From the Principal

Welcome to Week Four of the last term of 2017. I know it is said every year that the year has flown, but the business of 2017 has made it feel like the time has passed even quicker than usual. Over the past two weeks we celebrated the efforts and achievements of the Class of 2017. This time in the school year is always highly anticipated, and the boys in Year 12 didn’t let themselves or the College down with the way they finished off the year. End of year celebrations always have the potential to go astray, but we had no such concerns. We were able to bid farewell to a wonderful group of young men in a fitting way at the College Valedictory Assembly on Friday 20 October. There were many highlights that made for a great assembly, including the Valedictory speech given by our College Captain, Stefano Mascaro, the ceremonial handing over of Student Leadership under the guidance of Mrs Dwyer and Mr Barnes and the ever popular awarding of the House Shields. It was also marvelous to present the Year 12 Excellence Awards to the students who had achieved the highest internal score for their Unit 3 / 4 subject. We have been blessed with this year’s Year 12 students, who have gone about their days in a quiet manner. It is always an emotional week, with the excitement of students finishing their last class, the nervous tension that comes with looking to a future no longer supported by the Salesian College community, and the anxiety that comes with the realization that exams are finally upon us. The Class of 2017 leaves having made a unique and wonderful contribution to the history of Salesian College Chadstone.

At last week’s Valedictory Assembly, I asked for God’s blessing on the Class of 2017 with the following reflection:

May you always have work for your hands to do. May your pockets hold always a coin or two. May the sun shine bright on your windowpane. May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain. May the hand of a friend always be near you. And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

We hope the boys leave with fond memories of their time at Salesian College and in the knowledge that they have been given the opportunity to acquire skills and experiences that will serve them well in their lives beyond the College. I also hope they have used their time between finishing and their first exam on Wednesday wisely, and will continue their efforts up until their final exam.

We followed the Valedictory Assembly with a beautiful Valedictory Mass and Dinner on the Friday evening, where we shared time with the Year 12 boys and their parents. These gatherings ensured that for the final time together, we were able to celebrate the Eucharist, pray, reflect and give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us this year. As a community we gave thanks for the educational environment in which we operate, for our staff and for the many talents they bring to our community. The greatest of these blessings is the students entrusted into our care with all their gifts, talents and quirks. In particular, we gave thanks for the Class of 2017 for all that they have done, for all they have achieved, and most importantly, for all that they are.

In my farewell address to the boys I reflected on the reasons I continue to work in education after thirty years. I explained that it was the students who kept me going, and I thanked the boys for the part they played at Salesian College in keeping my passion for teaching alive. I reminded them the end of classes doesn’t mean the end of their hard work. I encouraged the boys to keep their celebrations low key until after the exams, as there is still much work to be done. For the vast majority of subjects there is still 50% of their marks up for grabs, so it is vital the boys use their time wisely to ensure they prepare as much as possible. Below is a copy of my speech, for those who would like to read it.

2017 Valedictory Assembly Speech

“Over the years, I have been asked on numerous occasions why I became a teacher. In more recent times, this question has morphed into, “How can you continue to do what you do?”, as well as “How do you put up with all those kids?”

There is a long answer to the initial question, but to cut a long story short it can be traced back to some individual teachers and the profound impact they had on me. Now, the latter questions are far easier to answer, because it’s as simple as this; it’s the students that keep me going, even after 30 long years.

Over the next few minutes, I’d like to talk about how all of you, and in particular the Class of 2017, continue to give me life. Whether it’s in life lessons, a laugh, bringing a smile to my face, keeping me young as I try to keep up with all the new trends and fads (very important when you get to my age), the warmth of a simple smile or greeting, marveling at the gifts and talents you have, or being in awe of the intelligence of some of the students in our care, it’s all of these things that give meaning to my working life.

