Letter From Our Interim Head of School
October 26 2023
It’s just a little over a month since term started so I thought it would be useful to give you some hints of what has been going on and some of the headlines so far. Astonishingly Half Term is over.
I had the privilege of being with Class 9 and Mr Cuiraui for the first two weeks of term on their trip to Garvald Home Farm. I always learn something of myself when surrounded by active teenagers 24/7, not least that they have energy and drive and make me feel old, but also that they cast you
back to your teenage years. Well, they do that to me anyway.
So, in their presence, I was swamped with memories. Steiner talks about two kinds of children. One the dreamy and in another world, waking slowly and creatively to ideas. The other being more awake, wired and in some way more alert in their thinking. No guesses where I was. I loved my Class Teacher, a seventy-year-old Miss Binhammer. I am forever thankful that I was allowed to dream out the window and observe the world around me.
I was also blessed with parents who realised theportance of just allowing me to be in the moment and to develop at my own pace, paying equal importance to culture, form, academics and generally being open to ‘learn’ resilience.
Julia Whitaker and Alison Tonkin’s recent book launch of Play and Health in Childhood was not to be missed. In today’s world free-play and being allowed to dream can not be more relevant and important than ever, in the younger years particularly. There is more than plenty to wake us up.
The chatter of teenagers highlighted for me the need to be given more time to fill out, broaden, dream, be yourself, gather as many experiences as possible, find friends and lose friends for example. It wasn’t until I went to College that I woke up and realised that there was no one going to drive me on, give me detentions for an empty homework jotter, make me swot for exams and keep myself in order.
In your early twenties that is where you benefit from your earlier education, your toolkit, your resilience and capacities to manage and cope. Thank you Class 9 for allowing me to ponder in your presence, and also for working amazingly hard.
On returning to school I quickly realised that being away for the first two weeks had truly been a privilege as colleagues had had to manage the School at the start of term, which is always the busiest of times, whilst I was gallivanting in the countryside. I am sure there were mutterings under the breath – where is this guy who was going to do all these things? Well, that thought might still be there.
The title Transition Manager is peculiar is it not. What does that mean and what does it reflect on the school? The trustees and College of Teachers all agree it might be more helpful for us all if we call it what it really is, so the title of my role is now going to change to ‘Interim Head of School’. The transition is happening. We are moving towards a different management structure for the School.
A little under half a term in and I can see, feel and realise beginnings of change, I can also feel the presence of unease and questioning and know that these thoughts are par for the course and will come and go. I hope and believe that we can all remain open to change.
The College of Teachers, as part of study time, is examining what Steiner calls ‘The Pedagogical Law’. In essence it asks us to really pay attention to what we think, how we think especially when entering the classroom to give a lesson, but also how we pay attention in meetings and carry out our daily
business. So not just lending support but actually giving it with an energetic positivity.
We have spent time discussing the function and role of the College in the light of a Senior Management Team being supplanted into the management structure of the School. I would be loath to fall into a place where College becomes detached from the centre. The question is – how to protect College yet take away elements that have hindered it moving forward? Is College’s role the wing of the dove that protects, or is it at the front and centre keeping watch? College provides the imagination, inspiration and intuition for the school to hold the curriculum appropriately, the teaching methodology, the care and guidance of pupils, parents and staff.
From time to time it is good practice to examine more closely some of what we call school rules. Are they rules? We need policy and rules to give us the scaffold, the skeleton that we can hold on to. For the previous half term we chose to be extra mindful of dress code, attendance and lateness. This has been reviewed and a marked difference has been noted. Until Advent we are paying special attention to how we, as teachers, behave and give form to lessons and transitions, how we apply things like courtesy and appreciation and courageous and thoughtful communication. As a staff body we resolve to be consistent with these areas and endeavour to improve when we need to.
Class 11 are in the midst of their Parsifal Main Lesson. Sometimes it is not until much later that we realise the significance of such an epic mediaeval story as this. In it we can begin to understand that Parsifal comes from a place of protected and complete innocence. He has to overcome naivety, make mistakes and strive in order to become a mature grown up and fully respected grail knight and create positivity and strength out of his rather blunderful past.
We have the choice to make a positive change to our structures, be it in the school as a whole, in each of our dedicated areas or just in that we listen more attentively. It is in our choosing to all come together and put our best foot forward in support of, for example, what is gathering pace in
November, I know a lot of people would be grateful. Yes, the Christmas Market.
Please do be in touch and I am more than happy to meet with you.
Interim Head of School.