25 May New vision
New Woodstock Principal Dr Jonathan Long urged the community to “seek truth, appreciate beauty and respect difference” during his keynote speech at the staff pre-semester retreat last week. Dr Long, who comes to Woodstock after three years as Principal of UWC Mahindra College in Pune, encouraged staff to be a “credible community which practises what it preaches” and one in which the life of the community and its values are based on the teachings of Christ.
He committed to working tirelessly to help create a “kind, caring and collaborative community”, but acknowledged this would at times involve “healthy disagreement as a sign of progress”. Dr Long said Woodstock staff were “in the business of soul making” and that staff should see themselves as workers, not master builders. “Describing what he defined as “The Parable of Education”, Dr Long said we plant seeds that may one day grow. In fact, “the most valuable results of a good teacher’s work may only appear long after a student has graduated”
Education is a way of soul making , he added, but today is often treated as a commodity. He said he valued the visible results of a good education such as good examination results and a successful career, but stressed what was more important were invisible aspects such as what students believe; “What they think of as good or bad, whether they have clear values and the determination to live by them”.
The essence of an education lay in the ability “to know what it is to be truly and intensely alive, to seek the truth through honest thinking and careful research”, to respect difference and to discover the power of love, Dr Long said. He urged staff members to learn how to live with ambiguity and display gentleness and vulnerability in their relationships with young people, stressing this would not lead to an easy life and would sometimes mean taking the hard road.
Dr Long is joined at Woodstock with his wife Sue who will work as a teacher in the learning assistance department in the senior school. He has a wealth of experience in education and has previously been Principal of Aiglon College in Switzerland, and Associate Director of Columba 1400, a charity working with disadvantaged children on the island of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. He was also chaplain, houseparent and head of department at the Dragon School in Oxford in the UK.
Dr Long paid tribute to the “outstanding work” of his predecessor, interim Principal Dr Eleanor Nicholson, who is expected to be the next President of the Woodstock School board of directors.