Having recently returned from the Heads’ Conference held in the Drakensberg, this newsletter offered me the chance to touch on a few salient and pertinent ‘right-for-our-times’ messages. Talks that were delivered by a number of carefully chosen guest speakers, all accomplished authorities in their respective fields.
The theme for the 2019 SAHISA Conference was Nanela Entabeni: Echoes from the Mountains. As the four days unfolded and one speaker after the other shared their own interpretation of this theme as translated through personal stories and experiences, it became clear very early on that the collegial time away together would prove to be both challenging and compelling.
A few of the more thought-provoking lecture topics were:
Social Responsibilities – Schools and Corporations … presented by Setlogane Manchidi
The ‘ag-shame’ outreach gift or sentiment / approach is essentially a sham and one that simply doesn’t work. Whatever social responsibility initiative a school embarks on needs, as much as possible, to be understood to be an empowerment exercise and a meaningful shared investment that will add significantly to the lives of others.
How to be Grown-up … presented by renowned child psychologist, Tim Barry.
Tim spoke on the fascinating topic of a world increasingly full of, and in some cases, being led by infantilized adults. He argues that we are seeing a rising tide of stupidity in our adult world. People who are extremely ego-centric, who are incapable of embracing vulnerability and who cannot engage with objective reality.
Leveraging your Personal values to Promote Values-based Education … presented by Raymond Perrier.
Raymond took us through an interesting self-awareness exercise which he linked to our personal values’ make-up. He suggested that related school value statements require an authentic buy-in from school leadership. By exercising more self-awareness, everyone ought to be able to move from an unconscious inauthentic state of being to becoming unconsciously authentic. A process that will serve to add credibility to all that we stand for and professionally promote as principals.
Bringing Hope in Situations of Severe Crisis … presented by Dr Imtiaaz Sooliman who started Gift of the Givers
This remarkable and humble ‘Good Samaritan’ shared his personal story as it pertained to God calling him to start what is now the global Gift of the Givers humanitarian organisation. A story that demonstrates and encapsulates the fact that he and his organisation are willing daily to champion a philosophy of hope is situations of severe hopelessness and crisis.
Mending the Wounds: Transformative School Leadership in Times of Uncertainty … presented by Prof Thabo Msibi
Professor Msibi gave an enlightened and brutally honest insight into what true transformation ought to look like and how we as South Africa’s independent schools need to recognise that in most cases the journey has only just commenced. He tackled this, as he puts it, largely misunderstood subject under the heading of ‘post conflict pedagogy’. He concludes that there are eight key areas to be intentionally embraced within the current South African context:
- a) the power of indirect knowledge; b) the importance of listening; c) outgrowing received knowledge; d) the significance of pedagogical dissonance; e) acknowledging of our brokenness; f) the importance of hope; g) giving opportunity to those who want to offer alternatives; h) the value of demonstrating leadership.
Courage Under Fire … presented by Karen Tocknell
Karen used her very personal story of coping with tragedy, pain and loss following the death of her husband to offer hope, strength and courage to all in positions of school leadership. She encouraged us all, within the greater South African context, to remain positive, to stop complaining, to delight in the calling that we have as educators, and to celebrate through an act of surrender all that our roles and responsibilities bring our way each day. She challenged school leaders to embrace vulnerability, authenticity and to take comfort in being who we really are within the school environment. Taking seriously too, our purposing to be springs of water in a thirsty land.
From School Skunk to Scribe – when Truth is Stranger than Fiction … presented by John van de Ruit
The renowned author of Spud, Spud 2, The Madness Continues and Spud 3 did wonders to capture our imaginations through his own brand of humour and some delightful repartee. Whilst his warm and lighthearted presentation gave his audience some enlightening insight into what had led to the writing of his Spud Trilogy, he made a point not to miss out on sharing a deeper message with us all. He challenged those of us involved in monastic boys schooling to remain sensitive to and highly critical of traditions, legacies and safeguards that might give rise to the development of a macho, egotistical and entitled culture within our boys and young men.
The Formal Dedication and Opening of our new Junior Primary:
On Friday morning 13 September, we took the opportunity to dedicate and officially open our new Junior Primary building. With the snag list having eventually been worked through, the gardens and playground areas beautifully restored, and the Hersov Field back in working order again, what was a stunning Spring morning proved to be all that we were hoping for, given the august sense of occasion.
Boys, staff, some notable dignitaries, and a few parents were able to gather in an appropriately intimate and meaningful way to give thanks as together we asked God for his special anointing and covering at this moment of dedication. The message focused on the strength and security that foundations offer, the importance of setting permanent footprints in the sands of time, and for us all to recognise again that God remains the solid rock on which future generations of boys will be able to anchor.
Our four Guests of Honour were assigned the responsibility of cutting of the ribbons: Edith Venter (past parent and patron); Gillian Dippenaar (Ridge School Bursar); James Clucas (Chairman of the Board) and James Thomas (Head of the Project Team).
Our Eco-School challenge … Another important Standing in the GAP opportunity for The Ridge School Community:
Terri-Lee Dix and Holly Ferrar have connected with The Refillery organisation as we seek to ratchet up our school’s commitment to helping as many Ridge folk as possible reduce their plastic waste.
They have been asked to add a separate communique specific to their offering to the school and to each Ridge family. They offer several options that will assist our school and community to shop in a more eco-friendly manner. Some of these include:
- They would like to offer all of The Ridge staff and students’ families a special 15% discount for all online shopping orders at The Refillery that can be delivered on a set day of the week to the school. The attached communique deals with this offer specifically. They are happy to make this a regular service and keep the 15% discount in place.
- They can offer customised (logo to be supplied) sets of Beeswax Sandwich Wraps in set of 2 for The Ridge family. These wraps are designed to remove the need for cling film completely. Wrap your son’s sandwich or lunches in them, wash and reuse over and over again. They are hand painted in gorgeous prints.
- They joined the teachers at Wednesday morning’s staff meeting and will be coming in to talk to the boys on the subject of eco-sustainability and some easy steps that we can take to help reduce the plastic pollution of our local natural environments.
A Final Word … Are our school cultures transforming fast enough?
As mentioned, as part of my brief SAHISA Conference synopsis, Professor Thabo Msibi, whilst tackling with us the challenges of School Leadership in Times of Uncertainty, touched on what he termed ‘the importance of disrupting bitter knowledge and practices’. His observations:
- Schools are spaces where children spend most of their time
- Inaction sustains a state of woundedness doing untold harm to learners, teachers and principals. This potentially leads to violent masculinities; racism; femicide; wounded colleagues hiding under the guise of professionalism.
- A future of uncertainty = social crisis. School leadership is central for social change.
How to bring about this change:
… within the South African context at large, but particularly within our independent schooling cultures, his challenges provide some unpalatable but necessary food for thought.
A Reminder to purchase your entry into The Ridge School Raffle. The draw is limited to 1500 tickets and the winner will be announced in early December.
Click on the link now to buy your ticket – https://qkt.io/hGHwMb