From the Head - Headmaster's Newsletter 23 January 2020
Welcome back. Now that school is in full swing, I thought you’d be ready for some reading material!
Schools are intriguing constructs. We are one of the only sectors which groups people according to age. You may argue that sport does this at school age elsewhere, and this is true, but there are exceptions to this rule: 1) when a particular talent appears, it is not uncommon for this person to play their game with children of a higher age group - at Hilton we try to avoid this practice but sometimes it is inevitable; 2) in certain countries, adolescent sports teams are decided upon by height and weight, to avoid mismatches.
At school, this often brings children of the same age but very different abilities together, often to their benefit, but sometimes to their detriment.
Schools are also fairly conservative places. Very few function as excitedly as the Google Headquarters or as a dynamic advertising agency may function.
Schools are custodians of old-world values. Values that are often only held dear by generations older than the current adolescents. How we all used to guffaw at our teachers and their outdated modes…some things never change!
Change, then, is a fascinating subject at schools. As parents we want our children to be ready for the new world and all the change that this will bring, whilst feeling most comfortable when the school of today looks like the school of yesteryear, which we were a part of and which formed us.
I recently had occasion to share a meal with two Old Hiltonians, Michael and Marcus Montague-Mfuni (2016 and 2018 respectively). Michael is currently studying Computer Sciences at Harvard, and he has had the good fortune of doing vacation work at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. I asked him whether the hype attached to working at Google was in fact true, or actually just hype. He was unequivocal in his response: “It was an AMAZING experience, the hype is well-founded”. He spoke about a dynamic working environment that exudes energy; a place that caters for all your needs (you almost never need to leave); a culture of creativity and a ‘can-do’ approach.
Granted, Michael is an impressionable young man not yet accustomed to the daily demands of a working life, however he is bright and very capable at seeing through the veneer of gimmicks and fantasy. He was, after all, educated at Hilton!
I am no expert on Google, nor on any IT related industry workplace and on what makes these places work well and what does not. I do, however, have terrific people who work alongside me who have a tremendous acumen for what works well at schools.
Creating a place of creativity, of high energy (but not frenetic energy), of enduring values, of promise and of hope is the ideal to which we aim. This must be peppered with challenge, with robust debates around controversial subjects, with facing difference, with wrestling with one’s weaknesses (failing) and enjoying one's strengths (succeeding). School is so much more than the classroom. It is made up of the many intangible aspects of living and of learning to live.
Can we be the Google of schools? A school that fosters creativity, cultivates hope, establishes enduring values. I believe we can.
What do we need to accomplish in order to inch closer towards this ideal?
▪ A supportive, enthusiastic and trusting community of parents. This we have.
▪ An accepting attitude among all our boys, to embrace those with different abilities and different interests. We are getting better at this.
▪ A dedicated staff of teachers, coaches, facilitators and conductors who believe in and foster the notion that every boy has a gifting and a talent and this should be discovered and honed. We are good at this but can still improve.
Change then, is an essential ingredient in ensuring we adapt to, and adopt, the new when it translates into a better experience. Intriguingly, our boys don’t always enjoy change. They quite like their world to be fairly predictable and “as it was when I was in Grade 8”. The world of tomorrow is inevitably about change, coupled with a significant dose of uncertainty; best we all learn the skills to adapt and change in order to thrive in the future.
An exciting change that I have mentioned last year and which we have implemented this year, is the introduction of two Deputy Headmasters. Mr Tony Shuttleworth, our Second Master, took the reins of this role in July last year and his great strength at focussing on detail and at planning ahead is already evident in our school day. Tony has each boy’s interest at heart and is a great believer in having high expectations and high standards of behaviour.
Our second Deputy Headmaster is Mr Kgomotso Motlogeloa, who joins us from Southdowns College in Centurion. Prior to Southdowns, Mr Motlogeloa was deputy at Jeppe Boys High, where he taught for fifteen years. Mr Motlogeloa is a passionate educator of boys and he too has high standards to which boys should be held accountable.
Both Mr Shuttleworth and Mr Motlogeloa are stationed in the Crookes Block from this year, to support the academic staff and ensure that behaviours in classrooms are of the high standard we expect from every boy. This change brings tremendous promise to the functioning of our College and I am very excited about our being able to inch closer to our ideal.
With a measure of regret, but also a degree of celebration for him personally, we congratulate Mr Iyer on his appointment to the role of Deputy Principal at Clifton College in Durban. Mr Iyer has served Hilton since the beginning of 2009, and as HOD of Mathematics since the beginning of 2011. Mr Iyer has always had a good rapport with boys and he has held the important subject of Mathematics admirably. Mr Iyer will leave Hilton at the end of the first term and we wish him everything of the best in this next step in his career.
Furthermore, we eagerly await the addition of Mrs Neethling to the post of HOD of English at the beginning of our second term. Mrs Neethling is currently Deputy Principal at Epworth but has had previous experience here at Hilton in 2012. Mrs Neethling is an accomplished educator who brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the classroom and beyond. I am especially excited to be able to welcome her onto our team in the very near future.
I am excited by the promise that 2020 holds. We have the platform established to excel as a school. Let’s build the most dynamic and robust school for the future, to enable all your sons to be developed into the best version of themselves as they find their purpose.