From the Principal

Week four of Term One is a time we cherish as we finally enter into a period of minimal interruptions to the teaching and learning program, after the frenetic start of a school year and what it brings. Retreats, camps, photo days and assemblies, while all necessary and in most cases positive, do hinder getting the boys into a good study routine for the year ahead. It has been a beautiful couple of weeks with the extreme heat of summer appearing to be behind us. I am proud to say that the boys have settled well and made a good start to the school year. There has been a real positive vibe amongst the boys in their approach to the daily grind, with most boys applying themselves in their classes.

Of particular note is the manner in which the Year 7 cohort have started the year. It was evident in the way the boys interacted and participated in the activities at Year 7 Camp at Camp Rumbug that they had already established friendship groups and were feeling at home at the College. On my visit to camp last week, it was pleasing to witness the boys fully and enthusiastically involving themselves in all the activities on offer and supporting each other as they pushed themselves outside their comfort zones. Congratulations to Ms Christina Romano and to all the staff on camp for providing the boys with such a rich and friendly experience. We look forward to Wednesday evening of this week when the Year 7 parents will get the opportunity to join us for a social evening where we can reflect on all that has happened so far and share stories and anecdotes of their sons’ experiences thus far.

Last Thursday, with great pride, the College welcomed back the top achieving students from the Class of 2018. Along with these fine young men we celebrated the achievements of all of our students. Students from all year levels were congratulated and presented with awards, some with scholarships, and one with an amazing opportunity in partnership with Melbourne University. All of the boys acknowledged for their commitment and consistent hard work are a testament to their families and to the dedication and commitment of all of my staff here at the College. It was a wonderful gathering with many great highlights, especially having the boys of the Class of 2018 back in the community to recognise their achievements. Congratulations to Ms Irene Apostolopoulos and all the staff involved in bringing the gathering together.

When addressing the community at the Dux Assembly, my focus was alerting all to the gift of time. Later in this blog I take the opportunity to share my address with you and hope that all of you may take time to consider my thoughts on this most invaluable commodity.

Friday week ago, the College held our annual Swimming Carnival at Oakleigh pool in very pleasant conditions. The day ran very well with lots of enthusiasm, especially early as the boys’ competed house against house. In the end Savio were victorious, but in my mind everyone in attendance was a winner. I would like to thank Mr Stephen Loonstra, Mr Jayden Hawkes and all the PE staff for their organisation of the carnival and all other staff for their support and contribution on the day.

I look forward to our boys competing in the ACC Swimming Carnival on Friday evening at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. I would like to wish the boys all the best in the knowledge that they have been getting up early and training very hard for a number of weeks to ensure they represent themselves and the College with pride. I’m sure our boys will be very competitive and have a good carnival. It is always a great evening and another chance for our boys to shine. I’m hoping there will be lots of additional support from our community to encourage the boys on the night.

My address to the community at our Dux Assembly

‘The Dux Assembly is one of the true highlights of the Salesian College Chadstone academic calendar. The joy we share in acknowledging and celebrating the outstanding achievements of the highest performing students from the previous year is truly inspirational. Today, we honour the boys of the Class of 2018 and the high achieving boys from the other year levels who excelled in their studies last year. I have the greatest admiration for these boys and their accomplishments , and I hope all gathered here today rightly understand the level of their achievement and possibly more importantly, how it is they were able to attain such outstanding results.

To attain an ATAR greater than 90, to be the dux of a year level, to be the dux of an individual subject, or to be a recipient of a Salesian College Scholarship is an amazing achievement, an achievement that should not be the sole domain of a privileged few. I’m sure many of the student body believe such achievements are beyond them, convincing themselves that somehow they don’t have the intelligence or talents to be worthy of such awards. Now this may be true for some students, however, I would argue they would be in the minority. The reality is, most of you, with the required effort, would have the necessary ability and talents to do likewise. None of the achievements of these boys are simply the result of how smart they are, nor are they magically bestowed on a chosen few. Rather they are the combination of these boys applying their God given talents, working extremely hard, making the most of the opportunities offered to them and using the time they have wisely. All of this combined with an abundance of persistence and dedication has ensured these boys achieved results commensurate with their abilities .

Today I want to pick up on one of these elements, an element that we all have in equal quality and quantity, ‘Time’, the most valuable asset life provides. I am confident a common theme for all the boys we recognise today is their positive use of their time.

I hope that everyone in this hall today will take heed of what I’m about to say. There is nothing new in what I’m about to say and I am sure you have all heard it a million times before, whether Mum or Dad have mentioned it, or you’ve heard it from your teachers or possibly even your friends. My message is simple. ‘Use your time wisely’. There is no great wisdom in this statement and it is certainly no magical motivational tool, however, if you take heed, you may find my advice may have dramatic affects on all aspects of your life.

Time is often the most undervalued resource, taken for granted and wasted without thought, yet if we stopped and reflected for a moment, we would come to realise just how valuable it is. Time is limited, it is a resource that cannot be saved, or banked, it cannot be increased and it certainly cannot be retrieved, time waits for no one. So when we use phrases such as “there’s not enough hours in the day”, “I have no time”, “there is never enough time”, we possibly should take the advice of Jean de La Bruyère who said “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”

It is up to us to work out ways to make the most of this precious resource, remembering there are only 24 hours in the day. To live life to the fullest we have to make the most of every minute in the day.

