What I Meant to Say
Sep 16, 2022
At the very well-attended Head of School’s Coffee Morning last week, our first ‘in-person’ event for quite a while, I outlined our plans to review the formal means by which we communicate within the ISF community. Communication is of course a strategically and operationally essential part of our community, without which we quickly fragment through lack of direction, loss of shared purpose, and the elimination of the reason we became a community in the first place. What we need to say to each other, how we say it, where we say it, when we say it, and how often we say it are all elements of the lifeblood of our extended ISF family. In the same way that medical science is able discern the health of a patient through observations and investigations into the heartbeat and circulatory system of the body, we too can learn much about ourselves through the ebb and flow of communication, the ‘pulse’ of our community.
There are of course a number of well-known channels: my fortnightly message, the whole-school and divisional circulars, biannual newsletters, coffee mornings, commencement briefings, the ISF website itself, and the occasional ad hoc letter to the community on important matters (including class suspensions and resumptions). The volume of communication has gradually grown over the years, as has the diversity and complexity of the content. In our early years, we communicated through the ‘Friday Folder’, a plastic envelope in which important notices to parents were printed out and placed in each student’s school bag on Friday afternoon each week. In time, we transitioned to more modern means of communication. The electronic media and platforms through which we now communicate many of our messages, however, have remained largely unchanged over more than a decade.
For example, during my 14 years at ISF, I have written well over 200 circular messages to the ISF community, reflecting on many aspects of our learning together, both grand and granular. While my readership no doubt waxes and wanes, depending on the time of the year or the theme addressed, the very act of communication itself is the key. The prose itself may not be deathless, but the very desire to reach out and interact with others in our community reflects direction, purpose, and reason. The content may vary in its gravity and intrinsic value, the tools through which it is conveyed may evolve with technological advances and the habits and whims of readers, but in the act of communication itself we find the dynamic energy that binds us together.
As we review the means by which we conduct our ongoing community conversation, we must not lose sight of the message implicit in the existence of the medium in the first place. Echoing the spirit of Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the ‘medium is the message’, our channels of communication, both advanced and archaic, are important in their own right, reflecting the shape and character of the community we form through our shared, incomplete, iterative acts of communication and meaning making each day. ‘What I meant to say’ is a work in progress: an impermanent, imperfect statement of where I have been, where I am today, and where I am headed tomorrow. The act of communication itself is the message.
Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School