The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Reflecting on my term in the Middle School

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." – Mahatma Gandhi

Why service? At Scotch we spend a lot of time talking with boys about service, we teach them how to serve and lead them through it.  But why do we do that?  Why do we invest so much time?

Service can impact on an individual's wellbeing. In the wellbeing context, service refers to "understanding, believing in and serving something greater than yourself, and deliberately engaging in activities for the benefit of others." (Norrish, Robinson & Williams 2011).

Last term while I was Acting Head of Middle School, I had the pleasure of listening to our Year 8 boys talk passionately about the culminating experience of three terms of work.  The Year 8 Community Project is designed around community service.  Each group of boys had to identify a need in the local, national or international community.  They had to consider ways to assist, communicate with that group or organization, then plan action or service that would make a real difference.

A broad range of groups were helped by the boys through their service.  The environment was a significant focus.  We had boys cleaning our beaches, parks and waterways.  Some targeted over-fishing while local pet sanctuaries were served by our boys.  Others worked to better the lives of refugees, the elderly and the homeless.  Some recycled bicycles for disadvantaged children, or developed an AFL training programme for remote schools or provided equipment to schools.  We had one group who built 25 Solar Buddy battery power lights for use in villages overseas that do not have electricity.  The creativity of service solutions the boys came up with, and the thoughtful reasons they chose their actions was amazing to witness.

In addition to the Community Project last term, I walked with the Year 7 boys as they engaged in fundraising to help people in disadvantaged countries get access to clean water.  The Year 7 Mathematics unit taught the boys about pledges and equations but also linked to other work in iLearn.  They learned about the challenging circumstance 800 million people around the world go through on their daily 6km walk to get water.  Water that is not always clean or safe to drink.  They have written up proposals for helping these same people to clean the water they must drink.  The Walk for Water raised money that will help some very needy people as well as raised the awareness of our boys of what they could do to make a difference.

"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." – Friedrich Nietzsche

So back to my original question, why service?  "A meaningful life consists of belonging to and serving something that we believe is bigger than ourselves." (Seligman 2011).  To find meaning we need to look for the positive difference we are making for others in our daily lives.  We want our students to understand this and seek to serve others as adults.  As teachers we are fortunate that what we do does make a difference for others, especially our students.  To work with our boys to help them see and experience the value of helping others is a special gift.

Reflecting on my term in the Middle School, I have seen the boys do so many wonderful things under the guidance of their talented teachers.  I have engaged with them in their classes and been greatly impressed by their commitment to their learning and to each other.  What has struck me the most is that we work with boys who want to, and who do make a difference.  In short, they are kind, caring boys who serve.  What a wonderful trait to have.

I wish to thank the staff and boys of the Middle School for making me feel so very welcome during Winter Term.  It has been a wonderful experience to learn alongside the boys and to witness first-hand the outstanding teaching and learning that happens in this special place.

Mr John Stewart
Acting Head of Middle School – Winter Term