I’d like to start today by addressing last week’s health day, what I believe was a tremendous success and I’m very proud of the way that you participated and behaved during the day. Without your buy-in the day couldn’t be successful. The day was very much pitched from the perspective that it wasn’t for us to tell you what to do or not to do, it was simply about giving you the opportunity to make informed choices. I hope you appreciate the trust that that showed and that you have reflected on the day in-depth.
Coming up to the halfway point as your Dean I’ve noticed a shift in the cohort and the nature of what I am dealing with. I’m constantly trying to find a balance between be proactive and reactive. Being proactive means I work to anticipate problems and help to find solutions before they become problems. For example there are some students for whom we identified would be challenged by NCEA this year. We’ve had plans and strategies put in place and in a lot of cases they are helping several students achieve more success. After your first wave of assessments came in there were some results that meant we were reactive and we worked with students to ensure they didn’t happen again.
Those are examples where I’m focusing on learning. But there’s also the social aspect of your world, which like it or not has a massive bearing on your learning. I passionately believe that your well-being and happiness is the most important aspect of your learning. If you aren’t in the mind set required for learning – then you won’t meet your potential. This was the underlying mantra of health day.
So today I want to paint broad brush strokes over the issues that have come to my attention this year. I’m not referring to anything specifically, but you might recognise some of these issues and this might be a really good time to listen carefully to the advice I have to give.
So I guess my purpose here is to give you ideas about how to avoid the meanness, be a little nicer and then we can all get along!
Rule #1 – Play your part, stick to your role
You are all 15/16 years old. Don’t forget it. Teenagers getting a really bad wrap in the media for being self-absorbed and unable to look beyond themselves. If you think about any TV show that you’ve ever seen that has a teenager in it – unless the text is from the teenager’s perspective or they are a well-rounded character, they will be portrayed as someone who is arrogant, probably on their phone all the time, not empathetic about anything going on around them and generally a pain. Teenagers are shown to only be interested in themselves.
We know this isn’t true and here at Newlands I hope you get the sense that we are taking you seriously. But you have to be aware of your limitations. Being able to recognise you are only young and still growing up will make you such a better person in the long run. There are times when an adult should be part of your decision making process and true maturity arrives when you acknowledge this. As Shakespeare put it:
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits, and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
You are the adults of tomorrow. You don’t have to respect every decision that an adult makes, but you do have to respect that they are an adult.
Relating to knowing your role is the idea of: butting out of where you don’t belong. This is a simple one. Whenever incidents come up in this year group, the same names always seem to have something to do with it. Sometimes you just don’t need to be the centre of attention. Our friend Kayne here hasn’t always made the best decisions but he is learning not to stand out so much and give others their four five seconds.
Rule #2 – don’t play your friends off one another.
Sometimes what happens is you might hear or find out what someone said about your friend and the temptation is to tell your friend what you heard and then sit back with some popcorn and watch the fireworks.
So what this might hypothetically mean is that Hermione hears that Ron has been saying things behind Harry’s back – posting online that he is terrible at spells and has a stupid wand. If she wanted to play her friends off each other, she might then go to Harry and say something like…
I really don’t want to tell you this but I feel like I have to. Omg I actually like can’t. But I have to, but only if you like promise it wasn’t me that told you ok. I mean it Harry, you have to promise. I am only doing you a favour and I don’t want to be in the middle of this. Ok…pinky promise. Good. So… Ron has been saying some really nasty things about you. Yeah I know. Yeah I totally agree. Yeah his wand is stupid. But you have to promise that it wasn’t me that told you. K? Bye.”
Then Hermione sits down and watches them fight it out. While Hermione sits in the corner with a cheeky look on her face. Let’s get this straight – Ron shouldn’t have been saying those terrible things about Harry’s wand. Firstly Harry had no say over what wand it got, the wand chose him. Much like everyday people don’t have much control over what they get bullied for. But the real issue here is that Hermione has made things significantly worse by going up to Harry and telling him. She could have nipped it in the bud by not being a bystander, by talking to Ron. Or she could have told an adult.
The overarching point here is think before you act. Think about the consequences of what you do and say and make good decisions.
Just like Jhial was saying at Health Day. No one is saying don’t drink, know the potential consequences of consuming alcohol and make informed decisions. Our brains are still developing and thinking out a full scenario before making a decision is really important.
The words you say or type can have lasting impact on everyone around you. So mean what you say and say what you mean because the words you say matter. Even banter can hurt.
Rule #3 – Smile!
The third and final rule today for navigating the tough world of Year 11. As Diane Lane put it, “Anybody that smiles immediately looks better”.Teenagers it seems though to get into the habit of looking slightly different – more along the lines of Grumpy Cat.
There is actual science to why you should smile:
- Smiling can make you happy (even when you’re not)
- Smiling can make others happy (even when they’re not)
- Smiling can help you de-stress.
Smiling is really just a symbol for being kind and being nice. You might remember in our Y10 orientation, the first Dean’s Assembly of 2014 I shared this quote from J M Barrie,
Shall we make a new rule of life… to always try to be a little bit kinder than is necessary
Being nice to one another, smiling, being kind is part of being successful. This is such an important rule to live by because smiling opens so many doors that you wouldn’t even be aware of.
If you find yourself the victim of people that aren’t following these rules, then help is here. As a guidance team I want to state again that we are here to support you navigate this kind of stuff and we can’t deal with things we don’t know about so communicate, communicate, communicate. Here are some links that could help:
- Netsafe – continues to have relevant, up to date and helpful resources around staying safe online. They are people that are contactable if you want help working out what to do about a situation that arises online.
- Anti-Bully Alliance – contains some great resources
- Child Net – another helpful website
Finally today, over the weekend an historic moment occurred when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of marriage equality in the USA meaning same sex marriage is now legal in all states in America. This is an enormous step forward for civil rights and an event that will feature in Social Studies lessons until the end of time.
I want to argue today that historical events like this are possible because of you guys. Because of your generation. Three weeks ago when Newlands College participated in the Day of Silence I was so proud of the number of you who joined in with the cause of the day and made a stand against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. Participating in this day is fighting for what is fair and what is right. This younger generation that you are part of is so special because change is happening so fast for you. And the major drivers behind this change is you. You are a powerful generation. You have the ability to participate and contribute in this world like never before. With great power comes great responsibility.
We are now exactly halfway through our time together as a year group. I stand here feeling truly lucky to have shared the last two and a half years with you and look forward to seeing your growth and success as we work towards 2017.