The funny thing is that time is so finite and also infinite. We feel it intensely in both its expansiveness and constraint, and yet it is intangible. I often think of how much and how little time I have. If we cared to ponder time, we would come to the realization that we have just as much as Michelangelo or Camus or Picasso, but when we look back on our time, whether it be the past 24 hours, the last week or year or when you get to my age, my life to this point, will we ask ‘Have I done enough, fought hard enough, dug deep enough for history to remember all the time I spent here?’

I came across a phrase the other day, “Either you run the day, or the day runs you”. And I thought, “there is something in this”, because each and every moment in our life is time. The things that pass and never come back are very important and time is one of those valuable treasures. So, proper utilization of time is necessary for all of us. Time management is one the pivotal factors to achieve success in any field. It is essential for our personal life as well as professional life. Time management teaches us the patience that no school or college can teach. Not only this, it also teaches us how to tackle the difficult and different situations in a given span of time. The message is simple, an individual who is skilled at managing time efficiently is always ahead of the ones who lack this skill. I’m sure the need to fathom the significance of time has been stressed by your teachers in all your classes in each and every year of your schooling. A truer word has not been spoken than this quote by Charles Darwin “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life”.

Using time wisely is not a strength of men and young men in particular. Whilst I know this is a gross generalisation and may ostracize some of my male colleagues, and some of you sitting before me, I base my position on personal experience, in what I have witnessed in over thirty years in education and simply by observing life (especially through my two sons). Procrastination seems to be a gift of young boys, regularly putting off what could be done today for tomorrow, often substituting an activity of less priority or even worse, of less importance.

Now the boys we have recognised here today are largely exceptions to this generalisation. They seem to have mastered the art of organising themselves, setting priorities and, using their time wisely, but for many of us, this is not the case, as we are the kings of the thoughts, “she’ll be right” and “I’ll worry about it later”.

I am often left in disbelief by comments that I hear reasonably regularly from all types of students, including highly academic boys. Comments like “I’ll work hard when I’m in Year 12”, or “I’ll get to that later”, or “I can’t do that because I have the next SAC or outcome to work on” fail to realise that the work for the rest of the upcoming assessments will back up until they eventually swamp the underprepared student.

I want to diverge at this point to briefly share the story of Tyler Fishlock, a young man that I have been aware of for a long time. I was reminded of his story a few weeks back upon reading an article by Grant McArthur, in the Herald Sun. The article highlighted the fact that Tyler had beaten cancer for the third time and was about to start Year 11 with a focus of getting on with the next chapter of his life.

Tyler was diagnosed with the rare genetic cancer ‘retinoblastoma’ when he was about 4 years old, resulting in having both his eyes removed before undergoing aggressive chemotherapy. Only for the cancer to return twice more by the time he was 16, the latest in his leg, which he refused to have amputated in the belief he would beat it with treatment.

This latest battle with cancer meant Tyler was scheduled for 20 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy but, after enduring 16 rounds, his kidneys were struggling and a transplant was on the cards as his body could take no more, so the treatment was cut short early this year. He has since been told that his cancer is in remission and he is hopeful of a full recovery, whatever that means. Despite the enormity of the challenges Tyler faces, the 16-year-old is determined to put his latest battles behind him and has returned to school to complete Year 11 like every other child. To highlight this young boy’s courage and outlook on life I share a couple of quotes. His mother said, “I have never won Tattslotto, but I can tell you that I reckon this feels a hell of a lot better” on being given good news, and when referring to getting back to school, Tyler said, “It is time to get my life back, to take control and do what I want to do”.

I shared Tyler’s story to highlight how precious time is. I could have used any of millions of stories like Tyler’s, each having the exact same motive. It would be so easy for a boy such as Tyler to say, “what’s the use?”, “why should I bother?”, or “I’m just going to sit back and enjoy whatever time I have left”. Instead he is determined to make the most of every moment, to get on with his schooling and just get on with living life as positively as he can.

We often kid ourselves that we have plenty time, especially when we are young like you boys, who, on the law of averages have more than seventy years of life ahead of you. So why is there so much pressure on us to use our time wisely? I wonder how Tyler would answer this question, given his life changed so dramatically as a four year old. In his case, time all of a sudden took on a preciousness that I hope no one in this room ever has to face. I hope for most of us the understanding of making the most of the time we have is intrinsic, that we draw our motivation simply from wanting to get our lives up and running, to successfully move through the stages of life considered to be the norm. That is, to complete primary school in 7 years, secondary in six before moving into university at 18 years of age and completing it in the prescribed time all to the best of our ability. Whilst this is not the path for everyone, applying ourselves and using our time wisely can make life less complex or easier, and something I encourage you all to aim for. Those of us who have lived more of our lives than we have left come to understand how quickly time can fly and how important it is to make the most of every minute, every moment if we are to get the most out of life. We come to understand that every second, day, week, term, semester or year we waste is time we will never get back.

So during your time here at Salesian College, I implore you to use your time wisely and make the most of the opportunities offered you. Enjoy the journey being educated in the Salesian Tradition brings. Make each day a special one and live it in the understanding that you don’t know how many them you have left. Endeavour to live the Christian values we believe in so strongly, take on lifes’ challenges and enjoy life to the full. Doing these things will put you on the long road to a happiness that you won’t find in wealth, material possessions, or in status. Rather your happiness and sense of self worth will be formulated in the knowledge you gave it your best shot, you made the most of your God given gifts and talents, you loved with all your heart, and helped others in this life.

Once again I congratulate all the boys who have been acknowledged today, in particular the members of the Class of 2018, and I wish you every success in the next phase of youe lives. Finally, I ask you to remember the words of Mother Theresa “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Good luck for the year ahead and I wish you all every happiness.”

Rob Brennan