Rector’s eNews – 05 May 2021/ Rector's eNews
Adults often wonder how they may best help and guide their sons and daughters through the teenage years which, for many, present a real challenge. A popular “self-help guide” appeared some two decades ago in Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. This was so acclaimed that it became the most important source of inspiration for many in their daily lives and it remains a valuable resource. A parent in a previous school, Patsy Crisp, used the messages in it to construct an abbreviated version for her own children in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens and her message in a simplified and direct form developed considerable traction with teenagers.
I will articulate some of these habits periodically in my eNews in the hope that they may be appropriate starting points for discussions on long car journeys when you are contemplating the road in front of you with your son. I do not intend to go into great detail in discussing each habit, but it may be useful to remind you of some of the essential ingredients of those habits.
You may recall that the first habit is to be proactive. This is the foundation for all the other habits. We are told that, although your parents’ genes, background and environment do influence your actions and behaviour in certain ways, they do not need to determine what you will make of your life. The message is that no matter how bad your predicament or situation may seem, you can change, break or stop a cycle if you realise that you can choose how you will act, respond or behave. The key message is that each individual is responsible for his own life and happiness and that he can make things happen. When confronted by setbacks, unfavourable circumstances or challenging relationships, each individual can control how he responds and what to do about it. It is very easy to respond instinctively or unthinkingly, losing one’s cool, blaming others and feeling a victim of circumstances. The result is that other people become responsible for changing your approach to life or moods and you become reactive. The more difficult and challenging choice is to be proactive – in other words to take responsibility and adopt a can-do attitude.
In reality, most people tend to be both proactive and reactive and the key is to try to get into the habit of being more proactive – that is not necessarily being “pushy or obnoxious”, but courageous, smart, creative and resourceful. A typical example may be that, when an individual is dropped from a team, it would be better to make a time with the coach/teacher to discuss this disappointment and see where one can improve than to feel aggrieved or “give up”. It is suggested that one way in which one can gain control over one’s emotions, attitudes and approach is to employ four “human tools”: self -awareness – this allows one to stand apart from oneself and to observe one’s thoughts and actions and to evaluate the situation; conscience – listening to one’s inner voice to know what is right; imagination – considering new possibilities and escaping present circumstances; and will power – having the capacity to choose, control emotions and overcome negative instincts.
Saying “I will do my best”, looking for opportunities, seeking to turn setbacks into triumphs and not allowing others to decide how one will feel allows a teenager to feel responsible for his own life and happiness and enhances the notion that he can make things happen.
On a different topic, yesterday we had a further visit from our consultant on Transformation and Diversity, Karabo Che Makoape. He continues to engage with staff, and with various groups within the school, such as the School Prefects and each Block separately, and with our Transformation and Diversity Advisory Committee. Yesterday, he spoke to the whole school as well on our sensitivity in the use of certain words in South Africa in 2021. His consultancy with us will come to an end in June just as we had planned; the idea has been to ensure that we are able to continue productively and constructively without him, but he has agreed to return to Michaelhouse on an ad hoc basis over the next twelve months to assess our progress.