Friday 27 February 2015

The Speed with which Life Moves at Riverview

Today is the official ‘hump’ of the term; the half-way point of the first quarter of the academic year. That it has come around so very quickly is testament to the speed with which life moves at Riverview, the events of the week carrying their own momentum and impact. At the heartland of the educational program lies teaching and learning, and, the boys have approached their studies with considerable method, dedication and purpose over the early weeks of the year. Only 13 teaching days remain before Year 12 end of semester examinations commence, and only 22 teaching days sit between now and the mid-year exams for Year 11. The cascade effect for the rest of the College begins to take effect from the early weeks of Term 2. Thus, the need for goals that were set early in the year to be reviewed is imminent as the boys aspire to achieve their best across the full range of their course assessments.

Sporadic rain could not dampen the spirits of the Riverview Gold Cup Rowing Regatta on Saturday, which re-enacted a tradition on the Lane Cove River that dates back to 1885. The first Regatta back in 1885, held six events and a few dozen athletes whereas the event on Saturday held 51 events that comprised of 222 crews and 1,600 rowers. The pageantry of the occasion was apparent at every turn, from the intense spirit of competition that pervaded all events across a range of age levels, to the spectator boats that gave colour and animation to the watercourse. It was particularly encouraging to see the girls compete from their respective schools, bringing this annual community event to a pitch of activity across a day, a day that saw so much exhilaration when the boats breached the finish line, as well as disappointment when results were less than expected. The spirit of camaraderie on the water was palpable and testament to the tradition that has been forged between respective schools and communities over the course of many generations.

One of Australia’s leading statesman, Noel Pearson, spent time at the College on Saturday evening to, amongst other things, give the benefit of his wisdom to the boys in the Indigenous program. As the proud beneficiary of ‘a Riverview style’ education, Noel spoke with passion and insight about his childhood and schooling. He encouraged the boys to embrace every opportunity that presented, to be aspirational and optimistic about their future, and to consider leadership in the cause of reconciliation as Australia moves ever more deeply into the 21st Century. Reflecting on the relationship with his own father, Noel quoted one of the many maxims that his father shared with him as a boy growing up: “The purpose of life is to serve God and to serve your fellow man”. This resonates strongly with the ideals of Ignatian education: something that the boys took to heart as they reflected on the sentiments of a man whose life has given so much to heal Australia’s fractured past and reconcile the future – indeed, in Jesuit parlance – a man for others.

Part of the excitement of joining Year 5 and Year 7 is associated with the Camps that are part of the early formative years at the College. The boys in Year 5 spent the early part of the week at Collaroy, located on the pristine shores of the Northern Beaches. The boys enjoyed myriad activities including rock climbing, canoeing, archery and laser tag. At night, time was quarantined for reflection to consider the triumphs and challenges of the day that provided much by way of adventure, team building and friendship.

On Wednesday the boys in Year 7 headed off to North Narrabeen, recreating the community that will work progressively towards their graduation in 2020. An eternity away? Not so, as indeed students in the graduation class will attest, as they confront their final months of schooling after so many entered the College in Year 5 and Year 7, in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

Many in the school community had the great pleasure and fortune of attending the school musical, Grease, during the week. While the performance was always anticipated to be of exceptional quality, I doubt few would have predicted just how engaging and captivating it truly was. Cameo performances in song and music were matched by the best in stagecraft, choreography and lighting to produce another extravaganza of truly extraordinary proportions. At times, it was very difficult to believe that the cast were students in school; such was the sophistication of talent that thrived in the public domain. After months of preparation the proof was in the product, and, what an outstanding result. Congratulations and thanks are extended to so many – the students from Riverview, Loreto, Monte Sant’ Angela and St Vincent’s, the staff from respective schools, the special effects staff who fine-tuned the many subtleties, and of course, the parents who spent hours managing transport and family support to ensure that such a wonderful performance would be delivered on the night.

Over the weekend, Heads and Rectors from Jesuit owned and partnered schools from around the nation gathered at Riverview to consider issues of contemporary significance in Ignatian education. From Perth to Hervey Bay, from Geelong to Adelaide, the national character of the Society of Jesus was represented, which is currently responsible for educating over 10,000 young men and women whose lives aspire to ‘competence, conscience, compassion and commitment’. Joined to international links that educate 2.5 million students in 45 countries across the world, the works of the Society are far reaching and it was a salient reminder of the impact of the schools in shaping lives that will have the capacity to change the world over the course of the 21st Century. If one has doubts it may be best to look at the alumni who have emerged from Jesuit schools: Voltaire, Rene Descartes, Bill Clinton, Arthur Conan Doyle, David Hume, Charles De Gaulle, not excluding Robert Hughes and the four Rhodes Scholars from Riverview who have made their own indelible contributions to their respective fields over generations past. But, Jesuit education is not about reliving the past, it is about discerning the best of the present in order to create the future: a challenge that drew lively and protracted discussion from delegates from the many schools across the nation.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine