May 25, 2022

Rector’s eNews – 25 May 2022

/ Rector's eNews

I do hope that you had an enjoyable half-term with your sons; here in KwaZulu Natal, we certainly had a vast amount of rain and down on the coast we had moments of concern with torrential rain and mud slides though, by Monday, things had improved significantly, especially at King Shaka airport and on the major routes through to Michaelhouse. We are now basking in glorious autumnal sunshine as we get underway with schoolwork and school activities again.

I have been distilling aspects of the Robin Cox book, Choices, as parents and teachers are engaged on the same mission regarding your and our teenagers: helping them to help themselves to be at their best. The fundamental premise is that young people have choices about their present and future directions and that every choice has a consequence.

The third area (out of seven suggested themes) for consideration is the importance of organisation. This is not something, it is suggested, which comes naturally to many teenagers and yet, without it, very little can be achieved. In a school setting, to quite a large extent, the nature of the programme creates an organised approach to the day; for example, lessons begin at a certain time and these are of a certain duration before breaktime, more lessons, lunch and other activities. But there remains time which needs to be considered as to its use by boys.

Strangely teenagers crave structure and organisation whilst, concurrently, complaining about it. They tend to resist much discussion about the topic, claiming that they know how to organise themselves, but very often place themselves under immense stress because they have to do things at the last minute (whether this is a university application or buying an item they will need for special occasion). Particularly, to encourage the notion of planning and awareness of time, at Michaelhouse we stopped using bells at the beginning/end of each lesson at the start of the year, and only use bells for rising and the beginning of prep. Initially boys were adamant that they needed bells to get them to the next lesson, but now they are more aware of time and having no bells during the day has not impacted negatively, on the whole, on their timely arrival class. We are trying to ingrain a life skill.

The overall point made above is the importance of planning in the lives of young people: when one spends time as a parent or teacher discussing the proportion of the day or week spent on school work, sport, sleeping, social time and other healthy activities, and developing schedules on, say, a phone calendar, teenagers begin to take ownership of the many things which they can do in a given day and they develop a less stressed and more fulfilling modus operandi.

Along with all similar South African schools, we are experiencing, at Michaelhouse, a decreasing number of incidents involving boys smoking cigarettes, but are grappling with boys vaping and, indeed, with educating boys about the potential harm incurred in doing so. We have been attempting to educate boys, in the first instance, through tutor groups and now have some very well-known personalities coming to us next term to discuss the harmful aspects of vaping with our boys. Professor Richard van Zyl Smit of UCT and Mr Murray Pedder both have important messages to convey, but are not immediately available to do so.

Vaping involves the inhalation of flavours and substances such as nicotine, various chemicals, “skellies”, cannabis and other substances, including crushed ritalin tablets, through the use of vape pens, dab pens, mods, pod mods etc and it is not necessarily easy to detect as there is often no smell and often no smoke resulting from vaping, unlike cigarette smoking. The devices used for vaping come in various shapes and forms and I have photographed the vapes that have been found in one House this year. I hasten to add that this is not out of line with other Houses. There is as yet no age restriction applied to the purchase of vape pens.

The impact of vaping ranges from being of slightly lesser harm to being extremely serious and can lead, inter alia, to a range of conditions such as strokes, heart attacks, seizures, burns in the mouth and lips and retarded brain development. As a staff, we are very much on the alert for vapes and there are, naturally, significant consequences for those found vaping or possessing vapes. Indeed, some boys’ future is in the balance as a result of vaping, and it is an issue which we will continue to address through the rest of the year and beyond.

There is a short video What You Should Know about Vaping found at for you to watch as well as an article regarding vaping attached as Annexure A.

Michaelhouse is to host St John’s College here over the coming weekend for a range of inter-school activities as outlined in the updated schedule attached as Annexure B. The emphasis is on friendly rivalry across a range of activities, as you will see. There should be a tremendous atmosphere at the astros on Friday and on the rugby fields on Saturday with parents and boys of both schools enjoying the competition. Here are some further details of what will be available:

• Braais will be set up for parents at the Hockey Astros from 17h00. A limited number of braai packs will be on sale at the Hockey Astros
• Vendors will be available at the Hockey Astros from 15h30

• Parent Teas from 09h30 – 10h00 at the Hockey Astros and 10h00-11h00 at the Centenary Centre
• The following vendors will be available at the Food Court opposite the Heritage Centre from 07h30:
o Feedem Coffee Trailer
o Coke Can Tuck Shop
o Feedem Braai Stand selling assorted breakfast rolls
o N2 Bakery selling coffee, pastries and doughnuts
o Soft Serve Ice Cream
• The following vendor is available at the Hockey Astro from 07h30
o Feedem Coffee Trailer selling coffee, soft drinks, water, snacks

Coffee Shop hours
Friday: 08h00 – 19h00
Saturday: 07h00 – 15h00

Trade Inn hours
Friday: 08h00 – 16h00
Saturday: 09h00 – 14h00

Read the full Rector’s eNews here


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