21 Mar Happiness is the Truth
A group of parents were once asked, “If you could wish one thing for your child when they leave school, what would it be?” Their answers showed a remarkable degree of consensus – most parents wished that they could grant their children ‘happiness’. I’m sure this is a wish we can all agree with – that whatever our children end up doing with their lives and in whatever circumstances they find themselves, that they might be happy.
I don’t mean a glib or superficial happiness. I mean a deep sense of well-being, of wholeness, peace and purpose. This a fundamental goal of a Woodstock education.
Whenever I use the word ‘happiness’ as the goal of a Woodstock education I don’t mean a glib or superficial happiness. I mean a deep sense of well-being, of wholeness, peace and purpose. This a fundamental goal of a Woodstock education. There will be ups and downs along the way; there will sometimes be tears; sometimes setbacks – but this clear destination is always there on the horizon. A sailor friend once told me that he could endure any storm at sea as long as he knew he was still sailing towards a port!
Helping young people to discover the path to true well-being is as much a part of a Woodstock education as is academic success. We pay as much attention to the development of qualities of character, developing a sound moral compass and reliable personal values as we do to test scores and exam grades.
Aiming high and wide
We believe in pushing students academically – but we do not believe in ‘force-feeding’ them. We expect them to take charge of their own learning. As a result, our students do well academically and they aim high. In fact, we are proud of our results and university admissions records. But I’m sure you know this is not the school for those who are interested only in academic success, in test scores, exam grades and with university admissions to select colleges.
We are happy if students spend time exploring a wide range of interests inside and outside the classroom, engaging fully in the many opportunities we offer - even if that means not getting the highest possible set of grades.
This is not to say we are happy when a student gets a B grade if they were predicted an A grade. What we are saying is that rather than focusing only on the relentless pursuit of grades, we are happy if students spend time exploring a wide range of interests inside and outside the classroom, engaging fully in the many opportunities we offer – even if that means not getting the highest possible set of grades. We believe this broad focus is crucial for genuine, rounded success in life, for well-being and happiness.
Challenge and reward
This education includes structured challenges which can sometimes be uncomfortable. It includes hiking and camping in challenging mountain environments – which will involve periods of discomfort and hardship. It involves community engagement projects which include working and staying in conditions which will sometimes be uncomfortable and demanding. This education takes place in a community where personal choice and individual needs sometimes have to be sacrificed to the wellbeing of others. It involves learning to relate positively to a very diverse community of fellow students whose culture, beliefs, backgrounds, social position and preferences might be very different to one’s own.
In other words, to know what it is to be truly and intensely alive – and that, surely, must be the gift of happiness.
We prepare young people for exams and we equip them to earn a living — we do all these things with rigour, nurturing the potential and achievement of each individual. Yet, the education Woodstock offers is designed to go far beyond these goals, to develop the whole person and not just a part, to help each individual to become, in the words of our mission statement, “visionary, articulate and ethical — equipped to achieve their full potential in leadership and in life”. In other words, to know what it is to be truly and intensely alive – and that, surely, must be the gift of happiness.
Dr Jonathan Long, Principal