We are very happy to welcome all new and returning students and families to Matthews Hall after a long, hot summer. Our students, teachers and families have done an excellent job this week launching our new school year together. The unstructured days of July and August must give way to the learning schedules of September and, together, we commit ourselves to meeting the needs of those we are here to serve – the students.
As a school, we are dedicated to the formation of the whole person and we realize the job you have entrusted to us is an important one.
We believe that students perform best when they are inspired and motivated by teachers who excel in the planning, delivery, assessment and evaluation of meaningful lessons. We believe this is best achieved by a commitment to balanced and collaborative teaching, evidence-based practice, and self-reflection in a supportive environment. We also recognize our unique partnership with you, the parents – the first and most important teachers of your children.
How do we plan as teachers to accomplish this? In a number of ways. First, by ensuring that the mastery of foundational skills does not take a back seat to new ways of learning under the guise of a false integration. We believe that our students must practice and master many explicit skills to achieve the necessary learning outcomes and to be effective problem solvers.
But what about those other “learning skills” that are equally important, but sometimes overlooked or undervalued? I am referring, of course, to the great “learning skills” of self-discipline, respect and responsibility that prepare our children to take their places with confidence and integrity in school and in life. These “learning skills” – or virtues – drive all the rest.
What are virtues? Why do our children need them? How do they get them? The dictionary defines virtue as “a particular moral excellence”, derived from the Latin word virtus, meaning “strength” or “worth”. For children to “get them”, they need plenty of opportunities to see them in action. The more they see them in action, the better they understand them.
So, how will they get (and keep) such virtues? The answer is easier said than done. They must practice. Like anything else worthwhile, attaining good habits requires serious effort and attention. They must set standards for themselves and then do everything they can to live up to them in their everyday activities.
And that’s where we come in – the adults in their lives. We need to insist on acceptable behaviour (e.g., how they treat one another, how they treat the grown-ups in their lives and how they treat the learning environment), adhere to consistent expectations that make sense, and allow them to experience the consequences (and intrinsic rewards) of their actions and decisions.
Self-discipline will be a theme we emphasize throughout the year. By following the directions of their parents, teachers, and coaches promptly, by sticking to community rules cheerfully, and by respecting our student honour code, each child will have the opportunity to demonstrate “mastery of themselves”.
Cultivating good manners and maintaining a schedule are two important ways that students can achieve this. However, in the end, learning self-discipline is very much a “do-it-yourself” project. By beginning the year with end in mind, we will help our kids learn an important personal insight: they will always feel much better about themselves when they can control their actions.
Ric Anderson, Head of School