Headmaster's Vision

(R)evolution of a Faculty Counterculture

One of the traditions at our Parent Information evening each September is that I try to articulate the expectations we have of our parents. There has been a substantial amount of time devoted to the review of these expectations, and our hope is that there is an attempt by our parents to look at these expectations carefully.

The final expectation is simply a plea for all parents to continually ask the question: “What really matters?” Excuse
the existential approach to dealing with parents, and I am not trying to be rhetorical. This rather trivial and simple but crucial question becomes increasingly complex and difficult to answer. But we need to ask it continually. I am not sure that we ever succeed—nor should we—in answering it completely, but we never shy away from asking. It is a continual work in progress: lifelong. 

One of the conclusions we have made regarding what really matters is the creation of a countercultural evolution. (Please note, I refuse to use the term revolution, as this would not work. The term evolution implies constant movement or progress in a countercultural direction.) This is not mired in political posturing—we deal with enough of that in our world—nor is it an attempt to exist within a Bohemian style and laissez-faire world. Counterculture is a term we believe to be an integral aspect of our strategic success. Where the prevailing culture in education puts the student first, we start this (r)evolution by claiming loudly, and with extreme passion that for any school to be truly successful, teachers need to be number one. In fact, as I have stated to anyone who will listen, any school that does not strive to become a relational school that emphasizes a strong vibrant faculty culture at the
top of its strategic imperatives is acting in an irresponsible fashion. Think about this carefully. Relational schools and faculty culture become the main drivers of strategy? Exactly. And because it flies in the face of the prevailing view, that is

Over my twenty-seven years as a leader of independent schools, I have learned one of the great truisms of education: if our faculty is raving about the school, then it stands to reason that our students will be raving. If our students are raving, then we all know that parents will rave, and the task of marketing our school is dealt with. It becomes our perpetuity, all as a result of a devotion to faculty culture.

This is not easy, and there will always be challenges that rear their somewhat unattractive heads. That is called learning. Relationships are difficult, stressful, demanding, and ultimately exhausting. We expect our teachers to be the relational managers, and that, in itself, is demanding. But it works. Remember, research is clear about what a boy needs from a teacher. Any
boy craves a relationship, and he wants to witness passion, in order to become a passionate person who seizes the purpose
of his own life.

We move through this countercultural evolutionary world to the concept of VERITAS. Self-awareness becomes a main goal of the Selwyn House educational experience. And then the emphasis on compassion, kindness, respect and acceptance, becomes increasingly important. Dress, comportment, manners, and handshakes all flow from this, and by now the countercultural evolution is in full force. The outcome of all this is substantial and twofold.

The first is that a true community is developed. We define a strong, effective community as a function of the ability of members of the community to look after each other. Again, this is why faculty culture is so important. If our teachers are indeed looking after one another, then the boys who have always responded to modelling will look after each other. Mistakes will be made, there will be plenty of angst, but a culture will rise up where the general feeling is one where we need to look after each member of our community. This is why a Gay-Straight Alliance, which you can read about later in this issue, is of ultimate importance. It doesn’t stand in isolation; rather it serves as a contributor to making our community best for all. 

Secondly, by embarking on this countercultural evolution we contribute in a large way to creating significant men. And wouldn’t that be a tremendous Selwyn House gift? Significant men are created by the development of lasting relationships, through a strong female presence and influence, by true and real male role models, and by allowing a boy to experience boyhood. Academics, athletics, the arts, public speaking, and volunteering are all heightened by the relational groundswell toward success, fulfilment, and happiness.

So there you have it. We define the profile of the Selwyn House Old Boy as a young man who is true to himself through self-awareness, self-respect, self-confidence, and self-advocacy. He understands the value of respect, compassion, empathy and kindness. He is a passionate, dedicated hard worker who has prepared for university in an intellectual, physical, emotional, social and spiritual fashion. He is dedicated to the French language and culture through an appreciation of his own culture, and he understands balance in life and the quest for a passion to fuel his happiness. If that is countercultural,
count me in. And we are only going to get there through our belief in the strength of relationships and the development of a strong, vibrant and exciting faculty culture.