Dear Old Ridgeans
Against the backdrop of a global landscape that has faced some significant challenges this past year, it is good to be able to reach out to and connect with you all again after what has been far too long. Whilst we are enormously grateful that our Centenary year was spared the 2020 trials and tribulations, there is no doubt that the uncertainty and the many disruptions caused by COVID-19 have played a significant part in influencing much of what The Ridge School family has had to adjust to these past eight months.
In this context, our School Magazine committee has been meeting in order to find the most appropriate way of recording The Ridge’s 101st year. As you can well imagine, their work is cut out for them as they work to find creative ways and appropriate reporting mediums that will best serve to capture a year that couldn’t have been more far removed from the other 100 if we had tried.
The 2020 virtual magazine (a first for us here at The Ridge) will record so much that, the COVID-19 cloud notwithstanding, we have still been able to provide in the form of reliable, relevant and rigorous academic provision. It will reflect on the fact that, as with teachers in most other schools globally, our amazing complement of men and women have shown their professional metal by stepping up as they stepped into the digital teaching space in ways that they could never have imagined back in January.
Flexibility and adaptability became the order of the day, every day, as teachers led their lads, at a distance, through the screen-based medium of remote learning. In response, perhaps as expected, most boys, caught on very quickly and adapted well to Google Classroom, Google Meets, Seesaw and so much more that connecting with their teachers and each other online was demanding of them all.
So successful had been the teaching and learning in this new digital domain, that when the boys returned to school in early September, the consensus of opinion was that most subject teachers could boast being ahead of where they had hoped to be by that stage of the year. So, perhaps against the odds, the online transfer of knowledge and skills had worked, and within the expected timeframe.
The boys’ returned to school for the start of the 3rd Term but things were far from normal. Having to commit to all that the health and safety regulations and compliance’s demanded of us, we were equally as committed to find a semblance of normality for boys, teachers and others members of staff. Systems and structures combined to make this possible as we kept our lads at least 1,5 metres apart in all classroom settings and as we kept temperature checks, screening and the sanitizing of a myriad touch points as priority areas each day. With boys back and staff keen as mustard to get on with the in-person teaching again, there has been much to celebrate.
Sadly, constrains imposed by the same regulations spoken of early, we haven’t, to date, been able to reintroduce our extramural programme. In a boys primary school where the delights associated with watching boys enjoying themselves out on the field of play is so much a part of daily life, an enormous gap in our enrichment offering has been felt. Together with the watering down of our music and performing arts programmes, we have had to record, on behalf of boys, parents and coaches, that this abnormal year has certainly cheated us out of a good deal that in the past we would have just taken for granted.
I am pleased to report, though, that there has been plenty that the influence of the pandemic, lockdown and school closure has not been able to undermine or tarnish, and that the Ridge Spirit, as experienced daily, albeit from behind masks, is as strong as ever.
We are looking forward to being able to celebrate, within reason and restrictions, some of the traditional end of year functions. Having already had to adjust to the many disappointments of not being able to enjoy all that their senior year should have provided for, our Grade 7 boys and their parents will be able to at least make the most of a Valedictory Dinner with a difference, a special Grade 7 Awards Ceremony and all that is, as always, so poignant about their Valedictory Farewell Assembly.
I look forward to being able to share a follow-up message with you all at a point towards the end of the 1st Term next year, when the news from your prep school alma mater will hopefully make for more pleasant reading. For now though, to wish you all well as you batten down the hatches for what will, I’m sure, prove to be a somewhat different December holiday and Christmas celebration. All the best, stay healthy and strong, and God bless you all.
MESSAGE FROM THE OUTGOING CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, JAMES CLUCAS
To say that this has been an extraordinary and challenging time for any school would be an under statement. We feel so fortunate that, as a school community, our Centenary celebration was 2019 and not this year. The coming together of the broader Ridge community as well as the feel-good factor that was so prevalent across the campus would have been lost, the years of planning forgone and massive improvisation would have been the order of the day.
We remain convinced that the success of our 100-year celebration assisted in ensuring that our school was full at the start of 2020, with 512 boys, and enabled us to offer a fourth “bubble” grade 0 class with a maximum of 18 boys in each class, instead of 3 classes of 22 in the grade.
Every cloud has a silver lining. For our school the ease and effectiveness with which our teachers and staff switched across to online teaching must be commended. We were reminded that we really do have a team of incredible teachers populating the staff room at The Ridge. In addition, the IT spend that took place in previous years paid off. It must be pointed out that the finance team have also done a sterling job at managing the expense side of the income statement which enabled the school to thus far get through this pandemic in reasonable shape.
