Looking forward, looking back

For my first opportunity to opening the batting in the weekly Newsletter for 2018, I would like to reflect on two Term 1 events that make wonderful memories not just for our students, but also the staff who have the privilege of accompanying them along the way.

In less than a month, Year 11 undertake the 5-day canoeing and bushwalking adventure that is the very summit of their outdoor educational experience at SCOTS.  The beautiful Upper Clarence River region, typically populated by more cattle than humans, will once again echo with the sounds of our youngsters navigating rapids, abseiling down rock faces and venturing tips on how to make the perfect beef stir fry for 18 ravenous team members.

No single College event builds relationships, self-confidence and skills more effectively.   The switch for 2018 to a Term 1, summer season date, from the chill of mid-Term 3, guarantees lots more time will be spent bobbing about in the pristine waters (well they were, before our students jumped in them!) of the Clarence, undoubtedly startling platypus and perch aplenty.

And to look back to just a fortnight ago, our Prefect Retreat in the beautiful setting of the Storm King Dam Outdoor Recreation Centre was an absolute joy to be part of.  Twenty of our accomplished and committed Year 12s gathered to consider what it takes to build a high-performance team, greatly assisted in that pursuit by insightful input from former College Captains, Annelise Ryan (2017) and Grace Hardy (2016) and the Chief Executive Officer of Southern Downs Regional Council, David Keenan.

While there is no doubting the effectiveness of sessions facilitated by those who have experienced the challenges, pitfalls and delights of leading others towards a shared vision, this retreat also seems to achieve its aim in a far more informal way.  For example, we, the staff, witnessed (and partook of) a breakfast banquet of bacon, eggs, toast, vegemite and coffee/tea for 24, cooked in short order in the Centre’s kitchens, entirely student-imagined and presented.  Several are already experts in operating commercial dishwashing equipment extremely quickly, so the considerable piles of cutlery, dishes and pans were soon back, sparklingly clean, in their cupboards.

Then there was Stanthorpe’s Park Run, a roughly 5 km course, snaking its way around Gleeson Park between granite boulders and ponds.  At 07:00 on the day in question, 20 Prefects, the Head of Senior School, the Head of Year 11 and 12, and David Keenan himself, stood in the steady rain at the starting line, contemplating a spell of exercise only 11 ‘locals’ had decided to try on a ‘what-happened-to-summer?’ 10 degree morning.  The organisers were thrilled to have competitor numbers trebled, for what was, for some, our first experience of high altitude long distance running!

Run, and sometimes walk, we all did, but it was the infectious enthusiasm and camaraderie of our students that really impressed not only the SCOTS staff but the Park Run officials too.  Who would have expected a word-perfect rendition, mostly tuneful, of the SCOTS College Song by the first 18 Prefect runners home as they formed a tunnel to welcome home our final two competitors at the finishing line?!

It would have brought a tear to the eye of Robert the Bruce himself (who obviously receives an honourable mention in the aforementioned song).

Yes, it’s only Week 4 of Term 1, but the diversity of ways for our students to show us what amazing young people they are is already on full display.  I look forward to a year of opportunities taken, challenges overcome and very few experiencing the only really true definition of failure; that is not to have even tried.