Rector’s eNews – 21 July 2021/ Rector's eNews
I just wanted to reiterate that you and your families have been very much in our minds, particularly over the last week, and we hope that your situation, wherever you may be either in South Africa or another part of the world, is improving. We very much look forward to welcoming your son back to Michaelhouse on Sunday and hope that he is, similarly, eager to see his friends and peers again.
All schools, whether they are government or independent schools, are set to re-open for contact classes on Monday 26 July and this was contained in the DBE Amended Directions No.44858 of 15 July (6 days ago) which I attach for your perusal. I am aware of the fact that the president is due to speak again on Sunday night, but all school Heads and organisations allied to schools are confident that stipulations for contact classes in such a recent Government Gazette would not be overturned. The imperative to vaccinate teachers throughout the country, after all, has been to ensure that boys and girls are able to return to school as safely as possible since this, in turn, allows parents to work more productively and impacts positively upon the economy as a whole. It was with the above in mind that schools such as Michaelhouse have asked their pupils to be ready to begin lessons in class on 26 July. I have asked our Deputy Rector: Pupils, Allan Laing, to send a standard letter to those travelling from Gauteng to indicate that each boy is returning to school to commence in-class lessons on Monday 26 July. We do not want to waste time in getting underway again at school.
Over the holidays, our new catering company, Feedem, carried out renovations on our dining halls as part of the contract with us. The serveries have been altered and extended, the flooring has been sanded and sealed and the halls have been painted. As I write, there are still some finishing touches needed at the serveries, but we hope the boys will appreciate the changes that Feedem will bring to us.
Last term, I commented briefly on each of the first five Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I have only two to go. The sixth suggested habit is to value synergy. Synergy revolves around creative cooperation and is achieved when two or more people work together to create a better solution to a situation than could be done individually. It focusses on the notion that each individual in a group has an important and different role to play in creating the best possible solution. The members of a synergistic group are not in competition with each other, but work together. The members of the group may be followers (very supportive of the leaders), innovators (creative people with ideas), harmonisers (providing unity, support and cooperation) and extroverts (adding spice and momentum to the overall group success). Perhaps synergy is best demonstrated in the operation of a sports team: the hooker throws the ball in a line out and it is generally caught by a lock who passes it to the scrumhalf who then sees the ball move down the line. Each player has particular skills and, whilst there is some overlap, the special attributes of each lead to the success of the team.
A synergistic approach relies on people celebrating differences, understanding the need to be open-minded, finding new and better ways of operating and, ultimately, in working alongside others. It is an extremely important concept for teenagers to grasp in a world with great diversity in terms of gender, race, culture, wealth, language, interests and other differences. People differ, not only in respect of what is apparent to us on the outside, but also in terms of what may not be immediately apparent. We learn in a different way, we see the world in a different way and have different personality traits; we draw on past experiences and consider the different paradigms we have encountered to solve problems.
Part of the value of the boarding experience in a school such as Michaelhouse is to learn to understand and to appreciate the differences in people and to develop the capacity to reach out to those people and to appreciate their values. This is not necessarily easy for teenagers who, in their earlier years, will want to congregate around people who are the same as them but, with growing maturity, there comes an appreciation of the value of others who are not the same as them. This is exactly why “peer group niggles” which may be prevalent in the E and D Block, in most cases, tend to dissipate by the C Block and, in the A and B Block, there is often a celebration of those differences. I return to the metaphor of the rugby team: younger teenagers may all be striving for the same position in the team, but older teenagers will appreciate the fact that their role as a hooker or a lock or a scrumhalf are all vital to the makeup of the team and each one is valuable.