My tenure as Chairman ended in March of this year. In hindsight I am grateful for the time that Itumeleng Kgaboesele, my successor as Chairman, set aside to work with me to ensure a smooth transition. Naturally taking the reigns two weeks prior to a national lockdown is not ideal. Itu, the board and the school executive have done an incredible job through this period by rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in to ensure that the standard of The Ridge offering was not compromised. In fact, it has brought fresh ideas and perspectives as to what the school can offer going forward. This will feed into the strategic think tank that is being initiated imminently.
Richard Stanley, who has done an incredible job since his return to the school as Head in 2015, will be retiring at the end of 2021 as he reaches the age of 63. I am sure that a lot more will be said about the superb job that Richard has done in leading our school but from my side it has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside such a professional, passionate educator and principled, energetic person. I must thank Richard for all he taught me during our time of working together. It was a most rewarding experience for me.
From a financial perspective we were pleased that the school was able to repay R3,5m of the loan from the Trust at the start of this year for the building of the new, impressive Junior Prep classroom block. Naturally there will not be a capital repayment from the school at the end of this year, but as trustees we are impressed that the school has managed to make ends meet from an operational perspective during this trying time.
While we continue to have Old Boys contributing to the annual fees for some boys we anticipate that there will be an increasing number of families that will require fee assistance in the wake of the economic damage done as a result of the lockdown. We intend to continue with our initiative to build this fee assistance fund as we recognise that this sum of money as well as the R500,000 contributed from Trust #1 on an annual basis will not go far. The Centenary gave us a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with many Old Boys and ex-Ridge parents. We do not intend to allow that momentum to fade as we look ahead, especially as we acknowledge that there are likely to be stormy waters ahead for all private schools in South Africa, not only The Ridge.
Itumeleng, Joe (Head of Marketing), Richard and myself are available to The Ridge alma mater for a more personalised update if you would like. These are trying times. The entire Ridge community wants to not only ensure our beloved school continues to effectively manage its way through this period but also thrives and sets itself apart from others. We look forward to engaging with you.
MESSAGE FROM NEWLY APPOINTED CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, ITUMELENG KGABOESELE
Dear Old Boy,
As you would have read, I assumed the role of Chairman of the Board in March 2020.
Our focus as a board has largely been on ensuring that the school responds appropriately to Covid-19. Whilst this has been a testing period, I am very pleased about how the school has responded to the challenge. We have managed to safeguard our boys and staff and deliver high quality education to our boys. Our finance team responded well to ensure that we save costs and pass a significant portion of these costs to our parent body to ease the financial burden. Some parents were generous enough to donate these savings back to the school to enable us to provide assistance to those parents who were badly affected by covid-19.
As you are aware, Richard Stanley will be retiring at the end of August 2021. Over the last few months, I have worked with Richard as the school has had to navigate the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic. I am grateful that Richard remains as engaged as ever and has led the school effectively during this time. In due course, we will announce the arrangements to honour Richard for his incredible contribution to The Ridge School and bid him and Lucinda farewell.
We have commenced with the search for the new Head of The Ridge. The public advertisement closed on 30th October and together with the executive search exercise has yielded an extensive list of potential candidates. We are working with our appointed firm of advisors to arrive at a “long list” of candidates and intend to have this part of the process finalised before the end of the school year. We continue to work towards having a new head in place by 1st September 2021 whilst still being mindful that it may take longer to find the right candidate for our school. I am very pleased that our Selection Panel includes a Ridge Old Boy.
We have commenced our strategy review process which was scheduled for earlier this year but delayed as we diverted our attention to responding to Covid-19. We are undertaking this process during a period that is seeing significant changes in the education landscape, with many questions being raised about traditional models of education. As we look forward to the future, I am excited about the prospect of leveraging off our rich heritage established over the last 100 years whilst ensuring that we position our school to adapt as appropriate and remain one of the leading preparatory schools.
I firmly believe that one of the key success factors for a school such as ours is an engaged Old Boys community and I look forward to engaging with you over time.
Chairman – Board of Governors
The (COVID) Cloud has a Silver Lining
Author: Nicholas Diana Deputy Headmaster
The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus once said that “Change is the only constant in life”. I’m assuming that he must have been a very wise man because there are not many of us who like change. Some resist change because we enjoy our routine and fear we may lose something valuable if we adapt. Some feel a sound sense of safety and security, so why the need to change what’s already working.
What Heraclitus didn’t factor in is that Covid-19 decided to take him up on his prophecy, and change the world as we knew it into economic turmoil, increase the social and emotional strain on us and our children as well as to adapt psychologically and physiologically to all that came our way. The COVID cloud overshadowed the world, and has, and will continue to bring with it an after-effect that will be felt in the months, and years to come.
