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Winter 2009

Once upon a time ‘Iolani teachers were not teachers just yet. They were children and teenagers like the ones they now instruct. Find out which childhood books inspired our teachers.
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Winter 2009 - Department | Headmaster’s Column

The Headmaster’s Column

Cheers!  The last week of October was cheer-full indeed.     

This year’s Homecoming Week gave us not only a football victory on our home field against Word of Life Academy, but we also reveled in six days of fun and laughter with dress days, lunch activities, spirit assemblies, a dance and many other moments of delight, planned and unplanned.  Director of Student Activities Mr. Kirk Uejio ’98, the student body and class officers, the class advisers and many other teachers and students deserve credit for a well deserved respite from the normal routine of campus life.

For me, the highlight was the Cheerfest in the gym right before the football game.  I loved seeing and hearing (!) our 1,300 Upper School students dressed in red or black as they gave their grade level cheers in unison with volume and enthusiasm.  Some classes were louder than others, but all of the cheers were spirited and enjoyable.  The best moments occurred when classes other than the one cheering joined in with rhythmic clapping and other supportive gestures in spite of the competition among the grade levels.

‘Iolani School is an energetic, productive and, yes, cheerful place.  Members of our community achieve great things in a supportive and respectful environment.  We encourage and reward individual endeavor, but there is also a structure and coherence to our lives, a commonality of purpose and bonds that link us together in meaningful ways.  Students and adults care about each other, and are loyal to the school.  How did this happen?  The work of many, past and present, combined to create this special environment.  Given the dynamics and unpredictability of large groups of people where much is beyond our control, it is hard to imagine that any one person masterminded a plan.

Sometimes answers come from unexpected places.  I recently read a book entitled The Geography of Bliss, One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner.  It is a well-written and entertaining book that traces the author’s travels to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain and India to find happy places and to identify the characteristics that make the people who live there happy.  Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands were three of the happiest places. Iceland in its recent financial straits may no longer lead the list. Qatar, per capita the richest country in the world, is not its happiest.  Impoverished Moldova is one of the saddest places on earth; Great Britain is a bit too stiff to be considered joyful.  The predominantly Buddhist and Hindu countries of Bhutan, Thailand and India find peace and fulfillment in service, compassion, love and acceptance.  A study by the University of Leicester in Britain placed America the 23rd happiest nation, and in the author's words, “it’s safe to say that the United States is not as happy as it is wealthy.”

Mr. Weiner concedes that there is no single path to happiness.  There are, however, characteristics that form the underpinnings of happiness:

  • Relationships with family, friends and colleagues - research has found that close to 70% of a person's happiness is attributable to the quantity and quality of one's relationships.
  • Service - people are interdependent and feel better when they give of themselves to help or support others.
  • Trustworthiness - when the government, institutions, businesses and people can be depended upon to have the best of intentions and to do the right thing, people feel safer and more secure.
  • Culture and Tradition - people need to identify with the past, complete with heroes, beliefs and customs that engender pride in being a part of something larger than themselves.
  • Minimizing Envy/Maximizing Humility - not flaunting advantages, material or otherwise, or sharing what you have with others enhances cooperation and respect among people.
  • Responsibility and Ownership - people who feel empowered and sense they can make a difference in their circumstance are more hopeful and optimistic.
  • Appreciation - feeling gratitude and simply accepting life's wonders makes us happier.

‘Iolani is many things to many people, but it cheered me to know that many of the characteristics that Mr. Weiner identified are present in large quantities on campus. 

Our Episcopal tradition, rich history, small classes and our emphasis on service, integrity, responsibility, teamwork and humility serve as a firm foundation for the healthy growth and development of young people.  These elements might even make us HAPPY! 

If you heard our kids cheer during Homecoming Week, it would be hard to imagine a more cheer-full place.