Authenticity and Academic Success

Mr Mark Richards | Director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation

I would like to start with a story about my 3-year-old son.  He has recently become obsessed with books, insisting on reading “one more book” as a method of procrastination.  Though his version of “reading” is pointing out the words and making up whatever flights of fancy come to mind.  Mostly, about rocks and dinosaurs, or Paw Patrol rescuing said rocks and dinosaurs in the Dino Wilds, with Rex, the Dino dog. 

I find these leaps of creativity and imagination fascinating, like fireworks, sparkling, leaping, and exploding across random and unconnected thoughts.  It is a daily reminder that stoking curiosity, and finding joy in the act of learning, is as important as the learning itself.  It is also a reminder that we should embrace each student for who they are and encourage them to be courageous enough to be genuine. 

For example, my son hates having his hair washed, every time he insists on wearing a shower cap, and not a bland one.  His headgear of choice is bright and sparkling.  He says it is because it is pink and blue and that is his favourite, he doesn’t care that it doesn’t fit or that it makes him look like a baker from outer space.  No, he likes it, so he wears it. 

This is what we mean when we talk about our value of Authenticity.  It is the ability to be completely true to yourself. I think it is one of the hardest things to achieve. I always admire people who have taken the time to get to know themselves, their personality, their strengths, and their weaknesses. This quality of self-awareness is hard to achieve through the social noise of high expectations, conformity, and a distaste for the unconventional.  The constant pressure to buy this or look like that.  It is a courageous person who remains true to themselves no matter the circumstance. 

The temptation to be like others is strong. But if we always try to fit in, we will never stand out. We become just one more slice of bread in one more bland, homogenized loaf. And there are millions of bland loaves of bread out there. 

A key concept in marketing is the unique selling proposition or USP.  A USP refers to the unique benefit exhibited by a company, product or brand that enables it to stand out from competitors.  You also have a unique selling proposition: It’s you.  Nobody else has your experiences or insights or points of view. Nobody else has your style or strengths or weaknesses. You are unique.  As Oscar Wilde said. 

“Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.” 

This is particularly important when it comes to academic excellence and something that the Year 10s are experiencing this Term.  They are choosing their Senior Subjects, and I always recommend they choose subjects they are interested in, are good at and might need for their future career.  However, the pull of being in the same class as a friend or doing a subject because they feel they “should” is sometimes too strong.  It is important to be yourself and choose the pathway that suits your personality, skills and interests, because, without passion and commitment, success is extremely difficult. 

In the assemblies this week we are recognising the academic achievement of students from Years 6 to 12 over the course of Semester 1 2022.  The students being presented have achieved excellent results across the suite of subjects they have studied.  To receive a Certificate of Merit a student must achieve mostly B grades, with at least two A’s. and to receive a Certificate of Excellence a student must achieve mostly A’s. This is an achievement these students can be especially proud of. 

 Amidst the multitude of challenges that life throws at us, they have continued to strive for excellence, through tenacity and hard work.  They have shown a willingness to devote regular energy to their studies, managing their time exceptionally well.  These are very important values for students to develop and they are crucial to their success at school and in the future.   

In conclusion, you need to be who you are, regardless of what others think.  You need to be committed, and hardworking, but also true to yourself.  And, sometimes, you need to wear a funny shower cap.