Our Year 11 students recently participated in a one-day conference called BODi Day. The title is an acronym for 'By Our Deeds: Inquiry'. There were sessions on healthy eating and physical well-being, emotional self-control, mindfulness, yoga and meditation, social connectedness and integrity. In the evening, parents and students were invited back to the school to discuss the nature of ‘meaningful relationships’. The focus of this conference though, was on a couple of big questions: what does it mean to be a ‘good man’, and how can we find happiness and contentment in our lives? Such questions are central to all of us as we navigate through difficult times, and are surely as important in education as Mathematics or History.
In a wonderful TED talk on the ’Transformative Power of Classical Music’, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Benjamin Zander, confesses that at the age of 45, after twenty years of conducting orchestras, he had a revelation. He realized that the conductor of an orchestra is the only person on stage who does not make a sound. The conductor’s entire power lay in his or her ability to make other people powerful. He recognised that his job was to ‘awaken possibility in other people.’ In many ways, his revelation applies equally to Headmasters. Despite Winston Churchill’s lament that ‘Headmasters have powers at their disposal with which Prime Ministers have never yet been invested,’ the reality is somewhat more prosaic. Headmasters are often ‘behind the scenes’ in a school. The bulk of the work that takes place in classrooms is done by teachers, not headmasters. Most of our time is taken up with administration and unending meetings - meetings with teachers, with parents, with students, with architects, with local council officers, planners, neighbours, educational theorists, people who want you to buy something or convince you about something. Our role really, is to provide the structures and support to enable others to become powerful. Our teachers in turn, carry out that role with their students.
When a passer-by reportedly once asked Michelangelo what he was doing, as he saw him hammering away with a chisel at a large block of marble, the artist is famously said to have responded: ‘I am freeing the angel which is trapped inside this stone’. Sometimes it seems that our work is also one of freeing the angels trapped inside young boys! One of the aims of education to give each student the skills and confidence to discover his true essence and to be able to articulate what he really thinks. By giving students wide and varied experiences, by pushing them a little beyond their ‘comfort zone’, we hope to expand their vision, and help them to find passion and joy and develop their character. We also hope to give them the knowledge and intellectual rigour to be able to make sense of the world and to find their place in it. We hope to be able to teach them to think and to feel and to engage fully in the world, to release their inner angel.
After many years of planning and building, our current Master Plan is now all but fulfilled with the completion of our new Sports Centre and Chapel. On OPEN DAY, SATURDAY 8 OCTOBER 2016, you will be among the first to be able to visit our new oval, underground car park, sports facilities, including our new pools, basketball courts, gymnasium, function rooms and beautiful Chapel. On our Open Day, feel free to witness the many aspects of life at our school in action – from our learning program to our sports, our music and drama. I encourage you to explore the entire school, from the Wheelton Centre with its Science Display and Art Studios to our Junior School with its exciting playgrounds and learning spaces – as well as the Sports Centre! Feel free to speak with our teachers and students, who will be happy to show you the work they have been doing together, and with our parents, who will welcome you to our community with some delicious hospitality.
The Arts have the power to expand our vision of the world, to challenge our complacency, and to fill our souls with music. Whether it is an image in a photograph of light through autumn leaves, or the strains of a much loved pop song, or the moment of ‘absolute truth’ captured in a masterfully performed act of theatre, the artistic vision is one which can lift us out of the pettiness of our routine lives and can reveal the beauty of living. As we educate our students about mathematics and science and literature and commerce and geography, and as they also learn that life’s journey contains much that is painful and difficult, I hope too that we teach them to be artists, to see the world as it might be, and inspire them to reach for the stars.