Headmaster's Thoughts: September 2021

I want to welcome you all back to another school year. If you are new to the school, I wish you a very special welcome.  You may occasionally read these monthly essays on our website. They go back to 2004, and can be accessed in “archives” of “Headmaster’s Thoughts”. They began as a result of a student in my senior Ethics class commenting that while they had to write essays, we, the faculty, never had to show that we could write. In effect, we had no homework to show our students.  So I started writing an essay every month and now, over 200 of them later, I find I enjoy the process. In reality, some were better than others. About three years ago, Jeremy Clarke’s wife put together a book compiling 60 of them, hopefully the better ones.

I like having a “blog”.  Not every student or parent reads them, but it does give me an opportunity to add some humor to stories of the school and my life, to complain about the irritations we all occasionally feel, and even to write about education.
So the first order of business this month is to welcome you and to thank our parents for putting their trust in York Prep. If you were here last year, you received many letters from me describing the way we handled the COVID epidemic. I think we did it well. This is not a piece about COVID except to say, as I have repeated several times, that we recognize that our students are more anxious than normal for a start of a school year because of the events of the past year. We are all here for them. Our aim is to help them grow educationally and, most importantly, enjoy their time at York Prep.    
I would like to comment on the past Olympics that just ended. Japan did a great job, with the difficult hand they were dealt, in presenting the finest of athletic competition. But now the Games are passed, and we continue to face the challenges of education in the time of the pandemic. School is not the Olympics. Let us not stress competition between students. This is a totally different arena. In school, the competition should be only with oneself. Am I proud of what I did today, could I do better?  Success is accomplishing the goal of being a good person, and being one’s own best friend. We all know if we have done a good job. I told my three children when they entered secondary school, that if they believed they did good work, and for whatever reason their teacher gave them a C, they should be proud. And, conversely, if they produced mediocre work which got an A, they should be disappointed in themselves. We cannot control the referee (the teacher), but we can aim to do the best possible work. Eventually, and I am an optimist, I believe that excellence is recognized.
Just as I ask our students to do their best, both as people and academics, I ask the same of myself and our faculty. We are facing yet another year where COVID is affecting our peace of mind. At such a juncture, the school needs to be more sympathetic than ever to students’ anxieties, stressing kindness to each other, and providing opportunities for success. We need to bring joy into the school. Joy of companionship, joy of success, and joy in learning. So I ask that you, as family, and we, as a school, cooperate to give our students that sense of pride in themselves that leads to happiness. It matters not one grade, it matters the effort. And character trumps everything else. We are here to teach, guide, motivate, and, hopefully, model. As, respectfully, are you. Let us work as a team together to give our students a year of great personal satisfaction. They are only competing in that effort with themselves.  I wish them great success!

Ronald P. Stewart
York Prep