Kia Ora Koutou
Standing outside a shop with a Christmas tree in it, and then skyward shoots a November 5th SkyRocket. I glance to my right and see the remnants of Halloween festivities and I then pause to reflect. Term 4 is a bit like that; one thing is over and another is about to start. We need to pace ourselves- one thing at a time and remember to enjoy that thing.
Our seniors have at the end of today literally five school days left before their national exams start. Students will use the study leave wisely because they are pursuing endorsements, or credits to secure their NCEA Level pass. Some may actually be at school over study leave to access resources or tutoring. Whatever the choices made, the one choice they all need to make is to use the time wisely. The National exam timeslot is such a short period of time that can make a long term difference.
Houses and name changes
I had a visit from a parent to ask me about the name changes, which I completely respect because I believe myself to be approachable. I feel change for the sake of change is a nonsense but if there is good reason I will pursue necessary change. I state again that I believe that changing the House names is sensible. However, the communications and requests from many sources over the last few years, and mostly from old girls, asking for me to change the names of the Houses has been phenomenal. As an English and History teacher I value the past and what that has afforded us, but this letter that follows from a recent old girl articulates beautifully my sentiments about why we are doing what we are doing. This letter will be familiar to those who have stayed abreast of previous discussions about the house names.
Dear Mrs Gill,
I hope this finds you well and that you’ve coped with the Covid crisis okay! What a crazy year it’s been thus far…
I am writing with regards to the recent Black Lives Matter movement, and its broader effects on re-evaluations of racial consciousness and imperial histories in New Zealand. As you may know, the issue of the names of the St Matthew’s houses has recently been debated – with great vigour! – on the SMOGA Facebook page. The fundamental proposition …was that perhaps it is time to revise the names of the houses. She attached paintings of three of the four men after whom the houses are named; Sir Bernard Fergusson, Sir George Grey, and Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Upon seeing the pictures of the three men, it became fairly obvious that they bear minimal relevance to modern St Matthew’s.
Of course, it is easy to see this debate as getting swept up in the broader trend of what some call an “attack on history.” In many instances, these claims have merit – it is indeed a grey area between denying history just because it is difficult to stomach and respecting the traditions of the past. The dangers of presentism and judging the past by current standards were, after all, always stressed in our history lessons!
The presentist debate, however, does not apply to St Matthew’s, and its tradition of the four houses. At St Matthew’s, the house spirit runs deep, and strong – any girl will tell you that. The difference is, that this tradition is not based upon the names of the houses; Grey, Cobham, Fergusson and Wakefield serve as indistinct figureheads, and many girls will spend a whole 7 years at the school with little clue of the origins of the houses they so keenly represent.
It is clear, herein, that the names of the houses have lost their meaning with the passage of time, underlining the fact that they bear little relevance to St Matthew’s today, and that their principle function remains as empty figureheads of tradition.
To be sure, the influence of tradition cannot be overstated; at St Matthew’s, it is clearly an important basis for much of our culture, and rightly so. One of the primary criticisms against the case for changing the house names appears to be the fact that for some families, generations of girls have served one house. Of course, this is an understandable and valid perspective – though one which could be partially solved by keeping the colours of the houses constant. It is clear, however, that the house names have become an example of tradition for the sake of tradition. The fact that the figures that the houses represent are little-known only serves to underline this point. It is part of an institution’s responsibility to engage in critical self-reflection, and to recognise the point at which tradition is no longer productive – this is that point.
It feels at odds with the St Matthew’s culture to have a dubious group of colonial figures at the centre of the school spirit – but almost particularly because they themselves are not part of the school spirit.
From my perspective, then, this debate has produced an opportunity; the possibility of renaming the houses after a group of diverse, inspirational women that girls can genuinely look up to. I don’t feel in a position to suggest a water-tight group of people to rename the houses after – perhaps it could be a chance to consult the students, I know this worked well at Hadlow a few years ago – but I do believe that renaming the houses to genuine role models would, in turn, strengthen the house spirit even further.
So to you our parents, we have consulted your daughters, we have consulted SMOGA, I consult you now as we hold over the voting process – who are the strong women you want your daughters to aspire to? I did set a criteria of strong New Zealand women who have now passed (so they cannot blot their copy books while still with us), but I invite you to provide names.
The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 commences on 11 November 2020, amending the Smokefree Environments Act 1990 and renaming it to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990. Changes will be phased in over a period of 15 months.
From 11 November 2020, the existing prohibition on smoking at schools is extended to include vaping. Schools must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that no person vapes in any part of the school, whether inside or outside, at any time of day.
St Matthew’s is ahead of the pack here because we already have in place ‘No Vaping’ signage which must be displayed by 11 May 2021.
Howzat- yesterday our 1st XI qualified for the National Cricket Finals. They join our Primary XI who are also in the National Finals.
Have a safe weekend