St John's College

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Neal Burger, Head of School

Good morning Mr West, Staff, Sixth Form and the College.

There is something about the first day that makes things exciting. The first day of school, a new job, or the first day of your last year of school. Maybe it is the uncertainty of what lies ahead that creates an energy, or the realisation that it is the last time for everything.

I am excited and honoured to welcome you all back to the College. As we arrived this morning, I was reminded of the beauty of our campus. But, a school is not a school without the teachers, staff and students. These buildings have missed you because it is us that bring life and existence to these buildings.

Today is a memorable day in the life of the College as we welcome our 16th Executive Headmaster, Mr Stuart West. Needless to say, Sir, great leaders have come before you. But given your experience, track record and vision, I am sure that you will start making your unique footprint on the road from which you will lead us.

Mr West was educated in Grahamstown and spent most of his professional teaching career at Bishops Diocesan College before leaving to join Dainfern College as Principal. He then moved back to Cape Town as the Principal of Herschel Girls' School, where he has been for the past six years.

When Herschel Girls' School announced his departure, they thanked him for his passion, commitment and pastoral guidance. Attributes that are highly valued at the College. We wish you and your family all the very best for this great opportunity in your career.

Mr West is not the only newcomer. We also welcome the new members of staff and the Class of 2024. This past weekend the School Prefects joined the Removes and Housemasters on the annual Remove Camp. I am delighted to report back that the College's future is in good hands, but puerile hands. These young boys, like all of us, require some guidance. It is the responsibility of every College boy to be a great example of St John's ethos and culture. Please show them respect, how to harness self-discipline and how we strive for excellence, of which each one of us is capable. Show these young men that we are polite to all staff members, that we encourage each other and that we greet the people we see every day. We smile, we care, and we are appreciative. We see the humanity in each other first.

In my first address last year, I reminded all of us that our School Prayer calls upon God to make St John's "a home of religious discipline, sound learning and goodwill". The Class of 2020 has taken on the challenge to strive for our purpose, given our privilege, to develop young men who are empowered, not entitled. Empowered, not entitled.

Let me remind you that empowerment is increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices about what they want, and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.

Let's empower men who take accountability for what they do with the opportunities and privileges with which they have been entrusted — brave men with courage.

We will strive to create a more disciplined environment, challenge what we should change or improve through dialogue, and most importantly, be held accountable for our choices.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy".

Our true character, however, will not be tested by how everyone else judges us, but how we will judge ourselves.

  • How we set goals for ourselves. Ambitious goals filled with uncertainty, whether or not they can be achieved.
  • How hard we will work or how we go the extra mile. How we use our time productively and collaborate with others.
  • How we set aside time to be of 'use' to the community and those in need.
  • Then, most importantly, how we honestly assess ourselves and look at if did the best we possibly could.

That is excellence – not thinking and saying you are the best but doing YOUR best for yourself and others.

We are empowered by our trust in our ability to perform, and we are not entitled to outcomes not earned.

No one will steal our joy in 2020. We will honestly know that we did our best in everything, in our classrooms, on the sports field, on the stage and most importantly, outside the College walls.

College, let's make St Johns a home of discipline, sound learning and goodwill that will send forth many who are empowered, not entitled, in 2020.

Thank you.

Neal Burger

Head of School