“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps.” Helen Macdonald.
In her powerful, autobiographical novel ‘H is for Hawk’, Helen Macdonald recounts a year in her life when she grieves the loss of her father by attempting to train a bird of prey, a hawk. In the complex world of falconry, hawks are notoriously difficult to train. They are complex beings with sharp mood swings and an unpredictable even irascible temperament that makes training one challenging and special. The hawk begins to symbolise the life of the grieving person who finds little comfort in the usual things of life with the loss of someone very dear.
This is a season of change in the lives of so many of our students and families particularly the 104 students graduating from Year 12, coming to the end of their formal schooling and looking ahead to the seemingly endless possibilities of the world – full of hope and courage about what lies ahead. We have watched them laugh, with the sheer delight of reaching ever closer to this milestone especially through these most challenging times. We will watch them weep in a moment of nostalgia as they prepare to bid farewell to the comforting familiarity of the people and the culture of the College they have shared these past years, a culture to which they have contributed and strengthened. We have seen them honour one another for their talents, their kindness and their generosity of spirit.
The Year 12 cohort is not alone in this season of change. Although the end of the year is not far away, the departure of the Senior students marks a transition that will begin when our Year 11 cohort take up the mantle of leadership in Term 4 2020 and into 2021. They will set the tone for the rest of the community and we wish them every joy. While there is real emotional sadness in saying farewell to those graduating, there is excitement for those who replace them in the office bearer roles. The difficulty we have every year is to select from the many that put themselves forward.
We take votes from staff and students and interview the students who are seeking selection. We seek to ask questions that help us get to know our young men and women as leaders. We usually find that because those that are interviewed all have credentials as confident members of the group they all interview with a quality that can be admired. It is also the case, that interviews can be quite different. Some are serious and will chase an idea with great clarity. Others can be distinguished because of the energy that you can sense will inspire others. Some are workers who will achieve much on their own initiative while others are clearly going to have a team around them and they will guide with a strategy. These differences are inevitable and ultimately valuable to the team that is selected. All are there because others have supported them and see leadership in their manner. Over the years I have come to value and listen to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ as it expresses insight into the choice of leaders.
In a school situation, the next challenge is to get the best fit into the selection of the leaders. Seldom do we experience the act of rejecting an applicant as being unable to be a leader. We just don’t think like that! Indeed, the discussion behind the closed doors is really about how to select from the many we have to choose from. In a real sense, it is about what might be seen as ‘best fit thinking’. At the same time, we know that missing a role can be hard and desperately disappointing. We try to help those who miss out move past the very real moment of disappointment with a mix of empathy and helping them to think ahead. With a little distance from the disappointment, we find all tend to be proud to have been part of the process. They are proud to have been asked to participate and proud that they made an effort and offered themselves. They become aware of the growth that was involved in the experience. They see how to use their leadership talent in other ways and the rewards unfold!
In the same way, our Year 10s are preparing for the preliminary year that lies ahead. They have made their subject selections for 2021 and are ensuring that they are in good habits of mind to tackle their biggest academic challenge with the relatively new QCE.
There is a reality with which we must all contend: that with change there are also losses or ‘holes’. Part of living a full and proper life is the ability to thrive despite the holes. On the wall in my home there hangs a beautiful gift once given to me by a family – a lovely piece of framed calligraphy that simply says: “To everything there is a season. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1. Part of wisdom is knowing the season you are in and finding your way to grow through the gaps.
Mrs Maria McIvor