According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), social practices, rituals, and festive events reaffirm the identity of those who practice them as a group or a society. In schools, such annual traditions or rituals are closely linked to a community’s worldview and perception of its own history and memory. During a typical year at Matthews Hall, this is certainly the case. In fact, we are about to enter the homestretch during which such events signal the end of another school year in the lives of our students.
Why do school traditions matter? Traditions at your children’s elementary school contribute to a sense of comfort and belonging, bring the important people in their lives together, encourage ongoing connection, and reinforce shared values among parents, teachers, and students. Traditions offer context and space for meaningful reflection, as we seek to understand our work with children.
At Matthews Hall, we believe that building a strong culture in our school, through our traditions and shared values, directly benefits our students’ achievement. Many studies have established a clear connection between student well-being and school culture. An independent school like ours, then, has an exceptionally good opportunity to demonstrate how annual traditions support our culture and climate. At times, some traditions and annual events might not make immediate sense, but when they are appreciated in a broader annual context, they become clear.
Schools that safeguard and uphold traditions and shared values end up being important settings for promoting health among children. A commitment to a holistic approach involves not only health education via the curriculum, but also having a school environment with traditions that promote health and wellbeing. At Matthews Hall we strive to accomplish this by engaging with our school families and the wider community at traditional times – recognizing that such engagement supports children’s overall health.
Strong school cultures include a wide array of rituals, traditions, ceremonies, and celebrations. We are going to experience several of these in the next few weeks, from graduation and awards ceremonies to Ainsley’s Play Day and Closing Exercises at St. Paul’s Cathedral. All of these are activities and events that cement relationships and encourage commitment to our school and its mission.
Our MH ceremonies also remind us to honour our school’s journey from 1918 to 2023, with all of the generations of students, teachers, and families that have come before us. Our celebrations, large and small, recognize the accomplishments of students and stakeholders, as we strive to remain relevant and responsive to the needs of the present moment.
While we prepare to mark these special occasions at Matthews Hall, let’s remember that the history of our school and its stories are very important to our school culture. Our stories communicate our core values, reinforce our mission, and build a sense of belonging. Our stories influence how we think and feel about our school.
We each have a role to play in supporting, maintaining, and advancing our unique and student-centered school every year.
By doing this together, we identify the positive elements of our culture, and actively work to reinforce and shape (…or reshape!) it to serve the students of today and tomorrow.
See you soon at a one of our many year-end celebrations!
Ric Anderson, Head of School