However, as with every ominous storm, there is a silver lining. The storm that, and still is Covid-19, has brought with it its very own glimmer of hope. Nature had found its way back into prominence, families were able to spend good, quality time together, and although essential workers were performing miracles well into the night, they had the whole world behind them, rooting for them in the streets and from the balconies to show their support and appreciation for their unfeigned dedication.
Life as we knew it
The root word for ‘change’, taken from the Old French, ‘changier’ is described as ‘becoming different, or altered’. Life as we knew it did just that. South Africa entered Lockdown Level 5 at midnight on the 26th March. Our country changed, our habits changed, our routines changed, but so did the way in which we had to educate not only ourselves but our students too. The announcement made by our esteemed President Cyril Ramaphosa on the eve of Sunday before lockdown sent a reminder to every educator that change was inevitable, and this was going to be our constant.
Although we had anticipated some of what was heading our way, the realisation was that we had to adapt and adapt quickly. There were several staff meetings set up during the week before the announcement to establish a shift from social, physical teaching to online, remote teaching and learning. The Ridge School is not a remote school, and I know that this article may speak to the converted as many schools in South Africa are not remote (online) schools. I distinctly remember conversations regarding screen time, synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning and flexible timetables increased the anxiety and stress levels with staff, parents and our boys.
Phases of change
Part of our hidden curriculum at The Ridge School is a focus on grit, resilience and perseverance. Kathie Nunley, in her book “A Student’s Brain”, explains that due to the development of the prefrontal cortex, adults experience functional fixedness that makes them see everything exactly as it is. For instance, an adult will see a tennis racket exactly as it is. In contrast, a child will see a broomstick as a cricket bat. The creativity of children is caused by their prefrontal cortex, which gives them the ability to be flexible and inventive. Children have minds that are designed to learn and adults have minds designed to perform.
Our boys adapted very quickly to the change, a shift from what we as adults, fixed in our ways, struggled with. Our staff had to transition from content creators to digital natives in the space of a few days. Our planning calendar, one that guides our every move had to take a ‘back seat’ as certain events, assemblies, music soirees and the likes thereof came to an abrupt end, for the time being.
As a stand-alone, independent all-boys school, we were fortunate enough to enter the April holidays, reflecting on three weeks’ worth of remote teaching and learning, which gave us some respite to reflect on past practices and the way forward.
The Silver Lining
Although the COVID cloud had descended upon us, it was up to us as a team to make sure that we embraced the inevitable change. The April holidays seemed like a distant memory when we started the second term. Having had countless meetings, attending several international webinars and investigating the best possible solutions to aid in the way forward, we began an adventure quite literally for us, into the unknown. Re-worked timetables, digital curriculums and passionate staff began the quest into term two.
Phrases such as Google Classroom, Google Meets, synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning became prominent terms and vocabulary that were used in our everyday conversations with our boys. Little did we know that the ability to mute and unmute a microphone online would be one of the 21st Century skills to equip ourselves with. Our timetable had adjusted to suit the needs of both synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning, we had started the academic day later so that families could enjoy the time spent together on a walk or exercise in the mornings and we had taken the opportunity to reflect on past experiences, which boded well in our remote journey as a team of educators.
Less is more
As we progressed through the winter months, we came to realise that content was easy to disseminate, but connection and emotional stability was tantamount to making sure our boys felt secure and confident with their day to day online interactions. We were in a fortunate position insofar as our boys from Grade 4 – 7 were digitally and skillfully equipped in the likes of Google Classroom, Google docs and the likes thereof. Therefore, the transition into a digital curriculum was seamless, at times.
Although the change may have seemed quite positive, we as a team began to realise that the content seemed to take its toll on the boys. After several weeks, we had decided that ‘less is more’, and that it was far more beneficial to cover what was important within the curriculum and subject itself, rather than overload the boys with additional work to cover the content. In doing so, we found that the work ethic improved, the stress and anxiety of trying to complete what would have been completed in class diminished, and our educational views on what was important within the lives of our boys shifted too. We realised that as much as content and assessment mattered, the conversations with the boys, the family dynamics, the home environment, how we interacted with the boys mattered more.
The mantra for The Ridge School is “Where boys are Known and Grown’. We felt that assessing and representing a mark on a report would ultimately mean assessing their home environment. What COVID has taught us is that everyone comes from a different background, and judging a book by its cover doesn’t determine their outcome or who they are. We had fundamentally decided that due to a change in our teaching methodology and practice, our reports would need to reflect the same.
