Educational philosophies must be in a constant state of adjustment, and evolution. Over the past thirty-five years (twenty-six years as a Head of School), my personal beliefs have evolved and developed. Research at Royal St. George’s College on “How Boys Learn” with the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, as well as my involvement with the International Boys’ School Coalition, has consolidated my belief in the value of single-sex education alongside a strong coeducational environment. The international connections have been important to understanding what constitutes a truly global citizen.
In addition, I continue to teach the Management Module and Faculty Culture Module Management course at the Leadership Institute of the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools. This experience has also consolidated my thinking on leadership and management issues facing school administrators.
My personal philosophy is, therefore, a study of excellence and greatness in independent education. Excellent schools, in my experience, are a function of five elements. These are outlined briefly below, and I look forward to having further discussions on each of these points.
1) EXCELLENT SCHOOLS HAVE STRONG, MORAL LEADERSHIP
Strong leadership is based on an understanding of vision, passion, trust and integrity. A leader must articulate the mission of the school, continually demonstrate a clear vision for the future, and must embrace the core values. Compassion, honesty and respect as core values must be clearly demonstrated. This also implies the necessity for moral leadership. A leader must be committed to lifelong learning. A school is a learning environment, and this must be clearly demonstrated by all levels of administration.
From this point, leaders can provide tremendous inspiration to the school community. Initiatives are encouraged and celebrated, and a culture of excitement towards the learning process exists.
2) EXCELLENT SCHOOLS FOCUS ON STAFF AND STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL ATTENTION DIRECTED TOWARDS FACULTY CULTURE:
Essentially, all students need: an effective environment, challenges in all areas, a chance to accomplish, and the resulting recognition. Each of these components needs to be continually evaluated.
The building of an effective environment for boys consists of four unique but connected elements:
1) A strong program based on a balance of academics, athletics, arts, technology and the required support systems for students.
2) A commitment to building a community of respect.
3) A disciplined environment that focuses on prevention (without ignoring consequences) as the major theme.
4) A focus on experiential education, including service learning.
Students need challenge at all levels. This includes: academic and intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. These challenges also are the key ingredients towards success at the post-secondary level.
Accomplishment and recognition
Students must be allowed to accomplish at all levels, and must receive the appropriate recognition for doing so. A culture of positive appreciation must exist.
STAFF AND FACULTY:
We know through global research that size of the school and quality of teachers, as well as faculty culture, make the most difference in providing an effective learning environment. It is always a challenge to maintain and attract excellent staff, and as a result, the attention given to faculty culture is crucial. Faculty morale must be continually addressed. We must always remember: The quality of education cannot exceed the quality of the teacher.
The three qualities that are necessary for any member of staff are: professionalism, a true empathy for children and how they learn, and a legitimate commitment to the pedagogical process.
3) EXCELLENT SCHOOLS DEVELOP A CULTURE OF COOPERATIVE EDUCATION AND LEARNING AMONGST THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY.
Particular attention must be made to parents and alumni. Parents must become involved with their sons’ education, but at the same time must understand the difference between involvement and interference.
Alumni relations are crucial. The challenge of maintaining contact and establishing effective communication cannot be overestimated.
4) EXCELLENT SCHOOLS HAVE AN EFFECTIVE GOVERNANCE PROCESS.
There becomes a time when every school needs an engaged board. An engaged board is credible, active, and maintains the enthusiasm and energy to support an ambitious vision. There must be a constant focus on strategy.
5) EXCELLENT SCHOOLS DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN FINANCIAL STABILITY.
The relationship between the headmaster and finance office is important. I believe two broader financial goals should be established. The first is to have 100 per cent of operating expenses (including financial assistance) covered by hard income. The second goal is to establish an endowment fund that is three times the annual tuition revenue.