Posted on November 12, 2019 / From our Principal
The Tintern Board have asked that, having completely re-written my Celebration Evening speech on the afternoon of the event, I publish it to the community. I know that most Junior School parents, along with some secondary parents, were unable to get to Celebration Evening. It was a wonderful recalling of our students’ activities, achievements and energy over 2019 and it was truly humbling to lead the School that night.
Tintern Grammar students and staff, current and past parents, I welcome you to our 2019 Celebration Evening. I am very grateful for the presence of Tintern Grammar Life Governors, the Chair of the Tintern Grammar Board, Mr Greg Hoxley, numerous current and past Board members, the Presidents of TOGA and SOBA, many special guests and School alumni, and I welcome and thank you all for your significant contributions to us all coming together as a community tonight.
I’d like to tell you a story about a school, a school led by a group of thoughtful, passionate, energetic and creative student leaders. These leaders believe in the importance of service to others, and every year they design fun, serious, important and humorous activities and events for the rest of the school’s students and staff. These students ensure they spend time with younger students at various year levels, listening to them and providing thoughtful and caring advice and guidance. These leaders and this school’s other senior students believe in each other and in the relationships that they create and nurture in their school.
In this school students have a very well-developed sense of social justice and fairness. From the oldest to the youngest they are committed to service to their and others’ communities. They hold large- and small-scale events alike, fund-raising to improve opportunities and life circumstances for people they have never met, as well as those they see regularly. They play music, perform at and contribute to community events and celebrations in their leisure time and they do these things as a conscious choice. At this school students decide that the future of the planet is more important than the convenience of plastic straws or waxed paper coffee cups. They do this not because anyone asks them to, but because they understand that what they contribute to the world should always aim to make it better.
At this school these students are partnered in their aspiration by committed and passionate adults, who care just as deeply about social, environment and justice issues. These adults support, mentor and enable these wonderful student-driven initiatives relishing the shared commitment that these projects liberate for everyone, older or younger. In this school, teachers are passionate, not just about science, or art, or Maths, or French, but about life, about striving, about growth through failure and about what really constitutes success, happiness and fulfilment. At this school older people don’t just teach, they live out and model the attributes and attitudes that these younger people will use as pathways to fulfilment in their life beyond that Year 12 number.
Sure, at this school, students always want to do their best and aspiration to personal best is in its DNA, but at this school it’s also understood that not every student wants to enter law or engineering, to be a doctor, or an accountant. For the 40% of this school’s last year’s Year 12s who achieved over 90, or the 29% over 95, that personal best takes an academic form, but at this school it’s also understood that everyone walks their own path and that what counts in the end is committing to everything you do, seizing opportunities and discovering what is important to you and aspiring to your own excellence.
To enable that discovery and live that personal journey at this school, students chase their own dreams, challenges, development and excitement in a vast range of areas, from robots to sheep, from designing and creating, to collaborating and innovating, from IT projects to service projects.
Balance is seen as critical at this school. Music, performance art, STEAM, sport, outdoor education, Duke of Edinburgh and coding and robotics are just a few of the things offered in an environment where learning outside the classroom amplifies what is learnt in it. Add to this the prioritising of self-awareness, mindfulness and resilience and what the students at this school devour each day is a truly holistic growth experience, not just remarkable learning from great teaching.
Who would govern and serve such a school? This school would have a volunteer, not a paid, Board. A board fuelled not by what they might get, but by what they might contribute, each with their own capabilities and passions that drive their contribution to the school and fuel their commitment to and care for young people’s progress. Such a Board would also model those key current and future capabilities of committed and passionate collaboration allied to the desire to look outside the conventional in problem-solving. This Board would recognise the importance of placing others first and have a clear understanding of the positive individual effects felt through service to a community and it would lead its community in seeking growth through challenge and measured risk-taking.
Inside this school, it’s leadership and drive come from a team of senior staff who understand intuitively that we teach to serve, that schools are first and foremost about students, about relationships and about a shared journey. This leadership team revels in the opportunity to serve students, to hear their views and to mentor and partner them through their journey. They oversee programs and support structures that pick students up when they stumble, and most of all, they believe in their community; the students at its centre and its staff, parents and former students. This team sees it as a privilege to serve this school and its community.
And at the end of each year in this school, I’m sure they look back over the year and reflect on committed, collaborative, courageous, exciting, resilient and aspiring, but not perfect, year they’ve all had.
That is a school and a community I would love to work at. One no doubt you too would all like to be part of, one where there would be a place for each of us to be ourselves, for all of us to join as a community.
Well, we are very fortunate, as that school is our school ….. and I thank you all for what you have done to make it that school.