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We were delighted to invite Head of House – School & Allen and Careers Counsellor, Mr Mark Colsey (W&A 1973), to deliver the Years 7 to 11 Speech Day Address. Mr Colsey has made an extraordinary contribution to the School over the past 24 years and was fittingly farewelled with a standing ovation following her Address.

Years 7 to 11 Speech Day Address delivered by Mr Mark Colsey

Headmaster, official party, colleagues, parents, Years 7 to 11 boys

Thank you Mr Marcus Blackburn. It is an honour to be asked to do this presentation, but also a challenge! I will give it a go.

My two sons attended Saints. When I informed my older son of me being asked to do this address, he grasped the significance of this request, and is actually here today to listen. My younger son’s first comment was – ‘why did they pick you? How long do you have to speak for?’ Before I even had a chance to reply, he gave me some advice – based on his experiences, keep it short.

When I was at school, I was boarder at this school. I still consider myself a boarder, and I say this with pride even though I did not want to leave home and was nothing special at school – my name does not appear on any boards or walls for example. I can recall the last time I was here as a student. It was Speech Day in this Hall. I sat next to a pillar – there were pillars holding up the balcony, which had many of the honour boards on the face of the balcony. Being next to the pillar was good, because there were times you could sort of hide from the gaze of the Headmaster. No staff sat with the boys back then. All staff sat at the front, so we were controlled by the prefects and the sub prefects which was another category of leadership in my day. This could be tough if the prefects didn’t like you. I do remember that my last Speech Day was really hot. I do remember that we were all wearing our grey suits and school tie – which was the uniform, and there were no House ties. I do remember the speaker was an important man, but I cannot remember who he was or what he spoke about. You may feel the same way after today.

Boys, have you ever thought why it is that we remember some things so vividly, and others we do not? Maybe this is why we have this wonderful Memorial Hall – so that we will never forget the savagery and brutality of war, and the sacrifices that our former students and staff made for our country. This is a very special place in our school. I hope that every time you enter this Hall, you reflect on what this Hall stands for – to remember.

Being a boarder was a challenge when I started at school. I was small in a time when physical size meant power. I was from a SA regional area but not from a property (over 90% of boarders were), so I did not have a lot in common with the other boarders. A definite student hierarchy existed, and when I commenced, I was way down at the lower end of the pecking order. Thankfully this hierarchy does not exist in our boarding house now. But my time here as a student finished well. Sometimes you have to go through some testing times to learn about yourself and others.

So how is it that my time as a student finished well? I learned a few things at this young age, that have stayed with me, even as a teacher. What I did learn from this time is not to focus on differences, but look for commonality. In boarding, you are surrounded 24/7 by a combination of people who could be described as your absolute best mates, close friends, acquaintances, people you don’t know really well or staff and students who you may not like at all! You have no say in the matter. I survived because I just had to find out what we had in common, and use this to try and make a connection. It is not that hard to do. What interests do you share with others? Are there any common interests – sport, music, clothing, fitness, hobbies, TV shows etc. It is really worth doing this, as it builds a shared understanding, however minor. This can lead to an appreciation, which in due course, leads to respect. We all want to be respected. Through these connections I was invited to join with others in activities (raising silk worms, fishing for carp with bamboo ‘rods’ and some string, breeding pet rabbits all in my first year).

My mantra since then, even as a teacher, has been to always look for something in common and try and put myself in the other person’s shoes. This helps me to understand a situation, before drawing any conclusion or taking action. I believe this approach has served me well.

Maybe it is because my time as a student finished well, that I have kept a few physical items from that time, so that I will remember. I am actually fortunate to have them – my wife has been trying to throw them out, and indeed, she thought they had been tossed. I have kept them in the brief case as it is less likely to be searched! My wife is here today, so now I will have to find another hiding spot.

My football jumper – no, it hasn’t shrunk. What is important here is that in my last year at school, numbers on jumpers were introduced to footy jumpers for all boys outside of the 1st XVIII for the very first time – and I was number 14.