The Ridge School celebrated its Centenary year last year. It’s astounding to think that a school that is now 101 years old, a school that has stood the test of time, a school that continues to grow and nurture young boys, had to change radically in its thinking and approach to what we had always known.
One of the ‘radical’ changes that had enforced our way of thinking was how our reports needed to adapt to the change. For the first time in 100 years, we had sent a report without a mark, symbol or ranking. I am aware that many schools or institutions may reflect on this point and chuckle to themselves but for a school such as ours, a school that is entrenched in tradition, this approach valued the individual, not comparing him to a result or symbol, but rather with a comprehensive comment, within each subject that gave an all-round, holistic and comprehensive overview of every boy.
Post-COVID – lessons learnt
The late Sir Ken Robinson, in his book ‘You, Your Child and School’ emphasises that education is broken. There’s too much pressure, too many tests, too many demands, too much assembly line. How can we reboot? How can we prepare our kids for a radically different life from the current system prepares them for?’ Post-COVID, this is what we should all be thinking. Not only has the pandemic shifted our thinking, but it has also altered how we approach our teaching and learning. Our buildings were empty shells, longing for laughter, play and friendships to be made. With the return of the boys, our school sprung to life in September (with no pun intended).
The wearing of masks, 1,5-metre social distancing in classrooms, elbow bumps, staggered drop-off and pick-ups have become the norm. Not only did we adapt to various curriculum changes, but also to structural changes so that we could accommodate all our boys at school. Creativity, one of the 21st Century skills that most of us have come to know, also played its part. We had to convert our school hall, dining hall and IT labs to name just a few to accommodate our boys as into their original classes so that we could begin Term 3. The staggered drop-off and pick-up changed how our boys arrived and left school, with temperature checks and sanitisation before entering the campus.
Our school once again became a social institution. We had longed for the connection, collaboration and enjoyment of stories that we were eager to share with the boys and vice versa. We realised too that schools are places of safety, compassion, and social connection. They shape and mould the lives of every student who enters and leaves the school, each and every day. We had taken this concept for granted. We felt the emotional and social burden that COVID had played on the lives of so many, and began to take steps to build on supporting both the boys, staff and parents into the days, weeks and months ahead.
Where to from here?
Having reflected on the lessons learnt during, and post COVID, we are sitting at a crossroads. We have experienced the ‘new normal’. But what does this ‘new normal’ entail, look like or even feel like. How can we as educators pass this opportunity, this narrative by? Each school will have their own story, their way in which they approached COVID and embraced what came their way. Our narrative shouldn’t be ‘How do we get back to normal?’ Our narrative should be asking what we will do to be different and better moving forward.
We are in a cycle of change. We don’t know when this will pass. What we do know, however, is that we cannot look back in several years’ time and reminisce as to what could have been done to improve academic delivery, integrate IT to enhance the teaching rather than replace it, as well as create social and emotional care and awareness for all stakeholders and staff alike. Let’s adapt, let’s change, let’s transform and reform, and let’s learn from this experience so as not make the same mistakes as we have in the past.
Perhaps Heraclitus was a man before his time. His notion, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man” reinforces our focus on the future. If each school can find their ‘future-narrative’, one that is future and forward-thinking, no man will ever need to step into a river, but rather into his life raft to help him navigate the journey ahead.
Nunley, Kathie. 2003. A Student’s Brain: The Parent/Teacher Manual. Morris Publishing. Eudy Animation Dallas
Robinson, Ken. 2018. You, Your Child and School: Navigate your Way to the Best Education. Penguin Random House
Carl Raymond Davis is a Ridge Old Boy and attended the school from 1919 to 1925
In all the United States lay claim to eleven (11) American pilots who took part in Battle of Britain, but one of them is a pilot who was not born or educated in America at all, he was born in South Africa and he took up British citizenship after he was educated in England. The link, both his parents were American – so by default he’s an American too. Not to detract at all from the praise of any of these pilots by splitting hairs over birthright and citizenships, all of them deserve our highest acclamations regardless, so let’s look at another South African born military hero.
Flight Lieutenant Carl Raymond (Ray) Davis DFC (30 July 1911 – 6 September 1940) was a South African born flying ace of The Battle of Britain, having claimed nine enemy aircraft (and one shared) destroyed, four (and one shared) probably destroyed, and four damaged, before he was himself shot down and killed in action.
Ray was born in Krugerdorp, South Africa to American parents, he was educated in England at Sherborne School and read a Bachelor of Arts at Trinity College Cambridge. He continued his studies at McGill University in Canada qualifying as a mining engineer.
