From the Editor

| September 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

The phrase “caring is sharing” (and/or “sharing is caring”) was not much heard when I was a school student. As I recall, both sharing and caring were in rather short supply. If I left my mathematics textbook at home, for example, I did not share with someone else. Rather, I was sent to sit at a small desk outside the principal’s office during break-time, when everyone filing past went off to enjoy a jam sandwich after passing some nasty remark.

Some teachers droned on in class without the slightest intention of engaging, let alone caring for, or sharing with, their audience, but woe betide the student who was caught passing a note. My accountancy teacher, who had recently completed his national service, found it amusing to stress the finer points of debits and credits by smashing a long cane down on a desk at regular intervals. Talking in assembly was one of the worst crimes of all – as was being seen with socks that had fallen down (no garters), or not wearing a basher and blazer downtown, or refusing to don regulation underwear (checks were done as one filed out of the hall).

Then one suffered the complete humiliation of being made to stand in assembly, either in front of the student and staff cohort, or in the middle of one’s row, for the duration of the occasion. Today, the brutal practices I have mentioned seem archaic – a symbol of child abuse, surely. In the main, the focus has changed to caring for the “whole child”, i.e. her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects and her unique and innate talents. Says Carol Garboden Murray in the latest edition of Exchange magazine ( July/August 2017): It took me many years to see caring as the core of curriculum excellence. The deep assumption about caring is that it is something anyone can do, but we do not take care of human beings the same way we take care of a house or a lawn… The way we touch children increases or diminishes their self-worth. Our care of children’s bodies is directly connected to the care of their minds.

This edition of Independent Education is full of stories about ISASA member schools that understand that “care is the core of curriculum excellence”, and that the way we touch children (either physically or mentally) can shape their lives. Such care is not about wrapping children in cotton wool and shielding them from the world, but showing them how to develop resilience – robustness, if you will – in the face of an uncertain world. Such care is superbly demonstrated by the story of Woodridge College and Preparatory School on page 30. We thank school leaders Trevor von Berg and Derek Bradley for writing this article at such a difficult time. They say: “The most important lesson we learnt as a school is that in times of tragedy, many, many good people step forward to offer assistance. As destructive as fire can be, it can give life to an unbreakable community spirit. This spirit is the driving force that secures an exceptional educational legacy for future Woodridgeans.”

The main picture accompanying this story speaks more than 1 000 words. A simple hug from the two principals given to each student on their return to school after a savage fire ripped through their campus, meant that each and every person was cared for and mattered. On page 36, you can read about another ISASA member, Highbury Preparatory School, in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal. In this moving story, you can read how Highbury Senior Primary principal, David Burns, has made it his mission to instil a culture of honour in Highbury students. As a leader who cares, he has observed: “There is a trend emerging in education where helping children develop emotional intelligence, grit, compassion, values, global citizenship, etc. are as important as knowledge and skills.”

I was a teacher for 15 years, so I know personally that it’s one of the most gruelling jobs on earth. After the exertions of back-to-back lessons, meetings and marking, one’s store of care runs low. It can be easy to be dismissive when you’re exhausted. That’s why every principal in each school must also care for its educators. On page 11, you can read the uplifting tale about the Day of Inspiration the Highlands Campus of United Herzlia Schools (UHS) in the Western Cape held for its teachers.

Our mission at Independent Education is to care deeply about all schools and education in South Africa, and around the world. We are honoured to carry stories written by principals and teachers who do not wish to glorify themselves, but simply to share practices they have learned in the hope that other schools may benefit. These schools are a reminder of the words of H. Jackson Brown, Jr., the American author best known for his inspirational work, Life’s Little Instruction Book, in which he said: “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.”

Category: Spring 2017

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