July 17, 2019
In School We Trust
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What more important word exists nowadays than the word, ‘trust’? The answer could indeed shoot back that its close family member, ‘truth’, would be a contender and we all know just how threatened that concept in these Trumpian times. Of course, it isn’t really a case of ranking them, it’s much more fundamental than that as they are absolutely critical to all that we know and cherish about our democracies and our lives. Truth is the needle of our moral compass and we effectively rely on it to navigate our way through the complex maze of a normal life.
Young people embarking on their life journeys rely on truth and value it almost as much as the trust and connection that they crave. Trust can be such an essential aspect of successful school experience and a vital ingredient of the young adolescent’s journey through the white-water of the teenage years. Without people and things to trust, the young person cannot find the safety of the dry-land stops, the security of the solid as opposed to the turbulent. Without that security, as we all know, the world can be a very scary and unsettling place.
Trust is an oft-misunderstood term as it carries far more implications than it seems to do at first blush. Every establishing of trust is the making of a commitment, but the binding nature of that term is often overlooked. If taking on a commitment entails assuming a responsibility then offering trust to someone brings with it too a huge responsibility, one that is sometimes overlooked by those who would peddle trust as if it were yet another of those consumer goods in which we trade all the time. In school, the learner trusts the teacher to guide him or her to the right information, to the knowledge, to the truth, while the teacher trusts the student to be sincere, to be involved and to be active in the process of learning. Bonds are formed and a productive relationship most often follows. At the risk of establishing too hasty a syllogism, we can, therefore, claim that trust and truth are inseparable, or at least they should be.
I’m sure that many school Heads and Principals have often had the sentiment that what we need to do with our campuses is open them up in the summertime to run a school for parents, as there indeed is a glaring hole in the education system – whoever prepares you properly for being a parent? I will, of course, put my hand on heart and admit to being as guilty as most when it comes to learning the parenting business, ‘as we went along ‘. There are millions of adult parents out there feeling their way, experimenting on their live specimens and then shrieking with fear when the experiment goes awry. That is where schools come in, or should come in. Enlisting the help of a school in dealing with your previously delightful, responsive pre-teen, turned changeling overnight, is not an admission of failure, it is in fact snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, or depending on your point of view, adding years to your life or hairs to your head. The boarding school is uniquely placed to maximize the shared parenting possibilities, especially nowadays as societal changes have produced boarding schools where the reclusive is not the norm and where regular contact with parents is expected and encouraged. Having young people around 24/7 multiplies the ‘teachable moments’ hugely and greatly increases the opportunities for learning. The relationships which are fundamental in providing the secure bedrock upon which trust can be built are an essential part of boarding school life, but, then again, I am slightly biased.
There is a certain courage in allowing other people to share in the parenting of your children, but there’s a certain courage in being a parent in the first place. The world needs good parents more than ever and good parents will take a stand and will show the leadership necessary to guide their offspring, just as good schools must do. If we can complement each other’s efforts then so much the better –society will be the winner. Our decisions may not always be popular as schools or as parents, but, as Mahatma Gandhi reminded us: “Leadership and popularity are not necessarily brothers, but leadership and courage are inseparable” Young people should be able to trust us to maintain the commitment that we make to them as parents or as schools. They need those anchor points upon which they can rely and they need to see courage role-modeled as they too will need plenty of that particular virtue to help them through a life well-lived. As a mentor of mine once said to me, ‘Have the courage to trust me and I’ll have the courage to make sure that I deserve that trust’.
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