Dear All,
It has been three weeks since our new D and C Form students joined the school, which must mean that this will be their first outing weekend and your chance to reconnect with them other than over the phone. I have met the boys twice in the last week to find out from them how the school year has started and to get them to write a letter to their future selves that they will next read on the day they graduate from school in March 2025 (or 2024 for the C Form). It's too easy to think that you have always been that articulate and clever when you are 18, and reconnecting with your 11 or 12 year old self is a wonderful reminder of where you started.
Walking around the classrooms I can see that our new students are engaged, enthusiastic and working together with their teachers. This is what we were hoping for when we chose them to come to school and it is important that we do all we can to preserve the joy and excitement they bring with them for as long as possible; losing it gets in the way of learning. Walking around I can also see that the school after lunch that the students are complaining about, is also the school with amongst the highest engagement and energy; we will keep checking the evidence on that.
It feels like a distant memory now, but the first thing we did together after starting the new school year was to head for the hills for hills to climb! For many, this was the first midterm in which they had encountered snow (as could be seen from their choice of footwear). Almost all of the 560 boys and 74 masters spread themselves over Himachal and Uttarakhand to experience and challenge nature, as well as enjoy some simple living together. Some of us were joined by students from the Royal Academy, Bhutan for this adventure. Through them we got to know not only something of their culture and lives, but also how we and India are seen through the eyes of our neighbours. I was able to get up to the base of Bedni Bugyal with most of the A Form from Tata House while the students from Bhutan and three of the boys made it to the top of the meadow in very snowy conditions. My wife, Lindsay, along with Arjun Bartwal and Anupama Joshi, went with the girls from Bhutan and three of our own up to a frozen Dodital the highlight of her time here.
One group went to a maths competition in Spain organised by the International Schools Mathematics Teacher Foundation; a more academic midterm. There were a total of 183 students in 61 teams from more than 20 countries participating in the event. In the end our team finished joint 6th in the tournament along with the students of International School of Zug and Luzern. In the Sunday Chase, which was a kind of treasure hunt event, Harsh T. stood first in the mathematics problem-solving category.
We also hosted a Round Square service project for which we were joined by student and teacher groups from Modern School, Barakhamba, New Delhi, Daly College, Hyderabad Public School, Scindia School and Vidya Devi Jindal School, Hisar. The teams lived and worked together for the duration of the project, which was their midterm. It was lovely to see Chandra Deo Narayan, a Dosco who is now teaching at Daly College Indore after a stint in the commercial world, accompanying his team and catching up with some of his masters (and the Head of Daly College used to teach here).
Some midterm groups also went to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering as part of their skill development in trekking, alpinism and mountaineering; part of our curriculum for adventure and outdoor education. The conditions and the treks that they will encounter later on in their time here require more than just the act of facing them to be prepared; they need teaching from experts in the field. While many of our teachers are experienced in the hills and some are indeed experts, more of us are still learning. We have realised that our boys learn more through these experiences when accompanied by a skilled and experienced facilitator and it is our aspiration that this is what our masters should be; they are learning too.
Private midterms have traditionally been a highlight of the midterm experience, but from the perspective of both safety and learning, we are moving towards a model where the accompanying adult is helping the group work through their problems and get as much out of the experience as possible. Through tales of yesteryear as well as repeated recent examples of not sticking to plans and making poor decisions about what is acceptable on a school trip, which is still school, we have become more sure of this model. Following this midterm we have had to ask two students to leave the school and suspend seven others because of their choices that put themselves and others at risk. I think that everyone in the community knows how prepared we are to help people struggling with anything and that we will give anyone a second chance unless there is the likelihood of harm to self or others. However, when it comes to having responsibility taken away from us by a hedonistic desire to do or try whatever one feels they can get away with, or when others and the School are put in harms way, we will draw the line.
Once everyone was back from midterm and had had a couple of baths we were able to start the new academic year. New teachers for some, new courses for others. Learning the timetable, the rooms and the routines always takes some time, especially for the new boys. The room that I teach in used to be MAT2, now it's HIN5; what a challenge that was to get our heads around, but I must confess to preferring the location and the feel of the room. Fortunately the boys didn't change, they just moved from S to SC Form, so I did not have a new set of names to learn; D Form and the new C Form boys are enough!