When he turned 21 in 1932, he applied for and became a British citizen. From a very well to do family background he met and married Anne Hope, Anne was the sister of Sir Archibald Hope. The marriage was celebrated in the local media such was the profile of the families.
Ray learned to fly whilst visiting his sister in New Jersey and returned to the United Kingdom in 1935. Living in London he joined 601 squadron, to serve along with his now brother in law, Sir Archibald Hope. He was commissioned in 601 Squadron in August 1936.
The Royal Air Force’s 601 Squadron was something apart from other RAF Squadrons, it was known as the ‘Millionaires Squadron’ and some notable pilots flew in it, Roger Bushell, another South African who became ‘Big X’ in The Great Escape (see earlier Observation Post article on him The Great Escape … led by a South African!), Billy Fiske another American who was a Bobsleigh champion and Max Aitken, the future Chairman of the Express Newspaper Group.
601 Squadron was formed when a group of wealthy aristocratic young men, all of whom were amateur aviators, decided to form themselves into a Reserve Squadron of the RAF after a meeting in White’s Club, London. The original officers were picked by the first commanding officer, Lord Edward Grosvenor, youngest son of Hugh Grosvenor, the 1st Duke of Westminter. Grosvenor tested potential recruits by plying them with alcohol to see if they would behave inappropriately as gentlemen when drunk. They were required to consume a large amount of port. Gin and tonics would follow back at the club.
Grosvenor wanted officers of sufficient presence not to be overawed by him and of sufficient means not to be excluded from his favourite pastimes, eating, drinking and White’s (Gentlemen’s club).
The nickname “the millionaires squadron”, was gained because of the Squadron’s reputation for filling their ranks with the very ‘well-heeled’, and not just aristocrats but also sportsmen, adventurers and self-made men.
There would be no time for petty rules or regulations. But Grosvenor was nonetheless intent on creating an elite fighting unit, as good as any in the RAF and the pilots took their flying and fighting very seriously. Had it not been their reputation as very good, effective and efficient fighting unit, they would never have got away with all the flamboyant antics they got up to (some wealthy enough to buy cameras, the pilots even took to filming their escapades).
Most of these affluent young pilots had little regard for the rigid discipline of the regular service; they lined their uniform tunics with bright red silk, wore red socks and wore blue ties rather than the regulation black. They played polo on brand-new Brough Superior motor cycles, drove fast sports cars and most of the pilots owned their own private aircraft.
Becoming an ‘Ace’
When war broke out Ray Davis was called to full-time service on 27 August 1939. On 27 November 1939, he flew one of the six 601 Squadron initial Blenheims (they were later equipped with Hurricanes), which attacked the German seaplane base at Borkum.
The feature image above shows “Hurricane Mk I UF-K of No 601 Squadron RAF while it is been serviced on the perimeter dispersal at RAF Exeter in mid-September 1940. This aircraft saw success with both Sgt Leonard N Guy and F/O Carl Raymond Davis.
On 11 July 1940, he shot down his first German Messerschmitt Bf110, and he added two more Bf 110s a month later on 11th August 1940 and quicky followed that with three more Bf 110s on the 13th August 1940. With that his status of ‘Ace’ was secured.
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
He awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross later that month on the 30th August 1940. His citation reads:
“Flying Officer Davis has been engaged on operational service since 3rd September 1939. He has taken part in nearly all patrols and interceptions carried out by his squadron. He has been a section leader for the last two months, and on several occasions led his flight. F/O Davis has personally destroyed six enemy aircraft, and severely damaged several others. He has shown great keenness and courage”.
Ray went on to down five more German aircraft before his last fateful mission.
Ray’s last flight
F/O Carl Raymond Davis DFC was killed in action on the 6th September 1940. Combat took place over Redhill, Gatwick, and Hayfield. 11 Hawker Hurricans from 601 Squadron were on patrol, including Ray flying in Hawker Hurricane P3363 code UF-W.
About 9am in the morning 50 German Messerschmitt 109’s were spotted at 20 000 feet, no enemy bombers were in the area. The weather was very good and the 601 Squadron RAF fighters climbed to attack, a series of dog fights followed. Ray was shot down by one of the Me109’s, he was killed instantly by two bullets to the head, his Hurricane crashed while inverted, with this his aircraft burned out in the back garden of Canterbury Cottage at Matfield near Tunbridge Wells. He was 29 years old.
He is buried near his family home in Storrington, West Sussex at St.Mary’s Church.
A brave man, a son of South Africa and one of Churchill’s ‘few’ who laid down his life for freedoms we enjoy today. Lest we forget.
