From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

You can’t hit what you don’t aim for.

At this week’s Middle School Assembly, Ms Bookluck, Young Housemaster, spoke to the boys and young men about the importance of stretching themselves. Her occasional remarks continued the School’s thematic messaging about the importance of focussing on growth and challenge, and gave your sons some excellent advice using the rhetorical power of a personal anecdote and, whilst it can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility to try and put old heads on young shoulders, it is, nonetheless, critically important and valuable for adults to provide guidance and advice to children and young people. It might seem casting proverbial pearls before the proverbial swine, but I am convinced that it is one of the keys to bringing up resilient, balanced and respectful children and young people. What follows is a precis of her remarks.

Are you the type of person who always thinks of the negatives when facing challenges?

Do you try to get out of difficult tasks?

When I came to Australia in my early teens, I was placed in a small special class, it consisted of students needing extra academic support, some with behavioural issues and the school bully. I was the only student from non-English speaking background.

Apart from Maths, everything else was difficult. My dictionary was my best friend. By Year 10, I managed to move from the bottom English class to the second class, but I still could not present a speech in History class. I cried when it was my turn. The teacher had to read my speech to the class instead.

As we were choosing subjects for Year 11, a schoolmate wanted to study Music and she needed another person for the class to be formed. I had no music theory knowledge, my instrumental abilities were elementary, but I was up to 7th Grade in Singing. So, I took a risk, dropped Biology, and took up Music with her. Little did I know how difficult 8th Grade Musicianship would be. Then, a month later, my friend stopped coming to school and I had to do the course all by myself. I had passed the point of no return.

Then came the time when my Music Teacher thought it would be a good idea for me to have some solo singing experience in public before the HSC Examination and she entered me in the City of Sydney Eisteddfod. I had no idea what the Eisteddfod was, and Google and smart phones had not been invented. But if I had known, I don’t think I would have been brave enough to enter. The competition was held at the Playhouse in the Opera House that year, and I had to go to the competition on my own. The other competitors all looked very confident. When it was my turn to sing, the first few notes were a bit wobbly, but I calmed down and the music started to flow. Halfway through, my brain went blank! It was a disaster! I had forgotten the words. I somehow managed to regain my composure and finish the song. I didn’t cry because I had no one to feel sorry for me. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to face the judges and other contestants again. Although it was an embarrassing experience, I gained courage and was more determined to try harder to prepare for the HSC.

So, my challenge for you today is what can you do that is out of your comfort zone? When you see an opportunity, you should take it. If it turns out to be a triumph, that is fantastic, but it may be even better if you fail, as this is when we learn the most. Avoidance, making excuses and being afraid of making mistakes will limit your growth as a person. You will never know if you do not try. Stretching yourself out of your comfort zone will enrich your life experience, increase resilience, and bolster your mental strength. If you embrace challenge, you will become courageous, confident, and content, as well as growing as a young man.

Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill


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