The Headmaster's Message Friday 14 August

Dear Parents and caregivers

We have shared a week in which we have all felt growing concern and uncertainty, as the country moves into Alert Level 2 and, for Auckland, Level 3.

As the number of confirmed cases grows, and, with community transmission now occurring outside of Auckland, we have recognised the possibility of further disruption to the academic year, for our students.

We are fortunate that, in the event of a move up to Alert Level 3, we will be better prepared, and our students will have a greater confidence in moving to an on-line environment, as learners. 

We continue to hope that this will not occur, and we are working very hard to maintain a strong sense of business as usual, within the restrictions of Alert Level 2.

Should the announcement come, that the Waikato is part of a group moving to a more restricted Alert level, we will contact you as quickly as possible, to keep you informed of our plan to maintain the progress of your son academically.

It is a critically important time of year, as senior classes begin the preparation for both internal prelim examinations, and the end of year NCEA exams in November. For our Junior school, this is the term where students are working hard to develop the knowledge and understanding required to carry them successfully through into their next year of study.

Whatever the weeks ahead bring, we must work together to provide every opportunity for your son to reach his potential academically. We must also recognise, and accept, that the year has been one of continued disruption and instability, and that a settled, stable world is a critical need for the happiness and wellbeing of the young men in our care. As it is for us all! So, our task in the weeks ahead must be to maintain a sense of calm, whatever the days and weeks bring.

We must recognise the truth, which I have discussed at Assemblies this term, of “the Stockdale paradox”, in the wonderful book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Stockdale was a former naval officer and vice-presidential candidate. Serving as a high-ranking officer during the Vietnam War, he was held as a prisoner of war for over seven years. While in captivity, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured, suffered constantly and had little reason to believe he’d make it out alive.

Ultimately, what saved Stockdale’s life was his ability to process the reality of his situation, while balancing that realism with a steadfast belief that he would survive and return home.

Years later, when Collins interviewed Stockdale while researching Good to Great, Stockdale shared that he had decided while in captivity that he would turn the ordeal into “the defining event of his life that in retrospect he would not trade.”

This led Collins to ask who struggled the most with the mental burden of imprisonment. Stockdale replied “Oh, it’s easy. I can tell you who didn’t make it out. It was the optimists.”

When Collins expressed surprise at his answer, Stockdale continued: “They were the ones who always said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ Christmas would come and it would go. And there would be another Christmas. And they died of a broken heart. They gave up their goal.”

Collins’ wrote of the Stockdale paradox, that those who succeed in times of stress and crisis, are those who are able to stoically accept the brutal facts of reality, while, on the other hand, maintaining an unwavering faith in the end goal, and a commitment to prevail, despite what seems to be an enormous challenge.

We must take this perspective as a school, and as individuals, during this stressful time.

Whatever happens in the days and weeks ahead, we must remain both positive and realistic. We must make every effort to comply with the requirements of the alert level we find ourselves a part of, and we must commit to ensuring that the school of 2020 has a successful, rewarding year, despite the setbacks we are facing.

Thank you all for your very real contribution to our world, and for your very real support for your sons. My very best wishes for the days ahead.

Susan Hassall