July 19, 2023

Rector’s eNews – 19 July 2023

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The enthusiastic greeting by the boys of each other, the back-slapping and embracing as well as the extraordinarily high volume of conversation in their interaction with each other in the quads of the school are all an affirmation of the fact that the boys are back at Michaelhouse and, in most cases, really excited to see their friends and keen to give of their very best in the term ahead. I do hope that their holiday was a happy time for you and for them and that it was restful and regenerative.Terms here are exceptionally busy because we are a full boarding school and so it is important for young people to be able to relax and reconnect with family.

It goes without saying that your influence on their lives is extremely important and, in this regard, I want to enlist your support in two areas. The first is influencing them to steer the right course.

Boys very often start the year well, set about achieving their goals and make good progress through the Pentecost Term, a term of keen focus for many in sport and then exams. Our experience, thereafter, is that they may let themselves and their families down by poor behaviour in the second part of the year. There can be no excuse for breaking the rules of the school and several boys have lost their place at Michaelhouse as a result of breaking those rules.

On the whole we believe there is a very happy environment in the school and this is often commented on by parents and prospective parents. Relative to a number of other South African schools, there is significant freedom from oppressive regulation, but standards of discipline are extremely important if the school community is to be a purposeful one in which boys are able to thrive and to reach their potential. Nothing significant will ever be achieved in a school where “anything goes” and the boys know the rules, they know right from wrong and, if there is any uncertainty, they know who to ask in order to clear up any area of doubt. They know that if they stray into the territory of major offences, severe action including expulsion will be the outcome.

My first request to you, therefore, as parents is to engage with your son on the topic of discipline so that it is absolutely plain to him that you would not condone poor behaviour: this means that he receives the same message from home and school. Such topics are, admittedly, never easy to broach, but a strong advisory word from a respected parent can make a world of difference in avoiding a situation of great unhappiness to boys, their families and their friends when an important standard is disregarded and a young person has to leave us. For the sake of clarity, we cannot make any distinction between the behaviour of boys at differing levels in the school: an A Block boy who is about to write matric will need to be treated in the same way in a disciplinary situation as an E or a D Block boy who has a number of years still to complete Michaelhouse; this is because major rules must naturally apply equally and fairly to everybody in the school.

A related issue, the second aspect in this matter, is that boys need to understand that their actions have consequences: there can be a tendency to think that they can do as they wish and then reach out for assistance to nullify their actions. Life doesn’t work like that and it is vital that the boys learn that important lesson in their teenage years, however tough it may be for them. Society expects certain behaviour and teenagers need to understand the link between actions (good or bad) and the outcomes these will have for them. Some, regrettably, have never learned this difficult matter and they continue in life on an unsatisfactory trajectory which leads very often to more serious consequences.

I am sorry to seem to strike a sombre note at the beginning of this term, but dialogue with your sons and, indeed, a proactive approach on these two issues will help enormously in trying to secure the happiest outcomes for all of our boys. Indeed, I trust we will have an excellent term in all respects; there are many exciting activities planned and the boys are generally in good spirits as I mentioned at the beginning of this eNews.

We welcome five new boys at the beginning of the term: Jeremiah Moodie (West), Charles Purdon (West), Ben Viljoen (Mackenzie), Noa Nel (Ralfe) and Thabang Dlamini (Farfield). Three of the above are joining brothers already at the school.

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