This week we were so pleased to be able to celebrate Founder’s Day with the Class of 2022 by hosting our traditional reception at The London Hunt and Country Club on Wednesday evening. With all the pandemic interruptions over the past two years, it was so important to gather again and enjoy the reason why our school exists at all – to serve, support, and inspire students to be the best versions of themselves now and in the future. As we see on a daily basis, this is more important than ever. While any founder’s day recognizes the contributions and legacy of an institution’s namesake, the truly important dimension of such a celebration is how that heritage lives on and influences the current generation. For this reason, as Head of School, I always appreciate re-acquainting myself with the life and times of Kate Matthews and how her work lives on in our students of today.
At 104-years old, Matthews Hall has pretty much seen it all. Forged in the dying embers of WWI in a small room at St. Paul’s Cathedral, our small family school with a mission to serve childhood has grown and evolved while being buffeted by many international, national, provincial, and local crises over the years. It has managed to do this for one reason alone: its commitment to and trust of people working toward a common goal.
All places of human endeavour require a commitment to such trust, but schools are perhaps the most important incubators in which children learn the power of presuming positive intent. By seeing it modelled on a daily basis, teachers and leaders are engaging in important work for the future. The rewards are great when schools and homes have the patience to wait for them.
As educators, we must be staunch defenders of our work with children, which keeps us coming back day after day despite the many challenges. Too often, we can allow the judgments and criticisms of others, or worse, our own negative self-doubt, to impede the work we do with children and one another. To combat this, we all need to dig a little deeper and prioritize the presumption of positive intentions.
After 30 years in independent schools, I don’t know of a single teacher or staff member who ever got up in the morning determined to negatively impact the lives of students. I don’t know a single administrator who ever got up, hoping to torture or frustrate the lives of the adults or students with whom he or she worked!
We are often quick to jump to conclusions and make statements that appear judgmental and negative after viewing just a few short minutes of someone’s hard work at school or in our own professional settings. When we only see a very small window of a much larger landscape, we are wise to remind ourselves, and others, to presume positive intent.
By taking a moment (and a deep breath!) to simply ask oneself, “Is it true that this or that person is out to do some negative thing? Do I absolutely know that this is true? I mean how do I really know?”
What if the opposite were true instead, that this “other” was actually looking for the same solutions as I was, just by a different path? What if we were on actually on the same team?
By presuming positive intent, the lens through which we look can be more sharply and charitably focused.
And that can change everything – for children, grown-ups and the world.
Ric Anderson, Head of School