Keystone Magazine - Page 11

Q: Q: A: A: Keystone’s leadership team members come from many different education backgrounds and work experiences. Each member has strong opinions and their own way of working and dealing with problems. How will you coordinate and manage all of these differences and diverse people? It is not always going to be easy and harmonious. And we should not expect it to be, because when you bring together people from different backgrounds, they will have different views and sometimes their views will clash. But that is part of the project of developing global-mindedness in people, and to get them to see that other ways of doing things have their value. The mission statement of the International Baccalaureate (IB) ends with a wonderful sentence, which says something to the effect that other people, with their differences, can also be right. And that is exactly what we have to try to do. I expect that the people who join Keystone will have an interest in hearing about other ways of doing things, learning from other people and wanting to change themselves as they see things that other people do which might be better than their own way of doing things. That means we should be able to accommodate a plurality of interests and styles and ways of doing things. We are going to have to work very hard at this. In particular those first four weeks, July into August just before we open, when we are all coming together as a group of founding teachers. We will need to figure out how we can open up and listen, so as to say to each other this is what I do, this is how I like working, but I want to hear about how you do it so that maybe we can share and learn things mutually. I can give you an example. When I used to work at Atlantic College, every week the students would organize a focus week. They had a whole academic year full of focus weeks. And each week would focus on a major international topic such as human rights, gay and lesbian rights, problems of migrant labor, or refugees, or perhaps a particular part of the world. There were students from about 70100 countries, very different cultures and very different prejudices. Sometimes they would get really excited and they would argue, passionately. Teachers would encourage this because that is the only way to resolve certain issues. You do not resolve them by hiding them and pretending that they do not exist. You resolve them by bringing them to the surface: this is what I believe and that is what you believe. And what you believe is very different from what I believe. What do we do about it? You and your leadership team have expressed multiple times, in different settings, the excitement of building a new school. However, have you thought about the risks involved? How will you deal with these risks? You deal with each risk as it comes along, by looking at it, analyzing it, not pushing it under the carpet, and then finding a way through it. And most problems you can get over if you have the right people addressing the problem, and you have the sense of purpose and will to do it. Learning to make mistakes and growing through them - to grow from failures - will be a part of the culture of the place. We need to talk about risk, accept and understand it. We need to welcome it. We are going to make mistakes, and we have made some already. We are going to have our failures. I am not concerned about that. For parents who are worried about the risks involved in a new venture and experimenting with their child we might consider asking the question, “As parents have you never experimented with your child?” Parenting is all about experimentation. But Keystone is only an experiment at the level of vision and mission. When it comes to planning, practicalities, and operational considerations, we are rock solid. But on a more serious level, we live in a world where the level of tolerance for risk amongst the middle- and uppermiddle classes is becoming more and more diminished. In post-industrial societies, we have become more and more risk averse. I used to hitchhike all over South Africa. When Judith and I were married in Oxford we hitchhiked as our honeymoon from Oxford to Greece and back. When I tell students this, they think that I am some kind of crazy guy. But we did that. I know that it is too risky to do that now and I am not recommending it. But we must take risks that are appropriate to our current context. I think we should open people up to the fact that we need to produce young adults who are able to lead fulfilled, creative, and productive lives because they understand the value of risk and how to cope with failure. So we need to talk openly about this in the school. As it relates to the Chinese context, a low tolerance for risk may be connected to the one-child practice because if you have only one child as a parent all of your energy and hopes are focused on that child. We shall see how that plays out in a boarding setting. 9