Dear Parents,

It has been almost three weeks since many of us were together for Founder’s and what a lovely weekend that was. The school is always an exciting place when the boys are here but there is something very special when the village becomes a town for three days. Thank you to all parents who came to visit their sons, to see what they do and are capable of and to enjoy the company of all the other members of the Dosco family. It was wonderful to see, amongst the various shirts that the Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilee batches had made, that there were some Proud Parent shirts too. It was a particular delight to have Ram Guha, our chief guest, present for the whole weekend. He was able to participate in so many things and gave so much to the boys; he enjoyed the visit as much as we did. Ramchandra Guha's speech is available here on our YouTube channel.
For the last six days, we have been deep into the admissions interviews for next year’s intake of D and C Formers. The interviews are enjoyable, not least because they are a group activity for the boys who come. Mr. Burrett, Mr. Nair and I meet the candidates in groups of four and try to facilitate conversations with them that moves from the things that they do in school to their view of the world and those in it. We give them tasks to do and solve individually and then as a team. We also provide them with the opportunity to ask us the questions that are important to them. Sometimes we would love to offer all four boys a place at school and sometimes the opposite happens, but what we hope is that the whole exercise is something that they can all enjoy and all learn something from. In the next five days we travel to Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai to complete the outstation interviews as well as meet up with the DSOBS members in those cities. On 5th November we will stop off in Delhi to join the DSOBS WGS celebration of the WGS Diamond Jubilee with our previous and new Chairman; perhaps I will see some of you there.
November is traditionally a month where the S Form interest in student leadership reaches its zenith. In the last two weeks of the month, we will continue their leadership development by running workshops with those who believe that they are suitable candidates for the posts of Prefect, House Captain and School Captain. Just as we did last year, we will use the workshops to help them create their application portfolio and to plan the orientation of the new D and C Formers into school in April 2018. We will be exploring all of the complexities, grey areas and hardships of leadership and helping them to recognize that leadership isn’t for everyone. Come January, when we have the next student leaders appointed, we will be making their letters of application public in the houses because they will outline their aspirations and how they hope to achieve them. This helps them to remain accountable to the boys whose quality of life they influence and it makes it easier for the community to check that their role-modeling is working.
I do worry about some aspects of our culture of leadership and am aware that we need to do all we can to meet the expectations and norms of the 21st century rather than look back. Just as the ISC Commerce syllabus stops with Maslow when it comes to motivation theory, the seniors seem to be stuck on Skinner and Behaviourism when it comes to guiding the juniors; the school as an institution has enabled this. I found myself having a conversation with some German visitors last week about the student leadership and they asked whether it was true that in school, we allow boys to punish other boys. As I listened to myself answering the question I could feel the absurdity of it and their astonishment and horror creeping over me. The same happened to colleagues when travelling to an international conference recently and the topic of student leadership came up; the reaction from the other participants bowled them over and shut down the conversation. Culture acts to preserve itself; this is both a strength and a weakness and has led to the ascension and decline of many civilizations, organisations and companies over the years. As I said at Founders, there are some changes that will take time, but we will keep working towards these changes because the success and continuous improvement of the school depends on it. It is also the right thing to do.
November is also traditionally the month when the SC Form begin to unravel in terms of their discipline; their appearance, the way they treat their rooms, their peers and others in the school. They stay up later to get the things that they need to do, done… college applications, internal assessment and admissions test revision, and then they wake up too late to do the things that they are actually here for. When they feel stressed they start doing things to relieve the pressure that are not always constructive or healthy in a bid to get the dopamine kick that makes them feel happy. This leads to problems that have inevitable consequences that they don’t like but it requires more effort than some of them are prepared to give to overcome the desire for instant gratification. They give up the things that help them the most, routine, regular meals and exercise, in order to focus on things that they then become less effective at. We saw this and its effect on the form last year and I have seen it for 22 years in 7 other schools around the world; it is, unfortunately, normal.

I met with all of the SC Form and their Housemasters on Monday evening for 15 minutes just to make them aware of this pattern, a little pre-emptive counseling, if you will. I shared with them some of the choices, actions and consequences of the Batch of 2017 that led to regret and disappointment in some cases and to removal from school in others; the things to avoid. I also shared the successes and the patterns of behaviour of those who remained role models until the end, the boys who stuck to their mission rather than lost their way. Being aware, as with so many things, is half of the battle… which is why I am sharing this. I also have a son in SC Form who is away at school and I know that he needs my support now more than he has done for the last four years. Particularly over the upcoming long winter break, be sure that you are close to your sons, supporting (but not smothering), nurturing (but not nagging) and encouraging (but not enabling) them. This is the final leg of our journey as parents until they start bringing home our grandchildren; it is not only their race and we must do all we can to be there for them.
One concession to upkeep of appearances that we are giving this month is shaving, but here too it is about creating awareness. ‘No Shave November’ has become a month around the world where men raise awareness amongst their fraternity about men’s health. Men are very bad at talking about some things and the progress that women have made over the years in talking about and protecting themselves from breast and cervical cancers is streets ahead of what men are doing when it comes to two very male cancers; testicular and prostate.

Testicular Cancer is a young man’s disease, just as depression and suicide have become in many parts of the world, and whilst some of our Doscos will be lucky enough to go through life free from them, I am sure that one of these cancers will affect people that they know. My best friend at school lost a testicle to cancer when he was 19, my brother-in-law, a successful and well educated pharmacist, committed suicide in his early 30s after years of battling mental health issues, my father is not on good terms with his prostate and I know that I worry about the collective health of 578 children here and three of my own.‘No Shave November’ is about getting the conversation going through doing something that is also very male; facial hair. During the month Dr. Lanka will be arranging some interactive sessions for groups of boys, our Psychology students will be measuring awareness around the city, some of the Global Perspectives students are focusing their project work on men’s health and our social media team, in partnership with the DSOBS, will be playing their part to spread the word. Of course, we love competition here as much as the next public school so there is a golden bottle of beard oil and a beautiful neem wood beard comb for the young man with the most beautifully decorated chin come the end of the month. Our aim is to become the face of men’s health in Dehradun, and beyond.
We were joined today by Arun Bhatt in the Mathematics Dept. Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry teachers are, the world over, a difficult thing to find. Even though we get more applicants per job at this school than I or any Head I know has ever heard of, we still need to make sure that we recruit the right person. As with all of our teaching candidates, after a screening and Skype interview by the HoD and Deputy Head Academic, we invite them to school and watch them teach two lessons. Following that, we give them a feedback session and an interview. We are not just looking for academic qualifications (surprisingly unimportant when it comes to student learning) and experience (which can be good experience or one year repeated 15 times). We are looking for reflective teaching, a connection with the boys in the room, the ability to see what went well and what didn’t and a willingness to engage in a conversation about one’s own improvement. I visited the Purkal Youth Development Society in Dehradun last week, one of the most remarkable schools I have ever seen and over the staffroom door was this sign; it is a belief I share and one I look for in the people I work for.
As the week goes on we have training and competitions for athletics, racquet sports and the house march-past. The rest of the C Form joined me for dinner and games in the garden last night, the classrooms are alive with teaching and learning, TEDxYouth@TheDoonSchool takes place this weekend and we look forward to welcoming many schools to the Chuckerbutty Debates the following weekend. With all of this going on, I am glad that we also have our Yoga and Mindfulness instructors at hand to help us maintain our balance.
Have a good few weeks ahead and please, if you have anything to share with me, do write to I am particularly keen to see your participation in ‘No Shave November’; spread the word, raise awareness and post your pictures on our Facebook page.


Matthew Raggett
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