Researched by Peter Dickens. Sources, Wikipedia, Aircrew remembers and 601squadron.com. Featured image Imperial War Museum copyright, Colour By Doug Banks
Old Boy publishes his first book and it’s riveting!
Peter Henderson has led a remarkable life. As a frontline TV news cameraman, he covered the brutal civil conflict in South Africa during the apartheid era, the Middle East flashpoints, the Bosnia-Herzegovina civil war as well as both invasions of Iraq. In doing so, not only were he and his team almost always first on the scene, Henderson radically transformed cumbersome television news-gathering into highly-mobile units that could broadcast live from anywhere in the world.His company was the first to transmit on-the-spot coverage of the Rwandan genocide to a shocked world in 1994. It is also thanks to his digitalisation of satellite news feeds that global audiences watched America’s “shock and awe” bombing of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in real-time.Not only a frontline journalist, he is also a true adventurer-entrepreneur, coming within a heartbeat of starting the first civilian airline in Iraq after the 2002 invasion (he was dubbed the ‘Branson of Baghdad’) as well as establishing a cellphone network for a charismatic guerrilla leader in the jungles of war-torn South Sudan. His life has been a rollercoaster ride of adrenaline-fuelled derring-do; from being thrown into a South Sudanese jail and shot at on the disputed Kashmiri border, to audaciously hiring former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s private jet while filming the breakup of the Soviet Union.This fascinating memoir, told from a ringside seat of history, provides an intimate record of the dying decades of last century, the birth of the current one, and the extraordinary challenges of the present.
OLD BOYS ASSEMBLY CLASS OF 2015
Ridge Old Boy is honoured with prestigious award
Ridge Old Boy, Daanyaal Ballim (2015) looks back at his Grade 12 year. Daanyaal was also honoured earlier this year when he was awarded The Headmasters’ Trophy. This award goes to the matriculant who in the opinion of the headmaster most embodies and embraces the College motto of Lux, Vita, Caritas.
The COVID-19 pandemic took away some of the memories that we had waited five years to make. But, it also gifted us with lessons worth a lifetime. Alhamdulilah, in-spite of COVID-19 it has taught me how to make the most of my situations and remain persistent no matter how difficult things get. It has reshaped my view on life and given me insights which I know I will use later in my future pursuits.
The classroom was the place where I grew the most at St John’s and so I will always cherish the kindness and belief in me shown by my teachers. A lasting memory of mine will be a collection of the small moments in the classroom, on the sports field and on the campus. My favourite memory, however, will definitely be of the Friday afternoons sitting on the benches while admiring this place and being grateful for everything in front of me. It is a memory I hope to have one last time.
Every day we are encouraged to be someone other people want us to be. But my advice to you is: don’t do it. Never be afraid to be yourself. Step out the box, set goals for yourself that scare you, and be unapologetically you. Surround yourself with good people because without my parents and friends I can call family I would never be able to dream as big as I do. Wallahi! – Daanyaal Ballim, Second Prefect #MatricClassof2020 #LuxVitaCaritas
Ridge Old Boy offered a prestigious scholarship
It is with such pride and admiration that we share this wonderful news with you. Andrea Tonelli, a 2011 Ridge Old Boy, is a recipient of the 2021 Mandela Rhodes Scholarship.
“The Mandela Rhodes Foundation is delighted to introduce the 2021 Mandela Rhodes Scholars. The 30 exceptional young leaders in the Class of 2021 hail from 12 African countries and we are extremely pleased to welcome our first-ever scholars from Liberia and The Gambia.
All of the scholars will undertake postgraduate studies in South Africa, in fields ranging from Biomedical Engineering to Theatre and Performance Studies. They will further their education while becoming part of Nelson Mandela’s legacy of transformative impact through our Leadership Development Programme.
To date we have awarded 559 Mandela Rhodes Scholarships to students from 30 African countries. Our scholarship is open to students from all African countries; we continue to work towards realising Mr Mandela’s vision of developing exceptional leadership capacity for the African continent.”
Andrea will be doing a Masters in Medicine at UCT concurrent with his MBChB
THE NEW JUNIOR PREP BUILDING
The Ridge is Full STEAM Ahead
Author: Nicholas Diana Deputy Headmaster
Since the nineteenth century, schools have become recognizable places that work in typical ways. Many of the rituals of schools are taken for granted largely because school has been like this for a long time. Not all schools are like this, and schools don’t have to be this way at all.
The notion of STEM, or STEAM if you want is not something new. Countries across the globe have introduced the idea that education, and the teaching thereof should not be siloed, but rather taught as a combination of various subjects that allow the ‘creative juices’ to flow.
