By The Flying Dutchman
February 20th, 2017
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”fromleft”]We sat down with our head of college Peter Howe a couple of weeks before he leaves us to become head of college of Atlantic College. We wanted to know him as a person, his thoughts on the past years of UWCM and where he sees UWCM and the movement as a whole in the future.
It’s About Responsibility
Peter Howe greeted us with a proper handshake and a smile as always. Howe has been our head of college since 2012, back when our school had lots of work to do in order to become what we are today; a school that genuinely follows Kurt Hahn’s vision of education. To understand how he experienced that journey we started our interview by asking how Peter Howe experienced starting as head of college at UWCM. “How has the school changed since you came into office? Have we moved towards or away from something in particular?” We asked, but we were cut short halfway by Peter Howe’s laughter. “I have blocked out a lot of how it was five years ago. When I arrived here, in my view, it was not a UWC besides the name. I had come from Adriatic, and I was personally very proud of being a part of the UWC movement. To become a head of college was the greatest thing that have ever happened to me as a professional, and it turned out to be a great challenge in the early days of this school. The school body was, back then, very unaware of how lucky they were to be a part of UWC and a part of the mission. In the beginning when IPC, ToK conference and TEDx started, I remember that I met certain opposition from faculty to give students such responsibility. Also, when I first approved a student-led musical there were worries as to how good the quality of such an event would be. To me the worst thing that could happen was that it would be a bad show, and then I could have refunded some tickets. Quality was not what I saw as important, of course you want the highest quality as possible, but it’s about the experience of organising it and the roadblocks you have to overcome that are so important. Today we have two musicals a year and the conferences are some of the best things that happen here. So yes, I do think the school has transformed since I arrived here. As the staff saw what the students were capable of when you put trust in them and gave them responsibility a “conversion” happened. They started to believe in the values. The challenge for “traditional” educators with the UWC model of education is really that you have to jump in with both feet. Kurt Hahn’s brilliance was that it has to be authentic responsibility. Many schools give responsibility to students In the way of student governments etc., but it’s like the adults are behind the scenes pulling the strings or watching to make sure everything goes alright. UWC wants to say “here this is yours, if you screw up take responsibility for it.”, and I think the conferences are the best example of that.
Easy to Slip Back
Peter Howe proudly talked of how UWCM-students year after year showed that Kurt Hahn’s vision for education works. But we were curious as to where this responsibility comes from. Is it given from above or are we to demand it?
TFD:“When you talk of responsibility is it then something we as students should demand as individuals, or should staff and teachers always put trust in us?”
PH:“When it starts to be that staff will take a little responsibility away from you students, perhaps because they are worried that IB totals are going down or that students are showing up late, then it’s a slippery slope. What every adult have to remember is that the most important thing that happens in UWC is what goes on outside the classroom. When we had the Director of Secondary Education of the Netherlands coming here we didn’t bring students out to talk about their classes, instead they talked about conferences or their service projects. It is easy to slip back into being what we were five years ago, but showing trust in students and giving them responsibility prevents that. Students, as UWC students, must demand that trust and responsibility, and then we’ll keep going forward. “
Going forward Peter Howe said, but what is he hoping to move towards?
TFD: “What do you think are the future prospects of this school?” We asked.
PH: “The ultimate goal in my perspective is to transform education to the 21st century on a global scale. The UWC model is an example of such needed reform. I think Maastricht is unique in being the only UWC that is a whole school. The traditional UWC with a hundred percent residential students is easy to dismiss by the general educational system as such UWC’s have highly selective students in their residential, and therefore can do things that normal schools never could do. With Maastricht as a whole school and with day students being non selective those arguments can be dismissed. Therefore, I hope to see UWCMaastricht becoming a world leader in value based curriculum development in the future.”
TFD: “What will be your fondest memory of your time here at UWCM?”
PH: “When I arrived here in 2012 I arrived here quite naive. I expected the school to feel like a UWC school already. I had a huge task ahead of me. In September 2012 the assassination of the US ambassador in Benghazi happened. The Muslim students came to me and said that Islam was being portrayed rather negatively and that they would like to create a video in response. My first thought was” this is definitely not a UWC yet” as I had never been asked for permission to create a video before. I said go for it. A week later they came back with the video and I watched it. While watching it I teared up. I watched it again a couple of days ago and I still tear up today. What I teared up for was really that special something that makes UWC unique. It’s students who care, students who are trying to make a difference and students who are celebrating diversity. It was so empowering for me, because knowing that the UWC spirit was here I knew I could do anything with this school. From that moment onward I never doubted.”
Interviewing Peter Howe was a journey into how UWCMaastricht has changed since its early days, and what a great impact Peter Howe has had on our community. We believe we speak on behalf of the whole student body as we say “Thank you Peter Howe for showing us trust.” Finally, we wish Peter and Sally all the best as they embark on this new journey on Atlantic College.
You can still watch the video on YouTube by searching “We Believe in Peace UWC-Maastricht”.
If you would like to continue this debate, please do not hesitate to contact the author directly, leave a comment or write The Flying Dutchman at [email protected]