Last weekend the School held it’s major ‘Open Day’, an opportunity for prospective families to learn more about the School’s philosophy and programs and to view the campus and facilities.
As is the tradition the program opened with a wonderful performance by the Stage Band 1, a group of fabulous young performers who continue to impress everyone with their enviable talent. We have all become familiar with the School’s tag line “Learn with Purpose: Live with Passion” and this performance was another example of how this is being visibly demonstrated within the school.
This performance however, was not the only example. As I walked around the campus over the course of the afternoon there was a very tangible level of energy and engagement obvious in the many examples of work on display in different areas and in the experiences students shared with our visitors. In English there were numerous examples of writing, in Drama students were practicing their HSC performances, in Design and Technology Mr Byrne proudly displayed a wide variety of student work samples while in Agriculture Mrs Trestrail offered fresh produce from our gardens and Mr McMillan talked excitedly about the Aquaponics project.
While I admit some might question the value of displaying student’s work as they get older, as a seasoned educator, I still delight in seeing work exhibited regardless of the age of students. For me these displays are a visual celebration of an individual student’s achievements and a valid expression of the pride they have taken in the completion of the work regardless of whether the work displayed is a piece of prose, an essay, a complex mathematical computation or the resolution of a scientific problem. A visual expression of their ‘passion’.
This is of course only true for those that have developed this passion? What about those students who have no idea what they’re passionate about? While I would like to think every student at Northholm is a passionate learner and takes pride in displaying samples of their work, this is not always the reality. I know that finding something you are passionate about is not always easy or quick. It takes effort and time to develop a direction in your life that you know is the one you want to follow forever, whatever it takes.
Hence the many different opportunities we offer for students to develop their passion; to find out where their interests lie and explore them. Regardless of whether a student thinks they may enjoy, Art, Music, Drama, Science or ‘pigs’ we offer a huge range of possibilities.
For example, last week I attended the Max Potential presentations at Castle Hill RSL. The Max Potential Program, an initiative of local businesses providing support for emerging young leaders through community coaches.
Northholm’s representative in this program, Carina Sirolli (Year Eleven), provided an inspiring example of a young person following her passion by undertaking the collection and distribution of healthy lunch packs for children living in shelters for the victims of domestic violence. Carina explained that the catalyst for her initiative was her experience at Tregear Primary School last year during Northholm’s Service Learning Week when a child shared her experience of living with violence, a story that provoked Carina into looking for a way to make a difference for other children experiencing the same situation.
How do we create this same level of engagement or passion in others? We can start by encouraging them to try things that interest them. Career paths are developed, not discovered. Learning a new language could lead to a love of the food of that country and a career in cooking or writing or travel. Learning to play the violin can lead to loving another instrument or enjoyment of the world of music. Encouraging young people to do things they enjoy or are interested in may lead to the one thing they are really passionate about.
The hardest part of this is finding the right opportunity to begin the process. Once a young person takes the first step they may discover a talent they weren’t previously aware they had. It is only after they take the first steps that they have a chance of arriving at the destination they really want.
The other part of the equation for young people is of course ‘finding purpose’, realising they are not only hard-wired to gratify their own personal desires but also to care for others. To achieve this, we need to encourage young people to ask themselves, “In what way do I want the world to be different? What problem can I help solve?” Making a commitment to help others can often be the thing that will motivate them to do more.
It is also important to remember the importance of patience. Young people need to keep their eye on the finishing line. Their first hobby or job may not last very long. They may try out lots of things before they discover their lifelong passion. They may even find several things that excite them at different times in their life. But the more they do and learn, the more valuable skills and knowledge they will find and the more doors will open to them.
The key is for them to give things a go and then give 100% to whatever they are doing. Life is a journey of learning and it is likely to be surprising to both us and them where they find their most important lessons.
Principal, Northholm Grammar School