It’s easier said than done for some. To reconfigure a curriculum that has stood the test of time, to change a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, not only for the children but the staff themselves, and to encourage by-in from an already competitive and anxious stakeholder is a daunting task. But the beauty of this type of program is that you can. The very essence of what it stands for can convince (most) that the way in which we educate our students needs to change. I use the word ‘needs’ very loosely, due to the fact that if we haven’t adjusted some of our thinking, or even thought of doing so, our schools become places of forced learning and contrived understanding. Teaching for the sake of teaching, and forcing content into the minds of young, engaged, switched on students will often only result in failure.
Sir Ken Robinson in “You, Your Child and School’, expresses the notion that Education is broken and there is too much pressure, too many tests, too much assembly line. How can we reboot? How can we prepare our kids for a radically different life. It’s a continual battle to keep the curiosity spark alive. Robinson continues in the same vein by explaining the concept of ‘Learning’, and the notion that learning is as much a social as an individual process. Many young people are turned off education not because they don’t want to learn but because the rituals and routines of conventional schooling get in the way.
Conventional schooling. A term heard often enough, especially when you think how traditional it still seems to be. Schools still operate through fixed schedules, the ringing of a bell, assignments, assessments, extra-curricular activities – the list is endless. The point of the this article is to highlight the importance of the enjoyment of learning, a love for learning and the way in which our students are able to achieve at their highest level.
Preparation not for ‘Something’, but rather Preparation for ‘Anything’
It all started in a room above our school hall. A group of educators all willing and in search of a change in teaching methodology and curriculum. Pioneering teachers who were looking at making a difference not only in the eyes of their students, but within themselves too. Many hours and days were spent putting together, pulling apart and ultimately recreating a curriculum that focused on the application of skills rather than the flooding of content.
We had designed a composite learning outcome that encompassed the wonder of Science, the craftmanship of DT, the power of IT and the beauty of Art. We had thrashed around in our heads a fancy title to culminate the above mentioned subjects. Having trawled through and investigated the concepts of STEM and STEAM, we had decided to continue with the recognized acronym. The idea and plan was a rough one. The way in which we were going to implement this new idea was challenging too. Buy-in from all stakeholders was just as important as teaching the subject.
The plan was to begin in Grade 5. An investigative year (in some schools) within a prep school, and a year where exploration and opportunity arise more often than not. We were fortunate enough to have five educators (known as mentors at a later stage) who worked with twelve boys in a group. Boys were divided into mentor groups so that the facilitation was more intense and deliberate. We were seen as ‘Meddlers in the Middle’, rather than the ‘Guides on the Side’.
Unbeknown to us was the way in which we influenced each other as staff too. Having put a yearly and termly planner together incorporating all the subjects into two and a half hours a week was no mean feat, but learning from others, watching them teach and then breaking up into our mentor groups created a strong sense of cohesion and collaborative teaching that our boys saw, and learnt from. We would start a session with the Grade 5 group, facilitated by one of our STEAM teachers. We would then break away into our mentor groups to continue teaching the lessons. We, as staff, all learnt (the hard way sometimes) to teach out of our comfort zones. Staff had to research how to use certain Apps within a lesson, what it meant to create and build using paper mache, explaining the scientific method and drawing on canvas. We all became well versed in many other disciplines.
Through the facilitation of STEAM, we had also realized that we were not only empowering ourselves but our boys too. They were owning their learning. The focus had now shifted from a content based curriculum to a skills based curriculum, one in which they could apply skills from the lessons in real life situations. We gave our boys the choice, a choice to allow for inquiry and a choice to foster creativity. Choice which, in this day and age, is a very powerful mechanism for change.
Although it may seem that all had gone according to plan, there were many challenges that we as a team had to overcome. Meeting times became difficult to manage, a continual shift from content to application of skills kept us on our toes, and ultimately, a move away from the dreaded ‘M’ word… marks. We assessed our tasks through rubrics that were designed to focus on specific skills for certain points within an activity or project. In actual fact, we had worked out that by designing the rubric first, we were better able to understand what our task should look like. The beauty of this was that not all the boys’ outcomes were going to be the same. Conventional education uses the notion of a project for a student to complete whereby they all end up with the same outcome. STEAM, on the other hand, created the opportunity for our boys to fashion, design and develop different outcomes through similar tasks.
Social and Human Connections
I mentioned earlier the importance of social and human connections. Tom Murray, the Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools recognizes the fact that ‘Every child in your class is someone else’s whole world.’ What Murray is saying is that when we empower others, through mediums such as communication, real-time collaboration and sharing meaningful and relevant information, we bring learning to life. Not only that, but it creates a social and human connection – a connection that involves relationships, and relational teaching. Teaching is about relationships, and the interconnections that result. The beauty with STEAM is that it is relational, it focuses on real world examples and problems that combine 21st Century skills that shape who we are, and what we do.
