Goodbyes from Paul Hart
July 4, 2023
After four years serving as the college’s Deputy Director of Secondary (and five years at Li Po Chun), this summer will mark my departure from the movement. Ever since a rooftop encounter with a group of UWC Atlantic students on a Palestinian rooftop in 2006, I have wanted to be part of this shared vision of humanity and education – these years in the movement have taught me so much not just as an educator but as a human being and have left an indelible mark – mostly positive, we a few small traumas for good measure!
It has been a privilege to be part of the college’s maturation as we stand on the verge of entering our teenage years. Within the school, I’ve been fortunate to work with many caring colleagues – few more so than the Heads of Year who have been instrumental in helping to evolve the college’s tutor and well-being program. The move to two tutor periods in 2020 has helped to strengthen the tutor program and ensure more time for connection within the tutor group and also whole year group assemblies and workshops. In 2020, we also developed a well-being model to help guide and vertically align our approach to well-being in the secondary. With the assistance of StuCo and ResCo reps of the Class of 2020, our overhaul of the leadership model in the school with led to the establishment of a Leadership Camp in 2021 which has now expanded to include MYP StuCo and evolved into a three-day offsite affair. Our Campus re-design and residential teams also made significant progress in the greening of campus, with the creation of a playground, garden and greenhouse, hammocks, vertical garden, moat-facing benches, and a residential fire pit. The summer of 2020 also witnessed the redesign of Mensa into a much more comfortable, student-friendly eating and learning environment replete with a stage, drop-down screen, power bars, and cozily lit booths. Throughout this work and across each year in the residence, I’ve been blessed to work with Petra Stassen whose behind the scenes work has been instrumental in improving our facilities – Petra is a true MVP and the impact of her departure from the college this summer will be deeply felt.
When the DDoS role was constructed in 2019, it sought to strengthen the ties between the school and residence and I think we’ve experienced great success in that regard. The COVID-19 pandemic and the amount of work required to strengthen our residential programming amongst a small team of residential mentors, has meant that a good portion of my time and energy has been directed at improving the residential space. When I arrived, the school’s philosophy seemed to be that students could get everything they need from the school and that the residence was where students were fed and slept. The past four years have seen a significant change in the residence: the establishment of a Community Council and Facilities Council to strengthen student voice and leadership, an increase in Sunday night gatherings (college meetings, Global Issues Forum, Health Nights), the creation of a Residential Handbook for students, various residential services (campus care, emergency first responders, residential health educators, Cafe Night, Spirit Team, Residential Welcome Week, and evening library supervision), and the creation of mixed gender floors throughout Kurt Hahn and King Willem Alexander. Our yearly residential surveys provide evidence of a residential student community that is happier, healthier, sleeping more, and consuming fewer substances – though areas for improvement still remain!
All of these developments would not be possible were it not for a committed and idealistic group of students and staff who worked tirelessly to help drive this progress. The pandemic years were particularly challenging for the residential team as their evening or weekend care for students all of a student became a 24/7 responsibility. Even just a year or two removed from these times, few RMs remain and I think that’s a testament to how much was asked of staff during this time.
The challenges of leadership – where problems tend to make their way to you – have been offset by my time on Seriti where I have had the honour of working with dozens of wonderful students, helping to mentor them as they navigate the challenges of the IB, heartbreak, or 13-day quarantines. Our family arrived here a unit of four and leave a little bigger with the arrival of our son Senan in 2021. The floor and broader community have been a wonderful place for us to raise our young family, though the time has come to find out what life outside a UWC campus feels like. Given Naomi’s interactions with the residentials this year, I’m already anticipating her UWC application being submitted in 2032.
While this summer does represent a stepping away from working in a UWC, I don’t think one ever leaves the movement. I’ll move from a school-based role here at UWC Maastricht to volunteering with UWC Ireland as Katherine, Emmett, Naomi, Senan and I move closer to my wife’s family. One day I look forward to re-joining the movement – likely with a few greyer hairs but also hopefully with older (or graduated) children who need their father a little less than mine deserve theirs now.
Hope to see you in Dublin,