Friday 6 March 2015

The View from 3rd Yard

Many may not be aware that the Principal’s Office has a commanding view over one of the busiest places in the College – the 3rd Yard. While the nomenclature is not particularly exciting or symbolic, it is a veritable hub of activity that I have the pleasure of observing each and every day. Handball and basketball provide feverish daily competition as the boys recreate at recess and lunch: slashing shots of handball that ricochet back and forth, as well as some spectacular baskets from mid court, often ending a game that is precipitated by the bell that signals the return to classes.

One node of this famous play space is inhabited by Year 10 boarders. At the north west corner, where many stories have been told (and embellished?) about sporting events, the weekends, life on the farm, and all manner of other topics that occupy the interests of mid adolescents. And, there are the days when Sydney’s storms see it evacuated, a bleak and foreboding strip of bitumen that has emptied itself of its life-blood, drenched with pools of water that casts a sombre complexion over the space.

I was reflecting on this over the weekend as a result of another scene I witnessed with great interest during the week. Perched on a side wall during lunch time, while the normal antics of the 3rd Yard were taking effect in the play spaces, I witnessed a spectacle that moved me deeply. One of the boys in the graduating class, tall and imposing of stature, was engaged in deep conversation with one of our smallest Special Education Inclusion Program (SEIP) boys. It was not a passing conversation or some flippant words; it was a dignification of the other, a discussion of the heart, a moment of time. That a Year 12 boy gave up a significant proportion of his lunch, and did so amid the backdrop of teeming activity, enjoying his exchange with a boy who otherwise may have had no one else to talk to, was what I could only regard as an Ignatian moment. How uplifting it is to witness the goodness of our boys and to appreciate the gift of community. A small matter, yet a gift-wrapped blessing. Cura personalis in action. A time of gratitude and grace – elements of the richness that Riverview supplies to its constituents. I couldn’t help but share this moment.

Last Sunday morning saw a re-enactment of a tradition in the Dalton Chapel that goes back to the foundational years of the College. A number of boys were prepared for, and participated in, the sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. With some current families living in remote communities, the parish services that were so readily available a generation ago, have become more difficult to access. In place of the remotely located families, the boarding community gathered to witness and support the boys and their families who were taking this important step of faith. Particular thanks are extended to those parents who travelled significant distances to be present for the occasion and to the Rector, Fr Ross, who made this sacramental celebration so very special.

As we begin to move more deeply into the latter stages of the term, the roll of the calendar subsumes those who are part of its incessant advance. Productive discussions were held in the Ramsay Hall on the Parent Teacher evening as the progress of boys in Year 12 was considered. With only nine teaching days remaining until mid year examinations, the need to measure time against pressing schedules is paramount. As quickly as the first half of the term has vanished, such will be the case over the coming 18 teaching days, signalling the half way mark of the graduation year for the boys in Year 12.

To complete the early camp program for the term, the boys in Year 6 travelled to Canberra over the latter part of the week for their annual Field Trip. More than building and strengthening the community, this is an opportunity for the boys to touch base with some of the national treasures including Parliament House (New and Old), the War Memorial, the Commonwealth Scientific Research and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO), Questacon, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and other repositories of Australian heritage. As is always the case, the boys had a superb time so thanks are extended to all who made this event so very worthwhile and memorable.

After the intense start to the year, House masses and suppers are up and running with Claver, Dalton and Xavier Houses beginning the schedule for 2015. As the new pastoral care system on an integrated basis becomes the means by which the boys are nurtured, and cared for over the course of their secondary schooling, these evenings become increasingly pertinent and valuable for all families in the House – be they at the point of entry in Year 7, or graduation later in the year. The coming together of the whole House takes quite some time and coordination, particularly on a week that is bookended by Parent Teacher interviews and the Head of the River. Thanks are extended to those who prepare the mass and the formalities as well as the many parents who make extra efforts to attend.

As identified, the ‘Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of New South Wales’ (AAGPS) Head of the River will be held at Penrith on Saturday to complete a competitive rowing season. From dawn training on the Lane Cove River, to the weights room and erg sessions in the afternoons, the boys have prepared well and will do us proud on the day. All are encouraged to come and support this spectacle of school sport that has become emblematic of the AAGPS over the last 122 years.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine