This week we recognize Founder’s Day, which celebrates the life and legacy of Kate Matthews after whom our school is named. Miss Matthews was a respected London teacher whose work spanned several decades during the most turbulent days of the twentieth century. To honour her name and memory, we celebrate the preparation of our graduating class each February. It is the first formal occasion on which we recognize the Class of 2019 . We look forward to helping each member of the class get the most out of their final year with us!
In all elementary schools, the Grade 8 year should really matter. As adolescents begin their transition to adulthood, their academic performance and attitudes can have a profound impact on their future. As such, Grade 8 is an important year for most students. Those who are not “on track” in terms of attitude and accountability by the end of Grade 8 are statistically less likely to meet their potential by the end of high school. At Matthews Hall, we take this seriously.
Back in 1950, the aims of Matthews Hall were captured in one sentence: “True education must be based on the building of character.” These words are taken verbatim from the prospectus of Miss Matthews’ School. While the world has changed a lot since then, this priority has not. If the move from Grade 8 to Grade 9 is one of the biggest changes in a student’s life, then the type of foundation laid in advance is essential for the transition to be a smooth one. Along with sound academic preparation, our students and children need to have their feet firmly planted on the solid ground of personal responsibility and accountability.
In our busy modern lives, it is easy to forget – or not take seriously enough – the life and example of a person like Miss Matthews and those of her generation. When they were adolescents, many had serious adult responsibilities that required an equally serious commitment to the value of hard work, integrity, sacrifice, and self-discipline. Increasingly, these values are given short shrift in a societal culture of entitlement, privilege, instant gratification, and apologia.
Miss Matthews wanted her school to stand for more than just intellectual discipline. Courtesy and manners, sound habits of thinking and learning, the development of the person, and the inculcation of citizenship and responsibility were all considered to be essential. These may seem like grandiose goals, but they are the “bread and butter” of any educational enterprise and they are the only thing that lasts once you’ve forgotten everything you ever learned in school.
As we wish our Class of 2019 well in the coming months and support their efforts to be the best version of themselves, may we have enough confidence in each of them to let them experience challenges, take responsibility for their studies, account for their words and actions, and learn from their successes and failures.
In this way, we will be preparing each of them for the path and not the path for each of them.
In Miss Matthews’ day, this was referred to as focusing on “the fundamentals” – and each February, we re-commit ourselves to this important road work.
Ric Anderson, Head of School