Thumbing through drawers of old papers, Jayme recently found an invitation to a celebration dinner, held at the Hilton Hotel, honoring “Ronald and Jayme Stewart, Founders,” on the twentieth anniversary of York Prep School. It was held on April 29, 1990, and was a black tie affair. I cannot remember much about it, but I have an image in my head of an old sepia photograph of formally dressed people from another century looking at a camera. You know the picture; we have all seen it.
Why these memories of significant events fade while other events of less significance remain is one of the mysteries of brain chemistry. I have a copy of the speech I made that night, but I cannot remember giving it. It was not a good speech. I did not have the self-confidence then to give the kind of speech I made at last year’s graduation (Headmaster’s Thoughts, June 2011). There was little innovation in my words; I thanked everyone there and talked about the Scholarship Foundation. At least I did talk about two of our students whose lives, I suggested, had been changed by the Foundation’s support. Had I not given details of their lives, the speech would have gone down as boringly ordinary.
Which, I think, is the point of this month’s “thoughts.” Because I write this monthly blog (and this is the start of the eighth year I have done so), I have found here a vehicle to launch out and get away from the usual mundane stuff that heads of schools say. Not many of my thoughts really do take off from the limits of the norm, but I am proud of my thoughts about the singing Sikh taxi driver (Headmaster’s Thoughts, February 2006) or the advocacy of National Clown Nose Day (Headmaster’s Thoughts, November 2006). Writing this blog has allowed me the freedom to be a curmudgeon, attempt to write humor, and just sound off. Without it, I am not sure I would have developed the “why not?” attitude to break away from the stifling politically correct barriers that heads of schools normally set around themselves.
During December’s annual holiday party, the faculty gave Jayme and me a gift (as is custom) and accompanied that with a small amusing dialogue about us between two faculty members. I had not thought of a reply but reply I had to, and so off I took. It was not boring and caused amusement (if I say so myself). I doubt if I would have been able to do it without having learned to trust myself in going “off subject” in these thoughts.
Although few people read these “thoughts,” the number of readers is not the point. The truth is that I write these narcissistically for myself. Soon, you will receive our annual newsletter. I will write the opening page, and it will be what you expect a head of school to write. Nothing wrong with that, but if that is all any head wrote, you really would have no idea of who they were, no idea of their “voice” or whether they were empty as people. You can at least judge from these “thoughts” about the emptiness of yours truly, and I can use this opportunity to freely and openly write about subjects that are not in the list of “what Heads of Schools should say.”
I have not found it difficult to stay fresh and passionate in this job. Recently, there was a three-day conference of Heads of Schools at which one of the panels discussed how to survive the stress of being the head of a school for ten years. I did not make it to that panel. I literally ran away from the conference after three hours. They served dinner, and then I was out of there. If they were going to make an issue of being head for ten years, how could I participate when this is my forty-third year? It was a pretty stiff crowd; they needed to write “out of the box” blogs.
So if, as Paul Simon sang, I am “still crazy after all these years,” this blog writing has certainly helped. In my high school, we used to start each meal with the following grace: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make me truly grateful.” I feel I should adapt that to these writing pieces: “For the release of feelings the Headmaster’s Thoughts give me, may the Lord make me truly grateful.”
Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section More News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.