Rector’s eNews – 18 May 2022/ Rector's eNews
You will realise by now that I have been greatly impressed by the book written by Robin Cox called Choices and will remember that, last week, I outlined the first of his seven areas of advice to teenagers – that of clear goal-setting. Goal-setting, he says, is a critical part of self-empowerment. Building on this, the second area of importance for teenagers, he says, revolves essentially around holistic development. A well-rounded person has a greater sense of self-worth and has the capacity to develop deeper and stronger relationships than those who are driven only by a single focus. Some parents might consider that what is important in their teenagers’ education is confined to achieving good examination results which will propel them into university and then into a good job. Cox hotly disputes this and speaks of the importance of a rounded education in which passions other than those related to the academic sphere are fully developed. Indeed, this is something which we would consider important in the Michaelhouse context, but why is this so?
The teenage years span a time when hormonal and chemical changes affect interaction with others and teenagers begin to explore new areas and activities, often becoming more aware of phenomena such as global issues. Some teenagers’ lives can be likened to a hurricane where they experience highs and lows and, indeed, numerous frustrations. The notion that the “hurricane” can be tamed and harnessed in an activity which becomes a passion for a teenager is the focal point of this argument. Cox, himself, had a passion for sport during his youth and played high level inter-provincial sport as a schoolboy. The availability of this source of engagement with others led to a passion and he sees the development of such a passion, whatever it may be, as an important part of a holistic education. Our Michaelhouse boys similarly often develop a passion for sport, music, cultural activities and the like and, as a school, we see this aspect of their development as very important. He speaks of dopamine which produces the pleasure of a deep inner satisfaction on a successful outcome in an activity, along with increased motivation, curiosity, perseverance and memory. We remember those special moments when we have achieved a goal after considerable effort which leaves us satisfied, but exhausted.
Finding a passion in a sporting encounter, playing the trumpet or marimbas, holding the audience in the palm of your hand as an actor or any similar type of activity that fires a passion creates a positive life-changing experience and helps teenagers through the negative moments which they must also inevitably experience; it can deflect teenagers from experiencing the depression which, regrettably, many do contend with largely because they compare themselves unfavourably with others who apparently lead a life on which the sun never sets.
In short, we at Michaelhouse value co-curricular activities for all the reasons articulated above. This half-term, for instance, there will be, inter alia, a fly-fishing expedition into the Berg; there will also be a group of boys playing their marimbas at a festival in Ballito. This is all part of boys developing a passion and strengthening the character of the boys as they deal with the turbulence of their teenage years and find reward in what life (and life after school) has to offer.
On Friday 27 May and Saturday 28 May, we host St John’s College in a variety of different activities ranging from chess, debating and fly-fishing to hockey and rugby. The 1st Hockey XI, along with some Under 16 teams, will be playing under lights on the Friday evening and we would like all our boys to be present to support our teams both on the Friday evening and on the Saturday when the 1st Rugby XV will play at 12h45 on Meadows. There are 36 different activities/matches against St John’s and this provides a great opportunity for parents to see their sons in action. A programme for the two days is attached as Appendix A.