18 June 2018

Much has been written about boys' education. Sometimes I believe the rhetoric contributes to over complication and complexity when it comes to what works with boys. I have no doubt the ability to complicate and create mystique allows some to purport that they hold the magical key with which all secrets about educating boys will be unlocked before our very eyes.

The key to successfully educating boys in my opinion is not that complicated. Firstly, employ staff that care about each boy and have the capacity to develop meaningful professional and personal connections. Secondly, ensure behavioural expectations are clear and that the boys know where the line in the sand is drawn and that it is not a line that moves. Thirdly, create an environment that promotes a healthy culture; a culture that is founded upon core values and in the case of Scotch this means we must reflect integrity, service and stewardship in all that we do and offer.

As a college that enrols boys from Years 1 to 12, and hopefully in the not too distant future K-12, there is another construct that can give real meaning to young boys. The construct to which I refer is aspirational leadership. Creating a culture of aspiration engenders a sense of hope and excitement in each boy as they look to the future.

Over the last two weeks aspirational leadership has been clearly evident across our College. Our Senior Leaders addressed a recent assembly to promote the concept of being the best you can be, not a better version of someone else. Just last Friday at our Junior School assembly I watched the depth of what I will call a "WOW" factor in our young boys as they watched in awe at Stuart McCowan a Year 12 student, demonstrated what it means to be one of Western Australia's finest young Jazz pianists. Finally, last Saturday we held the annual Year 12 Ball. Without the help of the student and parent volunteers the evening simply would not be as successful. The cycle of younger boys working on major events is in itself an opportunity to develop aspiration in each boy as they journey through Scotch.

Last Friday I attended the 50th Year anniversary of my own school. As we reminisced and looked at the two buildings that we had in 1978, we recalled how the quadrangle assemblies represented a journey from Year 7 until you got to stand at the back as a Year 12. While reaching the end was great, I believe it was in fact the aspirational journey that meant far more than the final destination.

In closing I would like to highlight one other factor that I believe is essential in the teaching of boys, that is, the use of meaningful stories to impart understanding. Every school tries to impart messages to their students in an attempt to shape their character and develop a sense of deep moral purpose. Sometimes our own staff imparts these stories and at other times we engage experts from the wider community.

One such expert who has made a special contribution to our community is Celia Lashlie. It was with great sadness that we heard of her sudden passing last week. Celia's book title 'He'll be OK:Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men' says it all for me. This is our job as educators and in partnership with families and the wider community we must stay focused on keeping this goal at the heart of all we do.

Watching the way our Year 12s arrived at their Ball provided me with great solace that they are on the right journey. The way they looked, how they introduced their partners and the care they showed for each other as well as their deep sense of joy and fun was affirmation they are on the right track.

I think it is fitting that I leave you with one of Celia's lucid messages that for me highlights the importance of providing aspirational experiences and encourage those who have not yet read her book to consider locating a copy. In speaking about adolescent boys Celia points out that:

'He didn't come to fulfill your dreams. He came to find his own. Fathers, you need to walk with him.'

May Celia rest in peace and the legacy she has left us remind us about the vital role we must all play in growing gorgeous boys into good men.

He'll be ok

Dr A J O'Connell