From the Deputy Rector
This year we have heard much about the importance of working together and having a shared sense of purpose, most notably from our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as she promoted the "team of four million" in the fight against Covid-19. In using this sporting analogy she highlighted that there is a role for all to play; every one of us was part of the team and had a responsibility to the rest of the team in stopping the spread of the virus. In doing so she evoked a sense of shared purpose regardless of our role - front-line medical staff, essential workers, working from home or simply staying home.
Likewise, much of what we do as a school is to help engender a sense of belonging and purpose in our young men. As social creatures, having a strong sense of belonging is shown to boost our resilience when faced with failure and challenges and also has a significant positive influence on our mental health.
Ki te kotahi te kākaho, ka whati; ki te kāpuia, e kore e whati | If a reed stands alone, it can be broken; if it is in a group it cannot
We regularly see demonstrations of the impact working together has. Performing the school haka, singing the national anthem or school waiata are simple examples. The strength of performance comes from the group working together, and within the group, individuals can find the strength and courage to perform with greater intensity than they might as an individual.
All young men belong to an overall school group in which they are encouraged and guided to set high standards for themselves - for example in their manners, work ethic, personal appearance and behaviour. There is a huge range of other opportunities for young men to join school co-curricular groups that will also develop their relationships with their peers and staff and further enhance their sense of belonging and sense of accomplishment. Indeed, we see very vividly on young men's reports that those who are engaged in co-curricular activities are more likely to be progressing positively with their education in terms of both their attitude and achievement.
In 'Big Potential: Five secrets of reaching higher by empowering those around you' author Shawn Achor notes that:
"achieving our highest potential is not about survival of the fittest: it is survival of the best fit. In other words, success is not just about how creative or smart or driven you are, but how well you are able to connect with, contribute to, and benefit from the ecosystem of people around you."
Achor's research concluded that social connection was the greatest predictor of thriving both personally and academically among students. It was also the greatest predictor of emotional wellbeing, the greatest protector against depression and a very strong indicator of long term career success. As social connections are so important, it is our obligation as parents, teachers and as a school to ensure young men have the opportunity and encouragement to be involved in activities that will help them develop these. If your son was not involved in school co-curricular activities in 2020 we encourage you to have a conversation with him about getting involved in 2021.
At our recent Teacher Only Day we reflected upon the Character Education work that has taken place over the last few years. While the events of 2020 did slow us down, they also highlighted the importance of our emphasis on character, alongside academic education and credentialing, focusing on who our young men are and who they have the potential to become.
Who we are is shaped by our experiences and our relationships. The people we surround ourselves with and regularly interact with have a significant influence on who we become. Therefore, it is important that we are planned and deliberate in providing appropriate role models and opportunites so that our young men can be challenged and nurtured as they develop as men of outstanding character.
We shared with our staff part of a report prepared for the Association of Boys’ Schools New Zealand (ABSNZ) in 2019, summarising the Character Education work being undertaken in 31 schools across the country.
“Character competency is the cultivation and demonstration of the strengths, qualities and outcomes that are aligned with the values, dispositions and actions that are associated with civic character, performance character, and moral character: a sense of belonging developed in response to their meeting civic obligations, the fulfilment of potential through the increasing attainment of performance standards, and the capacity to reflect on what is good and right for them to do in their lives, especially in the light of their ongoing moral challenges.”
A core finding nationally was that “people want schools that provide a whole education for a whole man.” In other words, among the New Zealand boys’ school community, and very strongly in the community of Palmerston North Boys’ High School, there is wide recognition that an academic qualification is only part of true education. Who young men develop into – the men they become – is at least equally as important.
We wish all in our school community a safe and relaxing summer break and we look forward to continuing our Character Education work in 2021.