and especially in our school.

When we consider the current calamity that is climate change, the gardening image becomes all the more powerful, and needed.  The ways in which we have pummeled our fragile atmosphere in recent centuries constitute a massive existential threat to our human species, and to many, many other species.  We are already being adversely affected by anthropogenic climate change every day.  Regardless of when we summon the energy and the will to do more about this, climate change and its effects will only get worse before we make matters better.

We cannot do a huge amount in our everyday lives about climate change at a global or even national level.  But we can, and must, regard our Keystone campus more and more as a garden which we tend, and of which we are the stewards.  Growing plants and trees, reducing food waste, recycling materials and resources, cutting back on energy: all these and other daily tasks are imperative and must not remain confined to our Environmental Whole-School Standing Committee.

More important, even than this, is to see our students as the seeds and the plants of the future.  We must deepen their education environmentally and ecologically.  They must learn here about the greatest issue of their time, which they will have to solve because we have failed so far to do so.  Each one of us is a teacher in this context, through what we say and do, and through what we ask and task our students to do.  Outside experts, and friends, such as Inspire Citizens, are a valuable help in this area.  We must bring more of these friends and fellow travelers here to work with us. 

As we start out with eagerness and enthusiasm to welcome our students into their new school year, let’s grow together in the beautiful garden that is Keystone Academy, and all learn as we do so.  And let’s continue to irrigate what we have planted so that we create and grow something in miniature which is a model for the future, our future.

Warm regards,


I want to repeat this sentence: Each one of us is a teacher in this context, through what we say and do, and through what we ask and task our students to do.  Substitute ‘children’ for ‘students’, and our joint and shared role, as parents and as educators, is clear to me.  We are indeed all teachers in this context, and we must teach, teach, and teach some more about this big, big issue that will continue to endanger this generation and others yet to come.  Those across the world who are under 18, Grade 12 and below, are going to be directly affected through the remainder of their lives by climate change, whatever we do as a species to mitigate and then begin to reverse the adverse impact of this catastrophe.

Towards the end of his extraordinary novella Candide Voltaire, the philosopher of the French Enlightenment, has the titular hero of the book and his companions meet an old man who sits silently beneath a tree.  Candide has suffered greatly in his wanderings and journeyings through many countries, before finally coming to a point of repose in Turkey.  This old man, named only as ‘the Turk’, utters an enigmatic and elegiac sentence that continues to cascade down the centuries: “Il faut cultiver notre jardin” – “We must cultivate our garden”.

Literary critics have explicated in learned essays the many layers to this short utterance.  One layer is this: look after your close surroundings; cultivate, care for, and steward your immediate environment; live naturally and modestly; and you will lead a joyful and fulfilled life.  Imagine if we all did this, across the globe: the very large garden that is planet earth would most certainly be in much better bloom than it is now.   

Let’s try to do that, and let’s grow as we learn and learn as we grow.


With warm regards, 

Malcolm McKenzie

Head of School