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Being a principal is like being a parent

13 Feb 2017

What does it mean to have a life well-lived? Mr Aaron Loh, Principal of Commonwealth Secondary and “parent” to more than a thousand kids, shares his aspirations in a letter to his students. 

Watch his video or read his letter below. 


Dear students,

Being a principal is a lot like being a parent. Of course, there are more than a thousand of you, which is many more children than any family could possibly have.

But just like a parent, I think constantly about the everyday things for you, like providing you with have a safe, clean, conducive environment to work and play. I worry about those of you who are sad, upset or unwell, and I try to find ways to help you overcome these difficulties. And for those of you who misbehave, I try to balance firm correction with grace and understanding. And just like any parent who thinks the world of their children, I have high hopes and aspirations for you, to grow up to be young men and women of character, and to live a successful and fruitful life.

First, I hope that you will be young men and women with ideals, who strive to make the world a better place. It’s very easy to sit back and criticize the way things are, to complain and mock. It makes a person feel clever, at no cost to themselves. It’s far more difficult, but also far more meaningful to do as Theodore Roosevelt said, “To be in the arena, covered in dust and sweat, striving valiantly, spending yourselves in a worthy cause.”

Second, I hope that when you grow up, you will look for your true calling, and pursue that with all your heart. For some of you, this might mean familiar fields like engineering, finance or academia. But for some, this might mean going down the road less travelled, embracing careers that others might find unconventional, risky or even strange. Whatever the case, whether you become an engineer, an entrepreneur or an entertainer, I hope that you will all find something that you love doing every day that brings meaning and purpose to your life.

Of course, things don’t always work out the way we want. And so I hope you will also grow into young men and women with a never-say-die spirit, who are always hopeful and courageous even in the face of uncertainties, failure and loss. This is especially important because the world will change faster and faster, and together with new opportunities, there will also be new dangers and challenges. So I don’t wish for you to have an easy life. Instead, I hope you will be resilient and resourceful, that you will learn from your failures and emerge stronger and wiser with every lesson.

But of course, at the end of the day, being a principal and being a parent are two very different things. For one, I don’t have a lifetime to spend nurturing and taking care of you. I only have four, at most five years. But in this short time, your teachers and I will do everything we can to lay a firm foundation for you, so that you can have a life well lived.

Yours Truly,
Mr Aaron Loh