Dear Parents,
It’s already February and it feels like we have been back for a month, rather than the two weeks of reality.
You might remember that the staff had a two day workshop before the boys returned, with an outside facilitator by the name of
Terry Small. His session was described by some of my colleagues as the best piece of professional development they have had in their time here… and some have been here for many years. We learned so much together and it was full of actionable tools and techniques we could include in our classes. He demonstrated beautifully what he taught and showed us how easily distracted we are sometimes, even when we think we are paying attention. He helped us see some of the ways that we can become better at influencing the students to learn what we are trying to teach them and left us with a great deal of energy as well as things to think about.
We started the first week with the election of our School Captain which saw everyone in the school putting their mark against one of three names that had come up from the Housemaster’s Council. Nandil, the new School Captain from T House, the House Captains and the Prefects were announced in an assembly later that day. In the run up to their application and nomination for this leadership role, the S Form have participated in a couple of workshops and tasks to help them reflect on their suitability for it. Leadership is service and serving your house and the school requires a great degree of self-management, discipline and integrity; it is not something that is for everyone.
On the evening of the first day back at school, I gathered the SC Form and the Masters to remind them of the shared responsibility we have this term to help each other meet our expectations and to achieve what we predict the boys should be achieving in their final exams. The point of having the conversation together was that we are in this together, and that the consequence of not meeting expectations this year will also be something that we have to share. We need to be fulfilling our collective potential and doing everything to support one another; we know it can be done because we have the evidence from the results earlier in the year. The pre-boards finish this week with everyone having had the chance to experience the nature of the exams. The feedback will quickly be in the hands of the students so that they can turn it from advice into improvement.
Our counsellor, Udayan Philip, gave the Housemasters’ Council, Dames, Doctor and Educational Leadership Team a school mental health update where the broad themes and trends from the last term were shared. Counselling is a confidential business unless there is a danger of harm to self or others, so the sharing of the mental health weather reading is a valuable exercise. It helps those of us who are responsible for the boys’ wellbeing, understand something of the stressors and pressures on them. Udayan will be joined by another counsellor in April and until then he remains the person available to the boys whenever they need him. Oh, and he has recently been made the assistant coach for India in the sport of
Ultimate Frisbee; another multi-talented master.
Udayan Philip, Counsellor, The Doon School
Assistant Coach, India, Ultimate Frisbee
We had a team from Deloitte’s education vertical here last week helping us draft and pilot the questionnaires that we will be sending out to the community as part of the development planning process. We tried out the student and staff questionnaires and will take the learning about how the questions were read and understood to improve the questions for the parents, alumni and IPSS members.
I don’t get to do very much formal teaching these days, other than a single Theory of Knowledge class with the S Form IB students, so it was a real pleasure to take  some of the D Form Life Skills classes last week. We watched the
Gillette ‘The best a man can get’ ad and followed the story of the world’s reaction to it. This brought up a lot of thoughtful discussion about the way that boys learn what is expected of them as men, how they treat each other and what is acceptable behaviour.  They were able to identify some of the patterns of behaviour in school that were reflected in the ad and explored how conforming to an assumed view of masculinity has the effect of turning boys in to people that they don’t recognise. We noticed that the video has far more dislikes than likes and the comments and some of the media reactions have been extremely unsupportive of a company setting out to make a relevant social comment. Companies have always been tapping in to the mood of society and this is no exception. Now we are thinking about how we as a school could contribute more widely to the discussion on toxic masculinity. Something that the boys committed to was remaining themselves for as long as they can, in order to become happier and more authentic.
We do a lot of things in school for individual forms, but very rarely do we do a workshop that includes two or more forms. In talking about some of the issues that arise in school and the houses, we realised that we need to do more to help the D Form make the transition into the main houses as new C Formers in April. Part of helping this process run smoothly is making sure that the older boys in the house have an existing relationship with them; it is easier to help someone and support them when you know them. So over the last ten days the S Form and D Form from each house have had a workshop together with the aim of getting to know each other better, grow approachability and increase empathy. Based on a speed-dating model, each S Former had three minutes with every D Former in which they had to share answers to the questions that were pulled out of a hat. What started with a little awkwardness, soon became something that was a pleasure to watch as they shared stories and memories and grew a little closer.
Republic Day, we raised the flag above the main building and spent the rest of the day doing things that were (mostly) of our choosing. That was lovely.
The first Sunday saw a Boys vs. Masters cricket match in the morning as well as brunch… .the boys thoroughly won. The following Sunday our boys played the Purohit Cricket Academy from the city and got to play a better side; isn’t it the case that the best way to improve is to be pushed by someone better.
An assembly talk by Aryan Bhattacharya last week reminded us of some of the things that it means to be a family and a Dosco. His message, that I hope the wider community will get to see in print, received a standing ovation from boys and masters alike.
Over the past weekend, the Housemasters, Deputy Head Pastoral and a few other teachers, spent the weekend at the Maldevta Farms camp site for an offsite with the prefects.  The purpose was to help them explore the ways in which they can grow their influence without having to resort to exercising power as well as how they should respond when things aren’t going right. For the last three years we have taken the new group away and explored the nature and the challenges of leadership with them as an investment of time and energy that we will follow up with during the course of the year. The focus was very much on helping them understand that their responsibility is to help us create the environment in which things continue to improve for every boy in the school and for every house in terms of wellbeing, participation and achievement. There was so much learning, and not just theirs. We all learned so much from each other and even colleagues who have worked together for almost 20 years, gained new insights into one another.
I’m delighted to say that we were able to run this weekend using the skills and the experience of our own team members and didn’t need to resort to outside facilitators. I feel particularly hopeful about the way in which this team is going to work with their houses; my trust in and respect for them grew enormously over the weekend. As part of learning more about their day-to-day issues and as an opportunity to coach them and the housemasters, I have begun visiting the houses on a 10 day rotational basis. When I am in school, I visit three houses a week, meeting the team of Housemaster, Assistant Housemaster, Dame, House Captain, Prefects and House Council Secretary in each house.
I will close now with an update to the draft calendar that we shared last year. Founders Break will be a long weekend this year, as it was for 79 years until 2017. We are finding it difficult to meet some of the minimum requirements of teaching time for the programmes that we teach. The month of October is one where unfortunately, a lot of academic progress is lost. There will be a class free week for the boys and the masters ahead of Founders to help reduce the time and rehearsal creep that was beginning to take place in the run up to get things done ahead of the Founders weekend.  
I should also share that we will begin using a new School Information Management System (Educational ERP) in April that will replace SIMS. It has been five years that we have been using the current system and our experience with it has convinced us of the need to change. The new system is called Greycells and log in details will arrive for it in due course.

Matthew Raggett
The Doon School
Mall Road
Dehradun-248 001
Uttarakhand (India)