My school track suit top – the badges, the stripes. We were permitted to have a stripe stitched (hand stitched) onto the sleeves if you were in a first team. I was wearing this top when 8 burly young men picked me up and threw me into the Torrens River when we won the HoR. Can you imagine swimming in the Torrens now?

And my blazer – I had to buy this in Year 12 because I had out grown my previous one. It has my Wyatt and Allen House colours, which means so much to me. It is clearly small, so just try and imagine what it would be like if you were this size in Year 12.

This leads me to question you boys – what will you remember from your time at St Peter’s College? Will you keep any items like I have done? Are there items that are special to you and are symbolic of your time at St Peter’s College? What about the less tangible memories? Will you remember any teachers? I can only remember four of my teachers very well. Interestingly, one was the Careers Master. I remember them well because they were personable, they listened and took a genuine interest in me and my progress. They had a positive impact on me. They wanted me to do well.

When you finish, who will you remember? Which friends will you remember? What about the friends you have in school now? Why are they your friends? Is this friendship authentic? Will they be your friends in 1, 5, 10 or more years from now? Most importantly though, how have you been a friend to others? I would think that if you have gone out of your way to support someone, showed some genuine interest in them and made a positive difference on their lives, you will be remembered and respected as a friend for a very, very long time. Relationships built on the foundations of appreciation, trust, understanding and respect can survive the test of time.

I returned to the School when was appointed here as the School’s first external and predominantly full time careers counsellor. The then Headmaster, Mr Richard Burchnall, saw it as a significant issue which the School needed to address. It was an issue then, and even more so now, due the significant changes taking place in post school education and the world of work.

Boys, you may feel under pressure at times to have made a career decision, or maybe it is a perceived pressure? It is tough, as there is no crystal ball or fortune teller that can see your future. Please be wary of making a definite call at a young age as to what you are going to do after school – you have so much more development ahead of you and the ‘world of work’ is changing so rapidly. Demographer Mark McCrindle predicts that 65% of the students who first commenced their schooling at the start of 2022 will be eventually employed in jobs that do not yet exist. A staggering prediction. I am sure you have heard about how much change is taking place, but most of us do not take heed of it, or think it will not impact on us, but it does happen.

On stage with me, Mr Carter wanted to be a professional cricketer, if not, then an actor. He now leads our School as Academic Deputy. Our Deputy Headmaster Mr Blackburn wanted to be a professional coach, and now he is to be a Headmaster. Our Headmaster is a qualified engineer – yet re trained and moved into teaching. My older son recently made exactly the same change from engineering to teaching, and not because he was an unsuccessful engineer. He has no regrets. I am sure the official party has no regrets about their changes. Pope Francis started his working life as a bouncer in an Argentinian night club, then was a chemical technician before joining the priesthood. I am sure you know of others who have made significant career changes, but who were also successful in their initial career.

In Year 12, I never even remotely thought I was going to end up a teacher, let alone return to our school. Aiming to be a teacher was not cool when I was at school. I was encouraged to try teaching a few years later by a person I trusted, but I wasn’t convinced. When at university, I took a break and found work, as I was having some doubts about teaching. I did shift work in a lead smelter. Really hard work. Dangerous work actually. The pay was great, far better than what teaching would pay, and no after hours commitments. I seriously contemplated giving uni away to do this work full time. I do remember at about 2am one morning we had a break after manually skimming off the lead impurities of a massive vat of molten lead. One of my co-workers was looking very frustrated. He had a letter in his hand. He asked me to read the letter. It was a letter from an insurance company. So I read it, then the worker asked me to read it to him, because he could not read. I was stunned that he did not have this essential skill, and he had completed school to Year 10.

I did read it to him, and then we discussed the contents and what he could do. I also prepared several replies for him because, he could not write either. He was so happy, he then spread the word on the Smelter’s Dross floor that I was training to be a teacher and I could help others. As a result, some workers grabbed my helmet and wrote in block letters – TEACH. From then on, I was regularly sought by workers to read letters, explain meanings and advise on responses – go up there and see the guy with Teach on his helmet, he will help you, was the message on the floor. Their sincere and unabashed thankfulness when I was able to help them was an amazing reward. I felt good about myself, because I had been able to help others.

