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A defining moment: David Quan

One of the most important moments of being a school leader comes from gradually forming a holistic understanding of each student’s different character strengths, interests and personality traits. Just as a masterpiece of artwork cannot be defined by a minute detail, likewise, our students unique individuality can only be comprehended by seeing them in all different environments and situations. Supporting a Year 8 maths class in algebra, for example, offers a completely different perspective compared to welcoming them back from their challenging week in the Grampians, albeit both serve as telling experiences. It is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

For many reasons, I always look forward to welcoming the boys back from camp. Despite their malodourous, grubby and often torn clothing, I love seeing their triumphant smiles and their collective display of camaraderie after an exhausting week. Their expressions of genuine and raw emotions along with the sharing of hilarious anecdotes accentuates the incredible and unusual time spent away from home. A significant symbolic moment is ‘hopping off the bus’, as it marks a great milestone in the conquering of a momentous challenge by them.

In my opinion, outdoor education has always offered something extraordinary. But what makes this such a valuable aspect of our holistic Saints education?

One could argue that it pushes our students out of their comfort zone, eliminates the constant distraction from technology, or offers a unique interaction with the natural world. All of these are valid considerations.

From my perspective, outdoor education contributes to the understanding of oneself. As part of the inaugural cohort for the Year 10, 21-day Pushing the Boundaries Program, the unprecedented opportunity to embrace an unfamiliar environment with some of my good friends proved attractive. The venture occurred amidst the harsh yet ruggedly beautiful Flinders Ranges, consisting of hiking, cycling and camel trekking through the magnificent natural beauty, including the Blinman Pools and picturesque Wilpena Pound. It was a remarkable experience.

So much happened in those 500  hours which forged vivid memories and left an indelible impression. One defining moment, in particular, shaped and revolutionised my perspective about real human relationships. It was during a night near the end of the trip when my tent buddy and best friend Albert Vu (FARR ’18) suddenly solemnly said to me: “David, you’re not as good as who I thought you were, but at the same time, you’re much better.”

Huh? Genuinely confused, baffled and slightly disappointed, that was a thought-provoking line that lingered long in my thoughts during and after those 21-days. Upon reflection, this was to be one of the most influential moments of my schooling career.

Albert finally explained to me what he meant almost two weeks after the journey through text messaging (and with his permission, I share his exact words):

“Up until our camp, David, I saw you as this infallible individual: popular, always volunteering and helping others as well as achieving a great deal in many areas like academics, music and sport… You had it all. But it was in the moments of conflict and your moments of weaknesses, that I came to see your flaws upfront. It was disappointing because turns out I was wrong about you … you aren’t perfect. But at the same time, from this I was also able to see certain unique qualities about you, that can only be truly understood from having spent our time together. And more than that, I could see your own humanity, and someone despite all their flaws, continually striving to further himself and others around him. The camp really allowed me to perceive and appreciate you for who you truly are, and I am grateful for it.”

His words touched me deeply. It strengthened our friendship and taught me that people unconsciously judge others predominantly on face value. It is only when you get to know people by spending quality time with them that you can truly appreciate their inner qualities. This is partly the reason why I do my best to be fully involved by being visible and present with students: attending as many classes and events as possible. I genuinely hope that students do not view me as an unapproachable individual, but as a normal person who also makes mistakes, has insecurities, shares vulnerabilities and occasionally, tells silly jokes!

Thus from my perspective, the greatest value of our outdoor education program is to embrace vulnerabilities, nurture growth and develop empathy, in the ultimate hope that students can form a better understanding of both their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses. It is the cornerstone of the holistic Saints education. With this in mind, I cannot wait to welcome back the Year 7s this afternoon and hear all about their experiences from their Riverland adventure!

David Quan
School Vice Captain

The Year 7 Outdoor Education journey.

(L – R) Vice Captain David Quan, Joseph Fitzgerald, Junior School Vice-Captain and Charlie Bruce Junior School Captain and Captain, Hugo Hart