Empowering boys and staff
I personally feel that STEAM has bridged many gaps between content and the application of skills, not only within our boys but within our staff too. How often do you ask yourself “Why did I get into this profession in the first place?” We did, because we wanted to make a difference. Amidst all the external factors, the bureaucracy, the curriculum, the helicopter parents (or perhaps now the lawnmower parent), we are in it for our students.
STEAM creates a platform for us to share our stories with our students, and them to be the heroes of their own. It helps us to stand firm amidst the fads and the next best thing, and rather focus on what works for our students in both a meaningful and relevant way.
Reflection is the key to learning
Amidst the ‘busyness’ of a normal teaching day, more often than not we don’t have the time to reflect on what our students think of our teaching, our content, the lesson prep and the way in which we teach. One of the pivotal points that was raised in our STEAM planning was the importance of reflection, not only for us but for our boys too. Each week, we have a reflection session for half an hour that encourages our boys to reflect verbally, or write their reflections into a STEAM journal. This is discussed with the mentor group first, and includes a rubric for the boys to rank their understanding of the content and skills taught, but also assesses their participation within the lesson too. It also includes an evaluation on the lesson at times, in order for us to better our teaching methodologies too. Something that many teachers are reluctant to do – change in a way that suits the needs of our students. Ignacio Estrada said “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”. STEAM has done just that!
Learn, Unlearn and Relearn
Carol Dweck’s growth mindset approach linked very closely to the way in which we put together our planning for STEAM. It was evident that our boys needed to expand their fixed mindsets quite quickly, in order for them to embrace challenges, learn from some their setbacks (failure was an option), engage with their reflections and criticism and lead themselves into a place where learning was fun but stimulating at the same time.
The only way in which this mindset could change was if both the teacher and student were able to learn, unlearn and relearn the way in which they approached their lessons.
Learning, unlearning and relearning is not an easy task. Imagine if you had been taught a specific way to catch a ball, eat your food or regurgitate content. Now forget all this! And try it again in a different way, a way that will enhance your mindset and develop your capacity as an individual. I know the examples given don’t necessarily do any justice to the point I’m trying to make, but it’s not as easy as it seems, especially for a group of teachers who often teach, talk, and stimulate in different ways.
My goal for this article is not to showcase the glitz and glamour of what we have achieved, we are only starting our journey on a long and winding road. My goal is to encourage other schools across the country in embracing change. STEAM is an instrument of this change. Call it what you may, we are excited by what we have brought together: a group of boys who continue to challenge themselves and their peers; where communication, collaboration and critical thinking are specific outcomes of lessons; where boys are able to interrogate, decide, plan and action through different mediums; and where staff work together to create a syllabus that continues to stretch the minds of our future leaders, it can’t be all that bad!
You, Your Child and School: Robinson, K
Future Wise – Educating our Children for a Changing World: Perkins, D
Empower – Spencer, J
THE RIDGE ON AIR PODCAST EPISODE 5 AND 6
Did you know that Parental Burnout is a real thing?
On this episode of The Ridge OnAir, Head of Junior Primary, Mandy Herold, addresses Parental Burnout and gives us solid strategies on how to deal with it. Ridge boys from Grade 0 to Grade 6 tell us about their favourite parts of this year and what they are looking forward to next year. Felix Jackson gives a brilliant rendition of Elton John’s “Electricity” from the musical Billy Elliot. And finally, Deputy Head Academics Nick Diana reflects on how the challenges of 2020 have redefined our thinking about how children learn and what is really important. You can even read the article Nick Diana wrote for the Independent Schools magazine about the subject here : https://www.isasa.org/books/summer2020/46/
Sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy!
In the final episode of The Ridge OnAir for 2020, our boys might be wearing masks and social distancing, but they are still singing their hearts out, speaking their minds and showing bucketloads of the Ridge Right Stuff!
While parents thought they would have to miss all the wonderful end of year traditions like carol services, and tribute songs from the junior grades to the Grade 7 leavers – we’ve brought them to you on the podcast instead.
In an episode jam packed with boys voices, we hear what some of the Grade 7’s consider their best memories of the school, what they have learned as Ridge boys, and what they are most looking forward to in high school. The little ones tell us about their plans for the holidays and we have very special messages from Headmaster Richard Stanley and Chairman Itumeleng Kgaboesele.
Sit back turn up the volume and get ready for some great music and insightful musings from The Ridge School!