Friday 18 August 2017

Happiness

As I left the precincts of the College during the week, I passed a group of Year 7 boarders who were moving from dinner in the Refectory to the Gartlan for a recreation period prior to study. As usual, these exuberant young men were approaching their swim and gym time with enormous happiness, chatting buoyantly about their day and the games they would play prior to their study period. “Hi Sir”, was their greeting, with a complementary inquiry as to what I was doing and where I was going. I replied with the normal diet of a mid week night: “I’ve been finishing some paperwork, boys, before heading off for a meeting.” “Boring,” was their emphatic reply, which I mused over while en route to the meeting. Boring maybe for some, but not at all when I witnessed the richness of the moment – young men fully engaged in community and relishing the health and life giving moments that their exercise and study would bring them over the course of the evening. Yes, it was that elusive quotient of happiness being played out in the ordinary moments of daily life, one that has given me cause for profound reflection over the course of the week. It is happiness to which we aspire. One of the most astute contemporary social observers in Australia, Tim Costello, reminds us that happiness is inextricably bound up in meaning and purpose. Happiness therefore is the corollary of that deeper sense of purpose, and the boys’ sense of engagement and purpose was truly infectious.

One of those occasions that celebrates the depth of the partnership in education, one which is a truly joyous and happy one, is the Year 12 Mothers’ Mass and Luncheon. Each year in the middle of Term 3, just prior to the Trial HSC Examinations, the mothers of the graduates come together to reflect on the journey of their sons’ education over the previous six to eight years at Riverview. It is a time when the extent of the partnership is so palpably obvious: what entered the school as a 10 or 12 year old boy emerges as a man, fully formed by the experiences that have transpired over the intervening period. Mothers reminisce about the early years – the apprehension prior to entry, the early camps, reflection days, various sporting events; all part of the tapestry that has woven the individual and the collective fabric of community. And, there are always a few tears, often of gratitude as much of the emotion associated with experiences shared and hallowed memories relived. Over the coming weeks, there will be many events that will not only have their delicate share of happiness and anxiety in completing the demands of Year 12 and satisfying requirements for graduation, but also testify to the growth and development these young men have experienced over the years.

In the aftermath of the investiture of the Student Leaders Elect for 2018, current and future leaders have begun the process of transition. That the leaders in the Graduating class have learned much over the course of their tenure is beyond question: the need for them to pass on the accumulated wisdom of their experience to those who are coming into the role is essential. Hence, in an informal setting the Student Leaders of 2017 met with the Leaders Elect of 2018, sharing their views and reflections on leadership and how that could best benefit the College community into the coming year. It is an oft quoted maxim that the strength of any community is in due proportion to its leadership. We have been blessed with a fine crop of leaders over the course of 2017 and those elected to roles in 2018 have demonstrated that they have the skills, capacity and the values to carry the torch and burn it brightly, as their predecessors have done at the College for over a century. Forums such as this, where young men come together for the specific purpose of serving and strengthening community, are truly instructive and enriching to observe.

At the staff briefing to begin the week on the Regis campus, Kate Moore asked the assembled if they could contribute to the theme of happiness in this week’s Viewpoint. “Regis is always happy!” was the spontaneous retort from staff, largely because of the extraordinary array of opportunities and the hands-on nature of learning. This was confirmed on the testing day for Year 5 entry to the Regis campus for 2018, where an interactive session was held between the Year 5 boys who acted as tour guides for the Year 4 boys entering the College. When the incoming students asked about the main difference between Regis and their previous primary schools, two of the boys’ many answers are worth recalling:

  • This might sound funny coming from a kid’s mouth, but the teachers are really fantastic (direct quote!). They are strict but they really know their stuff and they get to know all the boys.
  • Everyone is kind and welcoming and plays with everyone else.

Amid the strength of community today and the promise of tomorrow, there is much joy to celebrate and be thankful for across the school.

Over the last week, the cadence and the atmosphere of the senior campus has changed as the Year 12 students batten down for the Trial HSC Examinations. These significant assessments draw on the totality of course content across the year and simulate the rigour and demands of the final HSC Examinations in mid October. For the next three weeks, the flow of examinations will be constant as dozens of subjects are rendered subordinate to the demands of the clock and the respective components of assessment regimes. Please keep these young men in your thoughts and prayers as they deal with the pressure of this process.

Congratulations are extended to the boys who featured in the recent TAS Exhibition in Memorial Hall. It showcased the outstanding work of the boys in various fields of technology, particularly digital and wood, and consummates so much of the learning that has taken place across a busy and demanding year.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine