Mark Turner, Head of School

Dear Parents and Guardians,

It seems like life may not be busy enough. I had just been scrolling through the latest Nanos Research poll, when an invitation arrived to fill a vacant slot in the SMUS Weekly. No excuse not to respond.

In actual fact I was quite relieved to have a distraction. It can often feel like there is always more bad news, and our heart continues to go out to all of those in BC and around the world who have been affected by natural disasters and the pandemic, as well as the corresponding inflation and supply constraints. Nik Nanos has, himself, pontificated about pessimism but I couldn't escape the irony that bad news is great business for Nanos!

You may be surprised to hear that this actually served to cheer me up quite considerably, because it validated my reasoning, 35 years ago, to choose teaching as a profession.

I have always found that in spending time in the company of young people it is very difficult not to be touched by their positivity, displayed in our school in so many different ways. Elizabeth and I have just returned from the Junior School. We were able to complete a much-loved tradition of the handing out of gingerbread people to every student. I was able to congratulate all students on their joyous learning and their remarkable adherence to 100% compliance with the tedious mask policy. Positivity crackled with every class we met.

Last week I was able to host a lunch for some of our successful Senior School sports teams held in Brown Hall. Such has been the collective achievements of our sports men and women in competitive leagues this term. I was able to congratulate our Junior Boys Soccer team, our Cross Country runners, and our Boys and Girls Volleyball teams, which compete at Provincials next week. Pride of place this year goes to the Girls Field Hockey team, which narrowly missed bringing home a banner, losing 2-1 after a heroic effort in the Provincial finals. In other schools that I have worked at, the sporting banquet has been quite an elaborate affair. At SMUS, it turns out that as long as industrial quantities of pizza are served on a fairly fast conveyor belt, everybody is blissfully happy. Kudos to all and thanks to the dedicated coaches who make these life changing opportunities possible.

By coincidence, last week ended with a cultural extravaganza. On the Thursday evening in the Chapel, I went to a SMUS Talks lecture, which was recorded and the talks are available to watch online. SMUS Talks is about students researching and delivering presentations on their own thoughts. This time, the talks on the theme ‘identity’ started with a brilliant critique of the fine line between “confidence and arrogance.” It finished with a wonderful enriching talk by our Indigenous Scholar, Dylan Thomas, about how his interest in genealogy had been quickened by art and fatherhood. It was fascinating stuff.

On the Friday evening, I was invited to a piano recital given by some of our extraordinary, passionate, and virtuosic piano students. With the arrogance that sometimes afflicts Heads of Schools, I felt that the repertoire had been personally selected for me. Brahms and Chopin, among others, played at full intensity, is just what I like to hear.

On the evening of Saturday, November 27, in torrential rain, we enjoyed the warm comfort of the Langham Court Theatre, to enjoy the Theatre Arts students’ production of 12 Angry Jurors. Not only was the theme uncannily relevant, but the quality of the acting allowed the complex dialogue to have maximum impact on the attentive audience. There were several standout performances, but the whole cast, and stage and production crews should be proud of a play that once again showed the ability of SMUS students to demonstrate both talent and confidence when quite literally under the spotlight.

Despite all this good news, I think I agree with Nik Nanos that it has been a tough year. Many people are exhausted, the weather has often been dismal, and we still have a short way to go before the prospects of holidays, and the joyous story of the nativity and Christmas, will once again bring cheer to some of us. It is also true that the third week in November is traditionally the point of lowest morale throughout schools in the northern hemisphere. For now, we continue on journeying together, confident that well-earned holidays and the message of Christmas will be able to provide uplift for all, just a couple of weeks away. Go well and support one another.

Mark Turner
Head of School