Friday 1 April 2016

Gratitude

St Ignatius maintained that one of the greatest sins is ingratitude. This is rather surprising in light of the litany of evils in the world but on both a theological level and in everyday life the followers of Ignatius were taught to value, appreciate and thank both God and those around them for the daily blessings, graces and endowments that are often taken for granted. On Tuesday evening I, along with a number of other teachers, accepted an invitation to attend a dinner that was held to thank those who assisted a graduate from Riverview in 2015 for the support that he was given over his two years of senior secondary school as a boarder. This young man came to the College as a high achieving student who wanted to excel in his HSC, a young man who challenged himself by being the first hybrid Advanced Pathways student who undertook an extra undergraduate course in Philosophy while completing Year 12 at a high level in 2015. And, he did both, securing a High Distinction for his undergraduate study and securing an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score in the top 1% of New South Wales, and by virtue of interstate conversion, the top 1% of the nation. As if that is not impressive enough, this young man has secured entry to the London School of Economics into one of the most competitive and acclaimed university programs in the world. This dinner was not about celebrating success but rather it was about expressing gratitude; sincere, genuine and heartfelt thanks to the teachers who supported this young adult in his personal quest for the magis – going deeper, more expansively into the opportunities that were before him to secure the best outcomes. As teachers and administrators we were humbled by the gesture, and, we were and remain humbled by a profession where we have the fortune to provide life opportunity for young people. We, like our young graduate, are deeply grateful.

And, the march goes on for the graduates of 2016 as the Mid Year Examinations continue unabated. While many boys and their families enjoyed a restful break over the Easter period, the boys in Year 12 had their heads down as they returned to face the second week of examinations that cumulatively prepare them for the day when they walk into their HSC summative assessments, those that will provide the gateway at the end of the year to undergraduate courses of study and/or to professions that are consonant with them. As we broach the final days of term let us keep the intentions of the senior boys in our prayers and thoughts as they complete their exams and then move on to their final retreat as a student of Riverview. From later this year they will henceforth be consigned to a new but important designation – OR 2016, one that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Interdisciplinary learning associated with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through Project Based Learning (PBL) continues to challenge the boys on the Regis campus to encounter new skills in geo-literacy and geo-spacial reasoning. Over recent weeks, students in Years 5 and 6 have been asked to respond to questions that build on their understanding of our complex world and use established skills of gathering and analysing data, critically assessing it, collaborating with others on creative solutions, justifying the merits of various solutions while interrogating technology along the way, and communicating outcomes in a clear and concise way. In a recent address to a combined forum of the nations’ Principals in Canberra, Professor Ian Chubb – Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University in Canberra (2001-2011) and former Australian Chief Scientist, exhorted educators to be responsive to STEM initiatives in schools, particularly those that draw upon a range of skills and processes to invoke trans and multi-disciplinary learning that are common place in the tertiary environment and in the workplace. Professor Chubb’s view is that unless Australia takes its post-industrial future seriously it will be left behind, particularly in light of the shrinkage of the mining and manufacturing sector, the vagaries of the agriculture by virtue of drought and commodity prices, and a world economy that continues to experience major fluctuations and instability. STEM and STEM-related activities are central to Australia’s capacity to maintain employment, undertake innovation and be competitive in a changing regional and global economy, particularly across a developing Asia.

The College is blessed to have a consolidated group of expertise – financial, legal, educational, corporate and medical, that lends advice and direction to the long term futures that enable the school to build on its illustrious past and consolidate its place as one of the premier providers of education across Australia. Ably Chaired by John Wilcox (OR 75), and supported by Jesuit and lay members who comprise the governance of the College, the School Council meets up to eight times per year to ensure that all compliance requirements are attended to (for example the BOSTES Registration process that will be undertaken later in the year) and to consider strategic futures in light of contemporary educational provision and delivery. It is also the College Council where complementary partnerships are formalised, such as those taken up with three of Sydney’s universities over the last 12 months as well as a relatively recent Memorandum of Understanding with the Lane Cove Council related to Indigenous education. Sincere thanks are extended to the members of Council who give generously of their time and expertise to ensure that St Ignatius’ remains authentic to its Jesuit traditions but also responds to changes as they emerge in a dynamic educational landscape.

Indeed, we have much to give thanks for – our Old Boys who have embraced the depth of the educational program to secure such a wide range of life opportunities, our seniors who walk in the footsteps of their forebears, our younger boys who are encountering new and diverse forms of knowledge, and our governors who give shape and direction to the affairs of the College. It is important that a sincere and heartfelt statement of gratitude is forthcoming.

Dr Paul Hine