Awards Evening 2016

Executive Head’s Address at High School Awards Evening: 26 October 2016

Good evening to the Meridian Pinehurst school community: honoured guests, parents and guardians, staff and most importantly tonight – our learners.

It has been a privilege for me to have been part of this family since the beginning of the year. In planning a vision for the year I set out to focus on the growth of the school.  We can liken our school experience to a sequoia tree which is a kind of pine tree, and since our name ‘Pine – hurst’ means grove or wood of pine trees it is fitting.  In the US Giant redwoods form part of this family of coniferous trees. And they have some interesting features we can learn from: they are

  1. …very old – some are 3500 years.
  2. Their roots are interesting.
  3. The bark resists fire and other predators.
  4. Their cones/ seeds (seeds are kept inside the bark and are released during extreme heat )
  1. While we are not old, like the sequoias, we did have to start from somewhere: 

Every tree begins with a seed so I want to pay homage to the pioneers of Meridian schools: Dr Chris van der Merwe, Malcolm Law and the Old Mutual investors and especially our founding executive head, Mr Phil Snyman. It is not easy to envision a thriving community of love and learning such as ours when staring over the clay earth that was Pinehurst (a ‘hurst’ can also be a sandbank by the way) before building began. These men planted the seeds and saw the greatness we could aspire to.

  1. The sequoia roots are interesting in that they like all pines are quite shallow, but what makes them unique is their ability to entwine themselves with the roots of other trees. They can resist huge storms and many survive earthquakes, because they are connected to each other:

Because we are part of the Curro and Meridian network of schools we also have a grove or ‘hurst’ of support, technologically, professionally and in the curriculum. But for us, there is more. We are a grove of pines all together here in our family. Our job in management this year has been to strengthen those networks and their interdependency which makes us strong so we have focussed on nurturing our relationships among the staff, between ourselves and our parent body, and between parents too – PAC, and most importantly with and for our learners.

  1. The bark of the sequoia is unique in that it is both fire and insect resistant. And the trunk can continue to grow upwards even if the tree falls over.

At Pinehurst, in keeping with twenty-first century thinking, adversity helps us learn. Struggling with concepts is important for overcoming the learning pit we may sometimes fall into. So we teach how to cope with the difficult stuff rather than protect them from it. The prize winners tonight are proof of how a Pinehurst learner can withstand the annoying bites of insects like time constraints, obstacles to understanding and really tricky tests.

  1. It is significant that the bark of the sequoia releases the cones with the trees seeds only when it is exposed to extreme heat which shows that new growth happens when we are most tested. Just as the tree can continue to grow even when it has fallen over, so our young people are encouraged to see every failure, every falling short of the dream as an opportunity for a different creative approach and direction of learning.

We are launching our first matriculation class next year and this year, we have been scorching them and sometimes they have even fallen over, BUT they are our pioneers, bursting forth from the firey furnace of Grade 11. Like the seeds of the trees, they will bring new life here at Meridian, with the traditions that are being established.  But also in the world they enter in 2018, they are charged to be the creative energy of change and in the forest of our nation.

Large elderly redwoods tower over the younger saplings in a grove; yet still their canopies allow for light and water to reach the younger plants beneath the. Our new leaders who will be announced later will nurture their younger brothers and sisters and pass on the seed to the next generation of pines in our grove.

When they leave the grounds one day (barefoot because they donated their shoes) they will remain in our ‘hurst’ as we head towards 3500 years.

So if you ask what the new management has been up to this year: we have been putting in all the systems, overseeing the new buildings, planting new trees (literally – watch the various quads in the next few weeks) in order to water and prepare our Pinehurst to be a forest of creativity and success. And we shall do it together.

Thank you for trusting us with your children. Let us celebrate now the splendour of their successes this year:

                                                                                     Colleen Bentley