Friday 17 June 2016

‘Friends Listen’

The most recent College Assembly profiled the cause of student well-being through friends: friends who are attentive to the needs of those around them and responsive when those needs are apparent. It was this time last year that Xavier Eales made his deeply personal disclosure about mental health issues that he had grappled with for years, and it was, by any standards, a landmark statement of courage. The Friends Listen Assembly aimed to deepen that awareness with some compelling insights from College Leaders – Bennett Walsh, Max Fisher and Tom Osborne. It was a community call to arms, a raising awareness and a deepening of the prevailing social consciousness about personal issues that boys confront in their maturation and development, from dealing with failure and disappointment, managing family breakdown, confronting relationships under stress as well as physical and mental health challenges. What was particularly noticeable about the forum was the riveting attention of the boys in the audience. One of the guests who joined the staff on stage was moved to comment in an email:

I would like to say that it was the most remarkable school assembly I have EVER attended (and having been in education for 50 years, there have been many!!). The frank, courageous and empathetic talking by both staff and boys was quite extraordinary, and the attention of those 1,500 boys outstanding.

Yes, for those who attended it was one to remember, and the immediate follow up in Mentor Groups highlighted the impact of the sentiments that were shared in the public forum, ones the boys have very much taken to heart over recent days.

As we approach the latter stages of term, there is much that fills an already action-packed calendar. On Tuesday, 18 Year 10 students arrived from two Jesuit schools in the United States – Boston College in Massachusetts and Fordham Prep in New York. They will spend the next two weeks billeted with families as part of a broadening international exchange program that Riverview is pursuing with other Jesuit schools across the world. Already an established program exists with Clongowes Wood in Ireland and this new chapter is designed to expand the horizons for students to experience Jesuit education in different contexts and cultures. Later in the year, the same number of boys will leave Australia for a similar period to experience schooling in Boston and New York, respectively, and will no doubt come to appreciate the inimitable gains from immersion in the American education system and family life that will be part of it.

All of the boys in Year 10 have been preparing for their Service Week in the final week of Term 2. At the heartland of Ignatian spirituality, each and every boy will devote time and energy to social justice to deepen their understanding of, and response to, the cause of the other, particularly those for whom life holds disproportionate hardship and adversity. Whether it be in the shelters for the homeless in Sydney, the disadvantaged schools in the west, aged care facilities, homes for the disabled or in non-metropolitan regions such as Borroloola, Alice Springs, Port Keats or Bathurst Island responding to the impulse of reconciliation, our boys will be active in the field and living out those values that are mandated in the Gospel. And, they will emerge richer and more formed as a result of their service, moved by the reflection process where meaning surfaces through experience that is processed over time.

Over the coming weekend the forces of history will be re-enacted as they have for over a century when the Joeys V Riverview clash meets on First Field. This annual event brings out the pageantry of the GPS, both on and off the field. During the week the boys have been practising their chants and antics, both designed to generate the spirit that sees healthy competition surround a gala community day that not only involves the school communities which participate, but the broader regional communities that have shared in this event over the decades. Among many other events programmed across the weekend, there will be the OIU Reunions – the 5th, 30th and others that have taken place over recent weeks, each of which will re-live school days and memories of the past in spirit that is synonymous with these wonderful schools.

Behind the scenes, teachers are finalising results in preparation for reports which are in the final stages of production. Reports for Year 11 and 12 have already been published while boys in Year 7 and 8 can access reports today from the College portal, Year 10 will be available on Wednesday 22nd June and Year 9 on Wednesday 29th June. Parent Teacher interviews for Year 11 will be held on the final day of Term 2 while Parent Teacher interviews for the other year levels will be held early next term. It is important that reports are the object of close assessment and discernment to ensure that strengths are consolidated and weaknesses identified and worked upon systematically over the term ahead.

Not without significance, a new entourage of families arrived and toured the College earlier in the week – those who are seeking entry for 2019!! While acceptances for 2018 were released late last month, the cycle for the next stage of the enrolment process is already underway. And, a healthy number of families was in attendance to hear some well chosen words from one of the senior boys, as well as to be escorted around the grounds by delegations of boys from Year 9. At a relatively young age, the boys are asked to act as ambassadors of the College and to take on leadership roles, which they always respond to with alacrity and with enormous maturity. More than speak to the educational program, it is an opportunity for families to meet the product of Jesuit education, the young men, those same young men who are asked to the attentive ear from their friends – the young men that former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe, coined ‘men for others’. That they were, whether that be at the Assembly earlier in the week or in meeting and greeting new families to the College.

We have much to be thankful for as we broach the latter days of the term.

Dr Paul Hine