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THE ART OF STORY TELLING,
BLACK SWANS AND A VUCA WORLD

Mark Twain, in my mind, most likely the craftiest and irreverent linguists of our time said that “In the first place God made Idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

Upon my election as the PA I’ve also heard that Ironing Boards are Surf Boards that quit before achieving their dreams. So, don’t become an Ironing Board.

If we take ourselves too seriously we gravely risk sight of the bigger picture.

But… (My teachers told me that I should never start a sentence with “but”), it was J.K. Rowling who said that “words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” Both authors are magnificent at their craft and we all know that story tellers craft our world. What have they told us this year?

It’s been another VUCA year. One filled with volatility; uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. As South Africans we continue to live in a totally unequal society, where some folk are more equal than others. Sound familiar? Yes, another great story teller said that. Trying to think externally to cement solutions for our weaknesses, opportunities and threats, coupled with thinking out of the box and being inclusive are complete clichés until you’ve really dug deep enough and honestly enough to unpack what they mean. We have and we are teaching your children to do the same. In our school, we have invested long hours of planning and debate, to make this place the best place for your child to be. Not just to learn what can be read, but to understand how to challenge our world to become a better place. This year, through the school, I have seen them better equipped
than ever before.

At the most recent ISASA conference, some interesting statistics were shared with the education community. As a country we spend almost 6% of our GDP on education, compared to China’s 4% and India’s 3,3%. Yet, only 37% of learners that start Grade 1 in South Africa, will finish Grade 12. Only 12% of those will enter a tertiary institution and only a meagre 6, 25% of those will graduate. These trends in South Africa are real. Do the numbers.

So preparing your child for a tertiary education the tried and tested way, does not mean that he, or she will make it through. It requires something else. Something that this board and the executives at the school strive for each day. It’s not purely academic. It’s not only religious text and spiritual interpretation, or even something culturally round, or sporting by nature, but something unique.

It’s a hidden gem of discovery, which we believe creates a Whole Child. We are giving them the tools that will enable them to contribute much more to society than you and I ever could.

I’ve read that Albert Szent-Gyorgy, an American biochemist, observed: “Discovery consists in seeing what everybody has seen… and thinking what nobody has thought”. In our youth, these were the “gifted few”, but the honest truth is that the
ability to think differently can be nurtured and developed.

I have also read that there is a philosophical tradition known as “phenomenology”, which is the description of things that
we see every day. We pass these things over, because we are all so very busy that we no longer have time to reflect. These things are hidden in plain sight and it requires us to relearn what we see in the world. Keith Coats says that “By paying attention to what is commonly missed we give ourselves the opportunity to notice and as a result of noticing, to see and think differently”.

In the world of work, we are constantly trying to prepare our people for the future, yet you’ve heard that universities are
teaching students subjects, for which jobs might not exist by the time they graduate. So the workplace has reverted to teaching them about the art of curiosity. Engage in that…in which you would otherwise ignore. So why are we teaching them something they have “unlearnt?”

Our children are born curious. We stifle that with our own shortcomings. Maybe being curious as an adult reflects our own vulnerability. We don’t know it all, but we are supposed to, so we better not admit to that! Stories have always been the bridge between curiosity, discovery and insight. Are you telling them stories, or are they reading them in the negative
press and fake news of the internet? Who do your children hear their stories from? Are they listening to a story told by you and a teacher who cares and nurtures their growth, or do they shape their opinions from the ambiguous and random comments posted on Twitter or Facebook? You know the truth, so you should control the inputs.

We will always invest our time and efforts on The Whole Child. Your child. These individuals will be equipped by us with something neither you, nor I, will be able to touch. It’s going to be a future, born out of something not native to us, but it
will be cultured by a thought process balanced with integrity and honesty.

The world is full of noise. Everything is a comparator. Please trust us on this journey and speak to us directly, if you feel
that we are not right by your side.

If all we do is continually compare that which we have, with that which we don’t, all we will ever do is want. I thank God
from protecting me from what I thought I wanted and blessing me with what I didn’t know I ever needed.

“But (oops sorry, there I go again) for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short!” So says Jane Austin. So my request to you is that WE write a well written book over the next year. It will be something that we can share
with the next generation of parents and learners, not on their own…But together.

PS – In case you were waiting for the Black Swans, I guess you’ll have to go out there and find the right story to share.
W HILL
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD