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Petreans

Memories

1997 Tinokura

New boys and a new Housemaster

New boys are allowed - indeed, even expected - to look nervous on the first day of term. New Housemasters aren't: they are expected to look as unshakeable as the granitic petra in the Peterhouse motto. And the tactful new parents were too polite to show any apprehension they may have felt about handing over their precious children to the new regime overseeing this crucial and formative stage in each boy's school career. If the truth be told, we were probably all a bit jittery that first afternoon. Yet, amazingly, once the tune-up of teacups had died down, a recognisable melody started to emerge.

Re-mix studio
Tinokura in 1997 became a re-mix studio ... and, as every re-mix artist knows, the tune must remain recognisable, though the harmonic structure and variations may change. To almost every blue-blooded Peterhouse boy the 'tune' is enshrined in the School war-cry: "Pe'r'ous, POWER'OUSE" with the underlying rhythmic accompaniment of "sha-sha-sha". Some parents and teachers, however, recognise and appreciate subtler thematic tones - like discipline and control, sound tuition and hard work, a broad extramural base, responsible behaviour, useful academic results, (dare we mention the 'Peterhouse image' in the career and university markets!) - perhaps, even, a nodding acquaintance with God. Both interpretations of the main theme had, of course, to be taken into account by the Tinokura re-mix artists and technicians. The problem facing a re-mix arranger is to make the tune catchy enough for new listeners to want to get to know it; for the old folks to like the sound of it; and, hardest of all, for the current rave-generation to accept the new sound, if it's going to "sell".

New ideas
All good music demands discipline and hard work: only then will you achieve the happy and harmonious sounds (underlying the main tune) which the boys themselves, their parents, their teachers and even - hold your breath - the senior boys in the School started to accept during the course of the year. So what obscure chords lay beneath this allegedly happy and harmonious discipline!
The answer appears to lie in the positive reinforcement which staff, prefects and monitors have so willingly practised: praise and encouragement for what is (we all respond better to this, after all, than to fear of getting things wrong); the engendering of self-discipline in preference to harshly imposed discipline from above; "thinking ahead", with regard both to one's actions and preparedness; a spirit of teamwork rather than selfish one-upmanship; a sense of caring for and about the weaker members of the team as opposed to sitting back and mocking their inadequacies or "difference" from the traditional macho norm; a sense of responsibility with regard to the "investment" by one's parents in this School, and to each of one's commitments - academic, extramural and spiritual; and (perhaps a sad reflection on our society) the hardest of all to ingrain, integrity.

So, out went the draconian (and frequently mindless) punishments so beloved of "public-school tradition" (yes, the stick and bi-colour were finally laid to rest: oh wail, ye fellow-Petrean viewers of the Internet!) and in came "warnings", real-life letters of apology (suitably heart-searching, you understand) for indiscretions, "corrections", and individually-prepared "compensations". "Satisfecit" cards were largely replaced by (often personally-requested) "Encouragement Cards" - ahead of a looming academic crisis, rather than being retrospectively punitive.

The monitors
It was a happy year. And as each new wave of monitors came down to do their stint they lowered their submachine guns and stood and stared. Suddenly the idea of yelling, threatening, and clipping-over-the-ear'ole - in an environment where, bizarrely, people got things right because they wanted to - seemed rather foolish. Week after week slightly self-conscious footnotes containing words like "unbelievable" and "proud" came in on the monitors' report sheets; only a handful of monitors lacked the imagination which is so important a factor in positive reinforcement, (after all, "Do me a page" or "Bend over" don't demand much imagination, do they!) and reverted to the "methods" they had endured as younger boys. Several of these came back later to try again - following a period of reflection - and got it right.

Achievements during the year
It was a year of memorable highlights, too: there was a marvellous response to the "Brave Souls" weekend - one of the bleakest last winter - when parents turned Tinokura into a colourful tent-city and left behind the reek of their convivial wood-smoke which lingered for weeks; the fun and useful work on our hectic History trip to Great Zimbabwe at the end of the second term, when some boys - by the look of things - had their first experience of cooking their own food (if it could still be called that ... ) and coping with a leaky tent in the middle of the night; then there was our House fund-raising exercise - the "Spellathon" - which, it was hoped, might raise $5 000 towards a second-hand TV set, but brought $23 000 tumbling in - enough for a brand-new, state-of-the-art TV-video combination, along with carpets, curtains and extra seating for the Octagon recreation-room: the magnificent labours of this year-group were warmly acknowledged at out year-end "Legacy Gathering" and Christmas Dinner - attended by all our monitors and the boys' Housemasters, who then led them off to their new lives in the main Houses. And this, too, I think we can safely say, was a highlight of the year the great reduction of the "C-Block trauma-factor": by moving the boys in early, their fear of what lay ahead in the New Year was largely dispelled and each boy "marched into the future" armed with a light-hearted (but practical Survival Kit of advice on how to keep his head above.

Tributes
I close with tributes to many: to my predecessor, Allen French - the first Housemaster of Tinokura - who, despite yappings from several quarters about "exciting changes" in his former stamping-ground, has maintained his interest in this new generation, and has always been willing to offer discreet guidance and support; to the Assistant Housemaster, James Bowles whose enthusiasm for, and commitment for everything we have striven for fuelled so much that was positive throughout this year - along with the support given by our House Tutors, Remy Mupfururirwa and Bob Gardiner; to the teaching-staff and monitors whose zestful response to new ideas and approaches lent a further sense of commitment to the cause; to our uncomplaining, friendly, and immensely supportive parents (to whom it was heart-rending to say "good-bye", already, in December); and, finally, a salute to the boys themselves who deservedly earned themselves repeated accolades for their cheerfulness, courtesy, enthusiasm, and (on the whole!) sensible behaviour.

This was a year of "growing up" which I don't think they will forget: I certainly shall not.

Guy Cary
Housemaster

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