Aligning actions with our values
I’d like to share with you an excerpt of the speech I delivered at this week’s Back to School Service:
The Back to School Service is our acknowledgement of the promise of the new school year. It is also a chance for our community to celebrate the contributions of extraordinary staff members and students who do so much to enhance the School.
This morning we will recognise Shichvat Aviv, the wonderful Class of 2023, and as a middle and senior school we will publicly wish them b’hatzlacha for this important year.
When I was growing up there was a popular genre of films that was set in high schools. They were usually goofy romantic comedies that encouraged the hero, who was usually male, to overcome issues of bullying, nasty teachers and some sporting challenges, to win popularity and the affection of a particular girl.
There was a lot wrong with these films. The characters tended to be reduced to stereotypes – dumb jocks, shallow popular girls and nerds. They were very sexist in the way that they presented the female lead as a prize to be won by the hero. In some of them he would only realise that she was beautiful enough to draw his attention when she took her glasses off and let her hair out.
They also presented teachers as totally power hungry and boring individuals who were disinterested in the progress of the students.
Thankfully, KDS is nothing like what I grew up on in Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, The Karate Kid and all these other films.
We promote a culture of egalitarianism and inclusivity where cliques are discouraged and students are supported to be themselves. Our teachers are human and humane and are keen to establish meaningful and mutual relationships with our students.
That said, there is something about the character’s journey in each of these films that I think we can learn from. Whether it’s Marty McFly, Scott Howard or Daniel San, the main obstacle the characters have to overcome is generally their own behaviour. Each of them need to quit trying to be someone else and instead need to live according to the values that they hold. They learn that from treating those around them with respect and from being authentic they can achieve great things. It is through acting with integrity that they can fight their way back from 1955, tame their wolf instincts and internalise ancient wisdom to win the karate contest.
So too for us, the start of the school year is an opportunity to make changes to how we behave and the authenticity with which our actions align with our values. This is the basis of integrity.
I’m reminded of a story that I read online. It is set in a small village where the baker buys a kilo of butter every day from the dairy farmer, in order to make bread.
This has been going on for years, until one day, the baker decides to weigh the butter and is outraged when they realise that it weighs less than a kilo. The baker cannot believe that the farmer has been cheating and immediately goes to the court house where they launch legal proceedings against the farmer
The farmer is summoned to appear before the town judge and is questioned as to why they are providing less than a kilo.
The farmer responds – “Your honour, I am just a poor farmer and I have no means to weigh my produce except for a set of balance scales.” Every morning, I buy a one kilo loaf of bread from the baker and use this as the counterbalance to measure the right amount of butter to provide.”
The judge immediately realised that it was the baker who had not acted with integrity and dismissed the proceedings against the dairy farmer.
As this new school year begins I encourage each of you to do your best to reduce the gap between your values and your actions. Treating others the way you would like to be treated, giving the benefit of the doubt and trying to be the best version of ourselves are all things that we can commit to at this time.
I trust that you will embrace the values of our community to do what you can to help make the experience of those around you better. I hope that you recognise that each of us have enormous power in our small actions to make or break someone else’s day. I know that you will take this on board and do what you can to lift others up. This means helping to build the community that you wish to belong to.
I take the opportunity to wish us all well for the school year ahead. May we all have a wonderful year together.