St John's College

A famous Rabbi once explained at a funeral that we have two names. The first is the name our parents call us, and our family and friends know us by that name. The second name we are known by is our reputation, and many people, even strangers, know us by that name. This second name, our reputation, can take years to earn, but it can be lost in a moment. The Rabbi said that thoughtful, considered behaviour will build our reputation and ensure that it survives long after we are gone. Improper, thoughtless or disrespectful behaviour will result in us losing our reputation in a moment.

Thankfully, we can build and protect our individual and School reputations because we carry them everywhere with us. Our behaviour and decisions will enhance or undermine them. The sobering point is that the value proposition of reputation is determined solely by us at this moment. Now, while this is always a very personal and individual challenge, I want to focus on our collective reputation as a College this morning.

Antony Jenkins, who was CEO of Barclays Bank in the UK and is now CEO of 10x Technologies, has said that many youngsters turn up for interviews lacking basic social skills and that “There is the danger that we will have a lost generation of youngsters if we do not help them develop the skills they will need for the new world of work. These include analytical and financial abilities, but also, and this is crucial, they include people skills. It seems basic stuff: how to shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye, greet them and hold your shoulders back.” I interview many people – both students and adults – and it is so hard to overcome first impressions. In the words of Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Your greeting is not only your introduction, but it is also your chance to convey the respect, confidence, and human connection demanded by our school values. Maya Angelou once wisely said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Your initial encounter with someone is an opportunity to create a positive and lasting impact – individually and, most importantly, for the College you represent in that St John’s uniform. Being part of the College is a true privilege. It is a place where we do life together. As staff, we love, appreciate and value the nature of our engagement with our students. You are thoughtful, engaged, broad-minded, confident, and have a wonderful sense of agency. Our classrooms at the College are wonderfully productive, respectful and valued teaching and learning spaces. Daily I experience magnificent gestures of genuine and effortless politeness as I pass. It is one of the many reasons why I love this school so much. However, It deeply saddens me when I get reports that St John’s students do not greet and don’t have the respect to stand when adults walk by. Sadly, the reputation we are building is that Johannians do not habitually greet or help staff or visitors unless asked. Most sadly, when I asked the staff about their experience of your greeting, some women staff said they felt often ignored by boys in the corridors.

So – at the start of the year - I not only remind you, but I will insist that we are better as students and staff in our greeting. We must cherish our reputation and build our reputation, by showing our genuine respect for others and our proud name as a College. Make sure you look staff, adults and visitors in the eye and greet and engage them first every day – whether they teach you, coach you, feed you, clean the school for you or look after our grounds. That is my expectation!

Johannians, our reputation is the most valuable thing we'll ever own. The fact that we cannot buy that reputation makes it priceless. I call on you to build it and protect it this year - with respectful, genuine greetings all the time. I have asked the staff to hold you to account in this regard – but ultimately, we expect you to hold yourself and each other to account. That is how we will maintain and build our reputation as a community of light, life and love.

Lux, Vita, Caritas