It was hard to imagine what it would be like, not being able to communicate effectively. It was at that point that I finally realised how important and rewarding teaching is. Teaching is a potent and influential profession. I decided to return to university and complete my qualifications. It is the best work-related decision I have ever made – well so far. For you boys, the beauty is that there are many possible job areas for each of you. I believe there is not just one ‘perfect’ job for you in this world, there will be many potentially great jobs. So how do you find the path to one of these great jobs? Well it is about the process, and how engaged you are in the process. A poster in my old office stated

who you are and what you will do is not a discovery, it is a decision.

In other words, you select your future.

The process to making good career decisions is like planning a bus trip or going on a holiday.

  • You prioritise your ideas, you research the route, where do you want to go and why
  • You make your plans by checking the timetable, ensuring you can pay for it, working out how long it will take.
  • You get on the bus, you commence your journey. You have now made a start.
  • After while, you may lose interest in this journey. That is OK. The destination may no longer appeal to you because possibly your skills, interests, values or relationships have changed or there is a greater opportunity for growth – maybe you see something out of the window that takes your fancy. You want to get off the bus.
  • No problems. Get off at the next stop and catch a different bus, and this process can repeat itself again and again…

This is why the ‘careers’ processes of exploring, reviewing, researching and reflecting are so important – you just need to keep moving – or get on the bus. To me, following this process is just like being vaccinated – it significantly reduces the risk of you becoming redundant.

And finally, what do I believe is a legacy of an education at our School?

I was talking to a devoted former staff member, Mr David Docwra a couple of weeks ago. He is still at school, helping out wherever he can. Mr Docwra explained to me that he was assisting because he felt the need to give something back, as our School had been so good to him. I hope you boys feel the same, that our School has been good to you. But I also want to flip that. I think the question should also be asked, have you been good for our School? I imagine you are thinking, yes of course – I have tried my best academically, I have met my co-curricular commitments, I play in bands, I wear my uniform and so on. In other words, you are doing what is expected. Being good to our School is much more than doing what you have to do.

To me, being good for our School is also about making a difference to the people who make up our School. What is your answer to this question? How have you made someone else’s life better in our community?

Some of my closest and most respected colleagues are leaving St Peter’s College at the end of this year. They include long serving staff members Mr Con Sinanis, Design Technology teacher and Head of Young House, Mr Danny Cardone Business teacher and Head of Woodcock House, Mr Scott Russell Coordinator of the Arts and Mrs Glenda Wilson, our Matron. These staff have selflessly made it their priority to serve, develop and improve the lives of the boys in their care for a combined 121 years. Remarkable.

They have made a difference in our school. They have made our School better, and consequently, I will certainly remember them. So boys, what have you done? Is there a time when you have taken the decision to support or recognise a person, which has made a difference to them? If so, you will be thanked, you will be remembered, you will be respected and you would have made your mark on our School.

In my view, schools are about people – where no one person is more important than another and we support each other. I formed this view as a young boarder many years ago, when it wasn’t equal. In the boarding house, our motto sums this up so well.

There are others.

The School Vice Captain Aidan Hughes described our School from a student perspective during his final address to the students earlier this term. He explained to us that our School is a place where boys who make the most of every moment will grow and develop; as scholars, as musicians, as athletes, but ultimately and most importantly, (grow) as people.

I started this address about remembering and asked what will you remember? Perhaps the better question is, how will you be remembered? What difference have you made for others, how have you improved their lives? Will you continue to make a difference to the lives of others after you leave school, as so many of our scholars have done before you?

Even though I am leaving, I will continue to take an interest in our School and the Boarding House. This interest is at my core. I am just so thankful to those who have supported me through the good and challenging times. This support has kept me believing in the importance of education, and the value of career planning and career advice.

Boys, I wish you well for the rest of your education, and your future careers, and most importantly, I hope you make a positive impact in whatever you do, that will ultimately benefit others.

Thank you for listening.