Welcoming our Class of 2020 to their final assembly, Ms Colnan congratulated them for taking their place “at the head of that long winding train of IGS graduates, reaching back 37 years to our School’s beginnings”:
Your place in that story will be unique: the remarkable Class of 2020 that weathered the storm of a global pandemic, that studied the HSC for a time at home, that grew in self-knowledge and demonstrated wisdom beyond your years, that showed courage and grace, that achieved so much, and ultimately, that came through it all. We will remember you for this and so much more.
Because nine months of pandemic cannot overshadow the special contribution you have made to our school. Faced with challenges like no year group has faced, each of you set your sights on the goal ahead and overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. As you did so, you discovered truths about yourselves and about each other. You dug deep and found strengths that perhaps you didn’t know you had.
I have watched the dignified way in which you have carried yourselves and I have seen your fortitude at close quarters, reminding me of the words of that great French writer Albert Camus who wrote “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
Year 12, you have been a source of inspiration to us all.
I asked Amelie Kenney, who I had the honour of teaching this year, about the special moments she’ll treasure and how she’s feeling about leaving school today.
This is what she told me:
“As I prepare to leave the magenta walls and jacaranda trees of Kelly Street, it’s the smaller memories I will relish most. Drinking tea in Chemistry. Looking for birds in the drama space. Passionate debates about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Most of all I’ll miss growing up in an environment supported by people who really care. Teachers who wade through oceans of near illegible handwriting, who mark papers through pneumonia and under UV light. Teachers, students and staff who wave hello en route to class, making you late, to make sure you’re OK.
“French exchange taught me a lot. Just as leaving your home reminds you of the smells, sights and sensations you love most, leaving for France taught me that our school community is compassionate, unusual, extraordinary. Though the French school system is excellent, it was when I was a world away from IGS that I realised that maybe I had taken our school for granted. I just didn’t realise how much I valued it until I was away. Now as I brace to leave IGS after 15 years, I expect my leaving will unveil again just how much I have loved learning at IGS.”
Beautifully said. Thank you Amelie.
Year 12, I’m sure you’re very conscious today that you did not get to this moment on your own. Your families saw this day for you and sacrificed so you could be here. To all the parents, grandparents and family members, on behalf of all of us at IGS, thank you for entrusting these remarkable graduates to us. It’s been our privilege to teach them and also to learn from them. Their future is very bright and like you, we are very proud of them too. Let’s thank your families for all they have given you.
Year 12, today is about you. Celebrate your achievements, savour your successes, rest, just for a day, on your laurels, but only for a day, because tomorrow is about everyone else.
How will you use your gifts and your education to make the world a better place for others? The world needs people who are willing to work very hard for others, people who care more about others than themselves. You are those people. Use your powers for good.
As you enter this beautiful season of your life, you will hear words of advice from many people. Listen deeply. There are gems aplenty. We all still have so much to learn. While much of the advice will be action oriented, urging you to lead and pursue, there is also the other side. My advice to you is to be curious and open to what the world has to offer you, pay attention and take time to be still. These more gentle ways of being have their own immense power that I would highly recommend.
In that spirit, I’d like to share some words with you from poet Martha Postlethwaite. The poem is called Clearing:
Do not try to save
the whole world…
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it…
For me these sentiments capture the sweetness of life that awaits you all, the serendipitous moments and the astonishing directions life can take us, if we’re curious and open enough to receive its many and varied gifts.
And when in doubt, about how to be in this world, be kind. Nothing beats kindness. It sits quietly beyond all things.
I took photographs at our first Shakespeare Bootcamp when we began the SAGE program upon your entry to High School. During that week you blew us away with your sheer talent and your zest for life, and you have continued to shine!
For all of us, today is not just graduation. It’s commencement. It’s freedom. The freedom to let your lives be shaped by your deepest questions and your most cherished dreams.
In some ways, your parents’ work is now done. Our work is done. For better or for worse. And hard as it is, the more we let go now, the stronger you become. Today we usher you into adulthood and we say farewell. And we couldn’t be more proud of you than we are right now.
May you use your leaving to advance the pursuit of truth and understanding, to improve the lives of others and to rise to the challenges of our troubled world.
Year 12, on behalf of the entire IGS community, thank you for all you’ve done to enrich our school. Well done on all you have achieved.
I want to say a special word to those of you who have pushed courageously through very difficult times. A number of you have also lost those closest to you, too soon. I have watched you and admired you, your stoicism and your immense courage, your good humour and your gentle spirit. You have especially inspired us all.
Year 12, go well into this next chapter, and the very best of luck for the HSC and beyond. And remember, while we want you to do your best and to do brilliantly in the upcoming exams, and we know that you will write more and better than you ever have, know also that you are not your ATAR. Going forward, what will matter more than marks, and ranks and scores, is kindness, tenacity, an open heart, curiosity about others and the world, and above all else, love.
Year 12, it’s time to head off into life beyond Kelly Street. May you and those you love travel safely through this time. And you go with our love and our very best wishes. Thank you.
Ms Shauna Colnan