Final Assembly

‘High school is more stressful than it looks in the movies…’

‘Lack of sleep and lengthy assignments don’t mix well…’

‘With a mixture of excitement and curiosity, we say hello to our future…’

These are some of the many words of wisdom that our 2018 Senior students bestowed upon the rest of the school at their Final Assembly today. The atmosphere was electric – students in the lower grade, and we, the teachers, could all feel the excitement of the senior students, who can finally see the finish line. The end is so close they can smell it.

School for them is all but over.

With literally days remaining, it is a time for joy, relief and the saying of goodbyes. It is a time of reminiscing and nostalgia – of celebrating the end of the only institution they have ever known.

Twelve years of schooling, done and dusted, and now their future awaits them.

Such a tremendous time in one’s young life.

What a moment of pride it must be for parents, having raised and guided their beloved successfully through their first seventeen years to this milestone. It really is a rite of passage to be celebrated all round.

For students, it is closing the door on their childhood years, and their first ‘stepping out’ into the big, wide world of adulthood. For parents, it is the figurative ‘cutting of the chord’, releasing their offspring from the rules and regulation of the school environment, and facilitating their progression into adulthood.

Even now, twenty three years later, I can remember the tears and petrifying fear that I felt at the prospect of not being in my school environment anymore. On a certain level, I wonder whether I knew that entering the big, wide world meant that I had to confront issues about myself that I wasn’t prepared to face.

I was most certainly in my comfort zone at school – an all girls’ environment where being academically inclined and sporty meant I had quite a positive schooling experience. The last thing I wanted to do was leave the safety and security of the niche I had carved out for myself. I felt this desire to stay in my all girls’ environment because I didn’t want to deal with the reality that the big wide world involved meeting and getting along with boys. I knew once out in the wider world I had to feign interest in them in order to survive socially.

Although I didn’t know about my homosexuality at this time, I knew enough about myself to know that I was different from most girls my age.

School dances, parties and public speaking competitions had provided more than enough evidence of this difference for me – female friends of mine fawned all over our male counterparts. I seemed to be the ‘Lone Ranger’ in my feeling that boys were arrogant, immature and single dimensional. The less I had to do with them, the better.

I knew I was different, yet at school, I felt comfortable and accepted.

Obviously as I’ve grown up, I’ve changed my view and now love the interaction I have with the males in my daily life. But in my formative years, I found it challenging and foreign, and there was not one part of me that relished the opportunity to leave the security of my beloved school environment.

I looked around the hall today and wondered how many of our Senior students could possibly be dreading leaving like I was at that age. Some, yes, but most of what I saw today was joy and relief at the prospect of moving on.

It made me feel proud.

As a teacher, and as a parent, my hope for these students, and for my own children, is that by the end of their schooling, they are happy and ready to embrace what lies ahead. That they are confident, resilient and well-equipped to face the challenges that await them in their adulthood. That they know that they have support, understanding and options in their lives, whatever their personal situation.

No matter how different, or insecure they may feel.

Today, for the first time, I saw this day through the eyes of a parent.

I listened to these speeches, full of wisdom and optimism and it made my heart swell. One beautiful young man thanked his mother, and told her that he loved her – in a public forum in front of all his peers – and it almost brought me to tears.

Another young man began with, ‘From the moment we sat down in our first Assembly, we knew there would come a time that it would be our last’.

Their parents must be so proud. I know that I was for them, just watching their kids rise to the occasion, brimming with eloquence and optimism.

My overriding feeling from this final Assembly today was ‘Wow’. What an impressive group of young people we have amongst us.

The final piece of advice that was uttered by one of our school captains to the student body today was, ‘Put yourself in a position so that you are proud of yourself in future’.

What a stellar challenge to throw down.

Not only for the students in the room.

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