As teachers we can sometimes be guilty of forgetting just what it is that teaching gives us, amongst the hard work, the frustration, the stress, and the feelings of inadequacy when we realize that we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes we can learn as much from our students as they can learn from us, and there are always moments of joy, enlightenment, satisfaction and success, emotions I can’t imagine any other job in the world giving us.

Now we have to remember the lessons students provide are not always positive, and I’m sure this is no different to the lessons we teach students. I’m equally sure each of you can recall the odd boring lesson over the years, or perhaps a time when you walked out of a class more confused than when you entered, feeling completely frustrated by what had been presented. Now whilst all of this is true, today I want to reflect on all lessons, both positive as well as the less positive, that we learn from each other

Today as I focus on the Class of 2017, they are special as they are the first group of boys that have gone all the way through their time at Salesian College Chadstone with me, having started the at the same time as I did, in 2012. Over the past six years they have taught me so much.

This group of boys have reminded me of what can be achieved when a group comes together to work towards a mutual goal, as this group has done on many occasions. This was best demonstrated last year when they were set the challenge to raise an extra $5000 for the missions in Samoa. Under the leadership of Tibin and a few others, they rallied to establish B.O.S.S. Day (Building Overseas Support Day) a legacy that will be passed down for future years.  

They have taught us important life lessons like dealing with adversity, as boys like Kieren, and Ali have done, remaining positive despite their challenges

Sometimes the lessons are more basic. One such lesson is the one I have learnt about the fluidity of the concept of time. See, I was always under the delusion that time consisted of seconds, minutes and hours, and that following time allowed us to meet schedules or timetables. Now, this group has demonstrated another understanding of the same concept. Many of them have the understanding that time is merely an indicator that we shouldn’t get too hung up on. See, these boys would argue that 8:45am doesn’t signal the start of the school day exactly, rather it only gives an approximation, which allows for variables which can actually change the time paradigm. The start of the day can be affected by a number of variables. One such variable is what is timetabled first thing in the morning. I have learnt that if a subject that one feels is less important is timetabled in Period One, that will inversely impact on the actual starting time for some of our senior students. A concept shared by students such as Peter D, Brendan T and Lucas C.

Another valuable life lesson was given by the VCAL boys, as I observed them closely. They taught me not to take life too seriously, to always have fun and enjoy what you are doing. They also demonstrated that if you are passionate about something, it is worthy of your full efforts, but I’m not sure I needed to learn that everything else doesn’t matter.

As well as learning from our students, they can also provide moments of awe as we witness their amazing talents. Whether it be Jack performing on stage, the sporting prowess of boys such as Josh, Dean or Yianni, the mathematical ability of students such as Mike or the all-round academic talents of the likes of Kevin, Stefano and Wesley, I never cease to be amazed by the talents of our students.

Whilst all of these lessons and talents are important, the most important gift that each boy brings is themselves. Life has taught me that the most important thing we have in this world is the people we encounter day to day. Over the last six years you boys have contributed greatly in building the Salesian College Chadstone community. Communities are built over time, built on the back of relationships, created when we are willing to support each other, to accept and respect each other’s differences. You boys have demonstrated tolerance and acceptance of difference, you have shown respect for each other and to other members of the community, and you have been willing to work together for the greater good. All of this has made our community stronger. Amongst your many achievements, the friendships you have established and the bond you share is probably the greatest.

By acknowledging, highlighting and celebrating the achievements of the Class of 2017, I hope you boys come to understand the wonderful contribution you have made and the high regard you are held in this community.

Whilst there is no doubt that some of you have been guilty on occasion of getting up to mischief and making the occasional poor decision, such as the flares at the ACC Swimming Carnival, I have always believed you have understood what is truly important and always been willing to try and do the right thing.

As a community we have witnessed you grow from fumbling, shy, awkward Year Sevens, dealing with blazers that were a few sizes too big, and being unsure of how to read timetables, before moving through the years, all while honing your ‘down ball’ skills. Your journey included a brief sojourn to the Mannix campus, where you learnt a little independence and developed your confidence to a point where you had the courage to dance with the Sacred Heart girls in Year 10. At this point you became acutely aware that there may be other things in life other than school, sport and computer games to gain your interest, ending up where you are today.

