Friday 21 August 2015

Matters Academic Prevail

Over the past week the bio-chemistry of the school has intensified with the onset of Trial HSC Examinations and the beginnings of the subject selection process for 2016. In the case of the former the boys in Year 12 gather in quiet apprehension but measured confidence before each paper, having made their own purposeful preparations for the demands of the assessments that they confront. In my personal view, these are the most challenging examinations they will confront in their academic lives, and I include among those the boys who may go on to pursue higher degrees and candidature for Doctoral Studies. Because they are grappling with a variety of subjects that conform to the HSC pathway, there are demands on volume and complexity, which will no doubt provide the undergraduate and career options, in due proportion to their performance, in what lies in the years ahead beyond school. On Friday evening the boys and their parents in Year 8 and Year 10 gathered in the Ramsay Hall to embark on the subject selection process for 2016. This brings with it its own discernment and pressure as the boys consider electives and options that begin to determine their pathway, although the tertiary implications are a little more remote. Having said that, the increasing importance of making the right decisions is part and parcel of the secondary conundrum so it is worth pausing for all of those who are considering futures to ensure that a thorough and thoughtful process is entered into to engineer the right outcome.

Science Week has profiled the importance of the discipline while concurrently engaging students in a variety of activities and events that stimulated the mind and the imagination. On Monday, Dr Lawrence Lee gave a particularly animated lecture to the boys in Year 10 about problem solving, discovery and building, particularly in the field of synthetic biology where he has researched proteins that identify and counter tuberculosis. Dr Lee is one of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers, having been a guest presenter to the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and various universities throughout the world including Oxford, Cambridge and the Imperial College in the United Kingdom, Southern California, Osaka and Lund (Sweden). Other activities included the Lava Lamps (Yr 8), Fr Ross’ exploration of the link between Science and Religion (Yr 9), the Reuben tubes display (Yr 10) and Chemistry and Physics shows. It was a week that demonstrated learning and enjoyment are synonymous in the educational equation. Thanks to the work of so many that ensured its success.

Students in Year 11 undertook their first Study Skills session with the team from Elevate during the week in order to strengthen the process of preparation for the end of semester examinations later this term and the beginning of HSC coursework, which is confronted early next term. Delivered by high achieving graduates over recent years, the program has been extremely well received by the boys. Rarely does a program receive such strong endorsement, but in a survey conducted following the sessions the following was registered:

  • 99% found the program was time well spent
  • 99% would recommend the program to other students
  • 100% found it useful to have a young person present the program who has recently undertaken the HSC

Among a raft of comments which were forwarded the following are very illuminating:

  • Highly influential and just in time for our exams.
  • The program was very effective. I learned how to prepare notes.
  • I found the program insightful and interesting as it gave me knowledge on how to approach my study in a more efficient manner.

This program builds on the work that is being undertaking on a classroom level to best prepare the boys for the step up they are taking over the coming weeks as they head towards their own HSC and graduation year.

Adding inspiration to the music program during the week, the Yale Whiffenpoofs, descended with their unique musical majesty to perform a concert in the Dalton Chapel. Founded in 1909, the ‘Whiffs’ are the oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group in the world. In times past they have performed in some of the most famous and hallowed auditoriums including the Lincoln Centre, Carnegie Hall and the White House. Beginning their international music tour in Iceland back in May of this year, the ‘Whiffs’ have traversed the globe over the last four months and are now in the final stages of their performance schedule. Invoking exquisite harmonies through a range of musical genres including traditional, pop and gospel, the ‘Whiffs’ thrilled the staff and students who filled the Dalton to witness this very rare event. Special thanks are extended to the Director of Music, Ms Sue Thomas, for facilitating this visit and for coordinating the school-based program that saw such a memorable performance of this acclaimed musical entourage.

Each and every day of the school year, some unsung heroes toil relentlessly behind the scenes; namely, Leanne Neale and the team who work in the Health Care Centre. Last year the College had over 11,000 admissions for all manner of paediatric concerns, from breaks and sprains on the rugby field to mental health and endemic afflictions that affect adolescents. During the winter season the Centre is exponentially busy, between the acute injuries suffered on the rugby ground and most recently, the onset of influenza and colds that have seen so many boys interned for treatment and close observation. Since the beginning of August 965 students have signed in for treatments/care, 365 in the last week!! Health care has been tended with great professionalism and a distinctive touch of cura personalis, which is a driving ethic of Ignatian schools. As a community we give thanks for the ministry of those who work in the Health Care Centre and give with unstinting generosity to the mission of the College and provide such outstanding care to the boys and their families.

With only 19 teaching days remaining until the end of term, and only two more weeks until the completion of the GPS winter season, it is difficult sometimes to see beyond the immediacy of each lesson, each sports training, each transport arrangement or each day. Perhaps the following prayer may offer some cause for reflection as the frenetic schedule for the coming week comes into view, no doubt with its own inherent challenges and rewards:

May what is truth within us

before your truth give way,

that we may live untroubled,

with quiet hearts this day.

Best wishes,

Dr Paul Hine