Friday 27 November 2020

The Dusk of 2020

As the year draws towards the end there is a frenetic amount of activity at the College. The largest number of teachers ever have been involved in marking, judge marking and senior participation in HSC examinations, which bring with them tight assessment schedules in readiness for the complex business of scaling across performance profiles and ultimately result in the production of Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores. Over 40 teachers, some for the first time, use the opportunity to best understand the intricacies of assessment regimes and participate in the most important form of professional development at HSC level.

Teachers in Years 5 to 11 are completing End of Semester Reports ready for distribution in the aftermath of the Awards Ceremony which will be held on Wednesday 2nd December. These reports run through their own subject-specific grade distribution and analytics, a number of which will be captured in the Awards that will be presented at each respective Stage Level Assembly next Wednesday. Each result across the range of subjects is a measure of the proficiency that has been achieved in accord with assessment rubrics; each, an indication of what that means for subsequent years by way of approach and attitude.

The Year 9 Challenge enters its second week and thus far the reports have been very positive. Aspects of the program needed to be tailored to comply with restrictions associated with COVID-19, but these have been positively received. For those who embarked upon Bush Week, they have understood the eponymous name of the program: Challenge!! Indeed, there are demands associated with the better part of 80 kms of mountain bike riding and 60 kms of canoeing. These not only relate to the individual but also the team, as each member contributes to the overarching performance of the collective. There are also those elements of the program which do not otherwise form part of the formal education program at the College but lead to a strengthening of values, independence and an understanding of what lies ahead in adult life. Among others, they include orientation to public transport, table etiquette, ironing, polishing shoes, sewing repairs and that most important of domestic duties – toilet cleaning!! While the latter doesn’t have the same attraction for the boys as the outward-bound activities, they represent important life skills that cannot be overlooked in the transition to adulthood over the years ahead.

Year 8 boys and their fathers recently participated in the ‘Men in Conversations’ program over recent weeks and broached the issue of masculinity. While sex is biological, the concept of gender is amorphously complex and cultural. It has the capacity to define behaviours by virtue of the milieu participants – men and women – rather than a deeper set of values based upon the dignity of what it is to be human. An overt and disproportionate attachment to the concept of gender can define behaviour. Perhaps best critiqued through a lens that can project stereotypes of men as being tribal, overtly physical, lacking emotion, impulsive, hedonistic, and the list goes on, this can be at best a misrepresentation and at worst destructive. Role models are important and can provide aspirations for human excellence – be they male or female. ‘Men in Conversations’ is a chance to step back, review and critique the concept of masculinity and to look more deeply into values which are consonant with the condition of being human – love, trust, fidelity, compassion and sensitivity, qualities, traits and gifts that are anything but the preserve of gender.

The Blue and White was held last Saturday night at the Rosehill Racecourse to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2020. It was a memorable evening as the boys and their parents looked back on a demanding year and consummated the completion of the first formal chapter in the boys’ lives. For 154 families, this was their only or the last of their boys to graduate after so many years of association with the College. I wish to thank them for their support over the years and wish them well as they venture forth into new frontiers and horizons. As much as we commend the boys on their outstanding response to a remarkable year, I acknowledge the gift of gratitude that many parents are contributing to by way of the Class of 2020 Legacy Bursary. This initiative supports other boys yet to come with the gift of education through the College’s Bursary Program – such an important statement in a Catholic and a Jesuit school intent on providing access for those who otherwise couldn’t afford to come. I am deeply indebted to, and thank all who embrace the broad mission of the College so seriously.

While the end of year is nigh, the support for social justice causes so deeply embedded in Jesuit DNA is not. The College is currently supporting the Christmas cake campaign for Cana Farm, to support residents who are homeless and/or are have been released from custody after time in prison. This is a cause which is close to the heart of the College. For those families who have not yet organised some of their Christmas presents and preparations, I encourage you to consider the products from the Cana Farm Christmas catalogue.

We come into the final week, wiser for all that has transpired in 2020. Let us step back and appreciate the sunset, as we approach the dusk of a truly remarkable year.

Dr Paul Hine