In your final year, led magnificently by your captains Stefano, Peter and Lachie, you have proceeded to become the confident and talented young men you are today. Over the past 12 months we have witnessed you share your stories on retreat, confidently strut your stuff on the dance floor at the Year 12 Formal (highlighted by the suave and sophisticated moves of Kyle on the dance floor) and win academic awards, as you became confident young men who believe you have it all figured out. In the blink of an eye, the end is here, your rule is over, and your time here is about to become a distant high school memory.

What will you take away? How will you remember your time at Chaddy? Will your focus be on the lessons learnt, the stress experienced or detentions received, or will it be measured in the friendships made, the experiences enjoyed, the battles fought, the successes, or the times shared? I know the community will measure your time here in the friendships formed, the sense of joy you have provided, the welcome and sense of belonging you share and the sense of pride witnessed among you. Each one of you will be remembered fondly for who you are.

I couldn’t let the opportunity pass for me to finally bask in the glory of a Tigers Premiership. Whilst there is an element of self-indulgence in reflecting on the success of the Richmond team in 2017, this example can be used to underline some very important messages in life. The team have shown that if a group of people are willing to work together with enthusiasm and vigour for the one cause, anything is possible. The ultimate success of the Richmond Football Club was built on hard work, planning, and blood, sweat and tears. I use this example for you to reflect on, as your time here is coming to an end, but there is still much to do. The place of the Class of 2017 in Salesian College history will ultimately be judged by the academic achievements of your group, which will be influenced significantly by your exam results. I encourage you to take the lead of the Richmond Football Club to work hard, be focussed in what you want to achieve and set about doing it together. Remember, any future achievements will be the product of all these elements, and not chance. All our hard work and persistence over the past thirteen years, in particular the past twelve months have given you a base, and I encourage you not to waste it.

As you leave I hope that you remember your teachers, because they will sit here today with pride having watched you grow over the past six years. They will share your joy in completing your secondary studies. They too will share a sense of triumph, a feeling of completion for getting you through. Some may even shed a tear as they bid you farewell, for they have done what John Bosco asked of them, they have loved you and made sure you knew it. I can proudly and confidently say your teachers here at Salesian College have looked after and cared for you, they have nurtured you to the point where it is now time for you to move on. They will stay, hoping you will go on to fulfil your dreams, your hopes and aspirations.

It is important as you leave that you know that you have given much to this community. There is not a single achievement, a single event or a single person, not even in a single moment more noteworthy than the rest. Your legacy is the sum of all the contributions made by you all of you over the past six years.

Finishing is no longer a future thought or distant reality. It’s here now, today. Your time at Salesian began as children, you leave here as fine young men. You’ve completed your education here at Salesian College, an education grounded on the values of Jesus Christ, informed by the teachings of John Bosco. I encourage you to use the lessons learnt and values witnessed to serve as a very sound platform to launch yourselves into your futures.

As I finish, I share what Flavia Weedn once said. “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” It is the same for the impression you have left on me. You never leave someone behind, you take a part of them with you and leave a part of yourself behind.

And in the words Anne Marie Walz, “We all lose friends, we lose them in death, to distance and over time. But even though they may be lost, hope is not. The key is to keep them in your heart, and when the time is right, you can pick up the friendship right where you left it. Even the lost find their way home when you leave the light on.”

“How lucky are we to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

In conclusion, the thing that you boys have taught me is that heroes don’t need to wear capes or masks. They don’t even need to have super powers. They merely need to be wonderful people, and you are a credit to your parents, your family, your friends and the College. You are my heroes. Congratulations to you on the completion of your secondary education. I wish you every success and happiness, and lastly as Salesian men you are truly the best of the best.”

Good luck to the Year 12 Graduating Class of 2017, and God bless.

Mr Rob Brennan