Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 1st May 2020
Just before Easter I suggested that we would have to try to find the good in this otherwise rather undesirable situation. This is partly to enable us to get through it in as mentally healthy a way as possible, but also – where we can – to take the opportunity for self-improvement, and reach the other end having turned adversity into something productive. Some of us have also had extra time forced on us – time to potter and to contemplate. I appreciate that this is not the case for everyone, especially those who are frenetically combining home schooling with their own professional lives, or saving the lives of others on the front line. So I hope that what I say here is not insensitive, other than to observe that time not spent commuting, shuttling from meeting to meeting, or tacking from one activity to another, for many people is now time to reflect.
I have found this myself. Headmasters are notoriously busy people. They start early, end late, and spend rather a lot of their time in meetings, lessons, taking phone calls or answering emails. They tend to work through the weekend. Many of those things haven’t gone away, but a sufficient number have to allow us time to think more calmly and patiently about our schools. That is, I have to admit, one of my biggest frustrations – that in the hurly-burly of term, there isn’t much time to think about how to make things better. And I’m a firm believer in self-improvement. So last week I actually had a few more minutes to reflect on NCS and what it does. This was especially the case because I had the rare opportunity to experience teaching at both ends of the school. I covered a lesson teaching Reception Maths (counting money) and then returned to my usual teaching life marking sophisticated Year 8 essays on the causes of the American Revolution (complaining about money).
When you stop and think about it, that can seem absurd. In just seven or eight years, these boys’ brains develop in such a way that they go from counting pennies to writing rather eloquently about, say, John Locke’s theory of the social contract. It is absurd, but also rather brilliant, and a wonderful testament to what my colleagues do for these boys as they progress through pre-prep and the prep school until they leave in Year 8. It is also, of course, testament to the increased independence of the boys that they learn to take these ideas and to run with them, discussing eighteenth-century mercantilism as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I won’t hide how proud I am of the school for aiding this process; I just wish we all normally had more time to stand back and calmly and rationally see just what is going on. Education is endlessly fascinating, but we too easily lose sight of that when we go from lesson to lesson, meeting to meeting, dinner party to dinner party, with our heads down. Or when we treat education like a rat race, a kind of precursor to the rat races in which some of our pupils may find themselves later in life. So let’s lift up our heads, try to enjoy some of this enforced extra time, and heartily congratulate our boys for all they are achieving in really rather difficult circumstances.
Have a great weekend.