Last weekend we had 45 school principals and pastoral care leaders join us and some friends from IIT Delhi's Institute of Management for a day of reflection on Values Education. We also shared some of the things that we are worrying about at the moment in our schools, particularly when it comes to students choices and behaviour. The teenage hedonism that I mentioned earlier is something that we all have to deal with, as in a sense of entitlement for some and a lack of worth for others that helps to create a context based rather than universal set of values to live by. Part of the work that we need to be doing more of through our tutorial programme and our Lifeskills course, is helping our boys explore the dilemmas and temptations of the modern world and practice making good decisions when we find ourselves in new and ambiguous situations. Harvard Graduate School of Education has done a lot of research on the choices that teenagers make and has learned that unless they are given the opportunity to make these choices and talk them through with a mentor, they will find it very difficult to make good choices even if they know what they should do. The outcome of the research is something called the Good Work Project that I am reading at the moment. It explores what it looks like when excellence meets ethics in the fields of work and engagement.
Last Saturday evening saw the first leg of the S. K. Vora Cricket match played at the Abhimanyu Cricket Academy located at the edge of town. This venue offers the opportunity to play under floodlights, something that we don't get to do very often. The DSOBS team traveled not only from all over India, but also from around the world, with a younger member of the team coming in from London. The match was won by the School team by 3 wickets. The day-time follow up on Sunday was won by the DSOBS team on the last ball of the match, with the boys needing 4 more runs to draw.
Last Sunday we also held the 10th edition of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope. Joined by 2500 students, teachers and community members from Dehradun we started from the main field at 7:00am. Brig. Jaggi, a decorated paratrooper, and himself an amputee, motivated the participants and flagged us off for the 5km run/walk around the cantonment. Some got back very fast, others managed to walk back just in time for breakfast. One thing that we did do as a school was make sure that the cantonment was cleaner after the event than before; something that an enthusiastic group of bag-carrying volunteers made sure of.
This week we held the Checkpoint Tests for the B Form students at the start of the two year programme of study leading to the Cambridge IGCSEs at the end of A Form. These are benchmarking tests that allow us to look at the value we are adding between the start of B and the end of A Form. The tests are in English, Mathematics and Science (a mixture of Biology, Chemistry and Physics). The results for these come in June and are used to help identify any gaps in our teaching and preparation for D and C Form students.
Our new Chemistry labs are almost ready to be used. They have been a long time in the planning, sourcing the best furniture and surfaces to work with and then designing them to be good spaces for teaching and learning. We tried to do as much as we could with local and Indian companies, but the prevailing view of what a school science laboratory looks like and how it is used is out of sync with the way we need to be working, so getting what we wanted here was more difficult than expected. The Campus Development Committee, architect and the Science Department have worked to give us what I think are going to be the best school laboratories in the country.
(Before and after renovation photos of the Chemistry Lab)

One invisible but noticeable improvement in the classrooms and houses is the doubling of the school's bandwidth to 310 MBPS. Our IT Committee has brought in a parallel provider to ensure that if there are any problems with one network that we are backed up by another; these little improvements all add up to make the quality of experience here as good as it can be.
This week's visiting speakers came from Youth for Human Rights India, an organisation based in Lucknow that travels to schools around the country raising awareness of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As well as talking the boys through the rights that we all have as equals on this planet, one of the videos that they showed was very good at giving the background to the Declaration. Ashok Kumar, the DG (Law and Order) for Uttarakhand was our guest for the event, who added some elements from the very real world of policing and enforcing the rights of people. As well as being a Police Officer, Ashok is a writer and one of his books is called Human in Khaki; stories of people oriented policing. Being human and putting others first, is something that he lives by and I have been lucky enough to get to know him over the last three years in Dehradun.
For the last two weeks Lindsay and I have had the boys over for dinner at home, last week the A Form, this week it's B Form. We invite 50 at a time with of their tutors and they come at their regular dinner time, but instead of eating right away we play some games in the garden and eat a little later. Some of you might know the game of croquet, but viking chess (Kubb), mölkky and slacklining might be new to you. Next week there will be a pause as we travel to Delhi, Coimbatore and Vizag to meet prospective parents and some of the Indian Navy representatives. The following week it will be our C Form coming to dinner. In the meantime the SC Form have had socials with our friends from WGS and, for the first time (now that a former master is the vice-principal) with Unison World School.
 Having PTMs close to the start of the year allows us to share and talk about the approach to learning that we are seeing in your boys and what we think they can do to keep improving. Attitude, approach and engagement are such key ingredients when it comes to success in school and I am happy we could address them.

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