It was a highlight shaking hands with every Year 12 student on the steps of Old School House last week, as they made their way along the Avenue of Honour. Some of those handshakes were loaded with meaning. As you can imagine, as a Deputy Headmaster, I meet students and families for a variety of reasons, some for better reasons than others. In my Valedictory Dinner speech, I spoke anonymously to those boys who have been in my office for the more difficult conversations. I wanted them to know – from me directly – that their graduation was an absolute credit to their character, to respond and learn in all the right ways. These are important qualities and attributes for life, and they reveal a good education. In particular, I wanted these students to know that their handshake meant a lot to me and, on a level of respect and resolution, I hoped it meant something to them too.
But the valedictory experience is rarely an event of just one highlight. Consider the drum line on Old School House terrace; the closing words of connection of our School Captains; the respectful and rumbustious singing in Final Chapel: “This cornerstone, this solid ground/Firm through the fiercest drought and storm”; and not to mention the surge of spontaneous applause for significant prize winners, aglow and laden with books. Some highlights, however, are far less visible and can often pass unnoticed by most. It truly is a privileged position to play a part as I do alongside our pastoral leaders in the team of support around students who require a deeper level of care. Through this, I knew what a great effort it was for some of our students to find the courage to turn up to school and cross the stage for this one last time. Amidst the many public acknowledgements of prize-giving, if there was anything more worthy of spotlight or great applause, it was this very personal achievement of a very small number. Credit to these students themselves, to their families for their private endurance, and to our staff for so much vital work unseen.
From my perspective, the graduating class of 2022 is a special cohort of students. It is a cohort that has not only endured the most, but it has shown more growth than any other, on both an individual and collective basis. When I arrived at St Peter’s College in 2020, I saw a cohort somewhat divided, and shared this view with the students directly. But this is 2022, and the support, camaraderie and genuine applause for each other during last week’s valedictory events was a fitting testament to the students’ journey and character. Like fine wine – a thriving industry of this great state – they, and we, are better for their maturity. In closing, please savour the words of Mrs Brooke Stockman, mother of Hugo (S&A:22), who provided a poignant parent reflection at our Valedictory Dinner:
This is for all of the boys who sit here amongst us, a group of lads with a strong sense of mateship, resilient to adversity. A bond that embodies equality, loyalty and friendship. They are good fun, put in the work where they need to, value relationships and have limitless potential. They range from likeable rogues to mind-blowingly talented individuals. They all have the opportunity to be great, but, more importantly, they have already proven, above all else, to be good humans.
Thank you, Brooke, and thank you to all of our Year 12 parents – and others – for your partnership.
In your support,
Deputy Headmaster / Head of Senior School