So, what does a school headmaster do?
Since I became a classical school headmaster in 2014, people have asked me some variation of the question, “What do you do all day, anyway?” You can always tell that the person asking the question has some particular idea of what the answer will be, and this usually comes out in the conversation.
Some people think of headmasters as figureheads with ceremonial titles that allow them to sit in leather chairs and order other people around. Some people think that headmasters are head-in-the clouds academics, surrounded by an army of practical people who can make sure things continue to run on time. Some people think they are compliance officers, more interested in contracts and legalities than students themselves.
There are headmasters of all stripes, it is true, and when people ask me “What is it that you do?” they are trying to find out what kind I am.
I hope that by writing informally from time to time about what’s happening at the school, I can help to explain classical education more deeply and show that it is more than just effective, or difficult, or serious–it’s joyful, inspiring, and humane.
After serving as the founding Headmaster of Founders Classical Academy of Leander, a K-12 classical charter school in Austin, Texas, I moved to Michigan to become the Assistant Provost of K-12 Education at Hillsdale College. My years as a headmaster now help me serve the leaders of our affiliated classical schools across the country.
One purpose of this blog is to help students and families and people in our community understand how classical schools work–and to help explain why a classical school is run differently from many others. We know that classical education often means Latin and grammar and uniforms, but also countless little differences that can come as a surprise. I hope that by writing informally from time to time about what’s happening at our schools, I can help to explain classical education more deeply and show that it is more than just effective, or difficult, or serious–it’s joyful, inspiring, and humane.
One surprising thing about leading a school is that it’s a great deal of fun. It turns out that when you spend your time surrounded by hundreds of students–from wiggly and silly and sweet Kindergarteners, to eager and bashful and enthusiastic 6th graders, to sarcastic and witty but vulnerable and searching 12th graders–a lot of very funny things happen. There is a lot of joy in these schools, and a great deal of that joy comes from the knowledge that we are all working on something impressive together and for the sake of something more important than ourselves.
From the Headmaster’s Desk is a blog that tells the stories–the serious ones and the funny ones–of what classical education is like on a daily basis. I hope that through these reports from the field, I can convey how delightful it is to work with these students on something serious and wonderful, and help you come to understand classical education more deeply.
Dr. Kathleen O’Toole
Assistant Provost of K-12 Eduction