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“Who is the greatest”?

The reading in Muster last week posed the question, “Who is the greatest?” In a school like ours, high expectations can be misinterpreted, giving the impression that the School aspires exclusively for high achievement or high performance. But this would be, as I stated, a misinterpretation. What is helpful about the reading from the Gospel according to Mark is its clarification to our students that – by being the ‘greatest’ – they are not aiming to be better than others, but to do more for others.

I asked the students in Muster to reflect on how often they consider the ‘greatest’ to be someone who is the greatest ‘servant’, as the reading suggests – a fitting concept in this week of remembrance. Do we more often consider the ‘greatest’ to be someone who, for example, achieves the highest grade or scores the most runs? Indeed, in sporting terms, Mark is encouraging us to not aim to be the best player on the team, but to be the best player for the team. There is a big difference and, for some of our boys this will be a revelation. I invited each of the students in Muster to consider how this might translate to their world; what being the ‘greatest’ according to St Mark might look like in their rowing crew or music ensemble or Science lesson. Do they consciously and actively enhance the experience, wellbeing and performance of others?

It was fortunate that our Year Six students were present at last week’s Senior School Muster, not just to hear the reading, but also to hear about the outstanding acts of service of some of our senior students, such as Daniel Spiby and Laurence Williams, both recipients of Colours for Service. I highlighted that this is what we are expecting of all of our students – not to be their best in terms of points or performance, but to strive for greatness in the positive influence they have on others, and the positive impact they make on our culture more broadly.

It is important to clarify that when we refer to culture in a school, we are actually referring to how people interact with each other. When you consider culture in this way, it is not as ethereal or intangible as many people think. When you move around the School, you can see culture and, in particular, you can hear it. In this regard, I would argue that the biggest driver of any culture – whether it is the workplace, our school or this nation – is language. What we say to each other – and how we say it – matters. We should all consider the capacity of our words to hurt or heal, and I encouraged the students to reflect on this in every school setting, from the classroom to the cricket nets to the changing rooms.

I am confident that we have successfully moved the needle in a positive direction on the dashboard of culture over the past few years – with a team effort. The combination of Joey Fitzgerald’s solo performance in Memorial Hall yesterday, along with the adulatory response he received from his peers, is a worthy reflection of progress. But we will continue, in particular, to care deeply about what students say to each other and how they say it. And we will continue to care equally about the content and tone of the communication from home to school. The nature of our interactions will always determine our culture and each and every one of us play a part in this.

I look forward to supporting your son in the remaining weeks of the 2022 School Year.

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster / Head of Senior School