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We do not judge you by how you perform tomorrow. You belong here. Just be yourself.

Following a visit to Kathmandu – the shop on Rundle Street, not the capital city – I was all set to join our Year 10 students in the Flinders Ranges.

Despite the accolades and achievements of the past 18 months, my four days in the Flinders proved to be a glittering highlight of my own South Australian journey so far. I hiked, biked, abseiled, discovered what a ‘hutchie’ is (and then slept in it), and managed to get around eight out of the eleven groups of students, located everywhere from Wilpena Pound campsite to Aroona Ruins to Rawnsley Bluff. Importantly, according to our expert team of group leaders, the students were showing their best efforts and best qualities in all settings. Music to a Deputy Headmaster’s ears.

The group leaders themselves were impressive to say the least. In a relatively short time, I witnessed a great deal of care, commitment and compassion. Of note, was Marianne and Rob’s fist-to-five morning check-in on the boys’ wellbeing; Daphne and Ben’s commitment to providing counsel as much as instruction; and Lars and Cody’s gentle handling of a gecko, not just captivating the boys’ attention, but showing them what ‘gentle strength’ looks like. In every group, I saw leaders relinquishing their leadership to the boys. Memorably, one group leader articulated, “We are along for their journey.” What a beautiful term and fair consideration for education and educators more broadly.

Whilst the route was the same, it was interesting to see and hear how each stage of the journey was experienced differently by each group, influenced mainly by the weather as much as by group dynamics and group leadership. One group endured a 21km hike in driving rain; another sheltered together in a hailstorm; one group abseiled in a whiteout of cloud whilst another, from the same cliff, had a spectacular view of the Elder Ranges. I am 100% confident that every student will have learnt something about themselves on their journey, and every student would have found themselves either outside of their comfort zone or in their element. There are certainly benefits to both.

Similarly, back at school, there has been encouragement and a running theme in recent Musters promoting the importance of being yourself. You would think this is a reasonably achievable expectation, except that, in adolescent boys, this is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Our aim is to create an environment where boys feel safe to do just this – to be themselves. It is fair and somewhat timely to say that you tend to see this more readily on a mountainside than in the school yard. But we are working on it and getting closer to the goal.

I recently read about the senior players of the Proteas – South Africa’s National Cricket team – who perform a ritual for its new players the night before a test. This ritual includes the following statement: We do not judge you by how you perform tomorrow. You belong here. Just be yourself.

This message is certainly true for our students too – on camp or campus.

I hope you have a wonderful mid-year break, and I look forward to the highlights to come.

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School