By Tim Bowden, Head Master, Trinity Grammar School
This year the Houses in the Secondary School stood in a different location for the morning Quadrangle Assembly. I imagine that those words will have a different impact on different members of the community. Comments I have heard have ranged from ‘So what?’, through ‘This is weird!’, through to ‘I stood there, and my father stood there before me.’
In our Secondary School, each morning begins with a brief, ideally five-minute assembly in the main school Quadrangle. The students stand around the periphery of the Quad, grouped into their Houses. It seems to me that the assembly is an excellent tradition, allowing for the setting of culture and tone, ensuring that boys start each day in contact with those who care for them pastorally, providing a context in which the students identify with their House, and various other benefits.
This morning assembly, or a variant of it, has been a Trinity Grammar tradition for a very long time, dating back before the Headship of James Wilson Hogg. The locations in which the Houses have been positioned is also longstanding.
In a change to the norm, at the start of this semester each House shifted clockwise around the Quad by three places. The Houses will stay in this new location for a semester, and then shift another three places. I anticipate the rotation continuing, so that through a boy’s time in the Secondary School, he will have progressed through a dozen House stations.
While this modification to the morning routine may appear insignificant, it benefits our students by teaching them valuable lessons and coping skills that they will carry with them in life beyond school. Here are three reasons why we should embrace change.
The first reason for the change is equity. If a particular practice is unfair to some, then change should be made to address the imbalance. The reality is that various locations in the Quad have advantages and disadvantages. Some experience uncomfortable heat and glare, others are deep in shade, some stand in a wind tunnel, and others are protected. Some Houses are a very long way away from the lectern, some stand behind the lectern, and others cannot see the lectern because of foliage. The basic principle of equity suggests that advantages and disadvantages should be shared.
The second reason for the change is perspective. We see things differently when we experience a different way of doing things. On a basic level, standing in a different position at assembly may be as simple as appreciating a different aspect of the beauty of our Quad. However, the point is far deeper than just changing the viewing angles. Our boys do well as they learn to see things from another person’s perspective. The longer you spend in your own place, the less you notice and the more you habituate. A perspective change disturbs us, but is actually good for us. The symbolism of changing perspective is one that we will return to in the education of our boys.
The third reason for the change is the reality of change. Paradoxically, change is a constant in life. It will not always be something that we look for, or want, or welcome. It will not always be something that we agree with, or support. It will, however, keep on happening. It is a good thing to experience change, and to learn how to get through it.
The change of this particular tradition of our School is not an overthrowing of tradition for its own sake, nor is it one of great moment in the life of the School. The reality is that the rotation of the Houses will become the new normal. ‘Normal’, in this context, is simply another way of saying ‘what I am used to’.
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