Learn to Appreciate the Journey

Years 7 to 12 Speech Night
Melbourne Recital Centre
Friday 23 November at 6.30pm

The School looks forward to celebrating the achievements of our Senior School students next Friday 23 November, at our annual Years 7 to 12 Speech Night. To enable the inclusion of the Year 7 and 8 students this year, the event will be held at the Melbourne Recital Centre, commencing at 6.30pm. Seating is at a premium and only available through pre-booking at this link.

An evening such as this is an essential opportunity to recognise the outstanding academic, co-curricular and service achievements of many of our girls, and rightfully celebrate their unique and diverse talents. This evening will particularly acknowledge the contribution of our Year 12 girls, as they move forward in their journeys but will remain forever a part of St Catherine’s School.

Learn to Appreciate the Journey

Some parents may be familiar with the work of Australian journalist and author, Madonna King. She recently released the book, Being 14 following years of research about teenage girls. I provide for your reading pleasure below a recent article also written by Madonna King espousing the virtues of patience.

Some of the better things in life are truly worth waiting for

Ask a teenager how their parents snapped a family photograph at their age, and many will wonder out loud what happened in ancient pre-selfie times.

It is a delight to educate them – and I recommend you do this.

Explain how you would line up the subject, because “automatic focus” was not a standard offering.

Then you would take the photograph before putting the camera away. Another 11 or 23 or even 35 photographs later, the film would be full, and you would open the door of the camera and remove it.

This is the point where children and teens begin to wonder whether you are making a story up. A film? A door?

The next line is the clincher. “You then took it down to the chemist or the pharmacy to get developed,” you tell them.

I borrowed the story from a Brisbane school counsellor, who tells her students the tale in the hope of dampening the instant gratification that now colours our teens’ lives.

Even taking the film to the pharmacy required time, did it not? Instant uploads were not an option.

And when we arrived at the pharmacy a week later to pick up the photographs, we carried two things: money because we had to buy the photos, and that prompted us to think before snapping each one; and a delightful sense of anticipation, because we often did not even remember each specific photograph. That has been stolen from our children.

Instant gratification is the energy fuelling our teens’ lives. They see it and want it. They want it and download it.

It is the same in public discourse. The 24/7 news cycle has reduced politics to a grab-fest. We trial a prime minister, then dump them before the next poll.

Thoughtful people are often too slow to be part of the fast-changing dialogue. The loudest are heard the most. And big thinking is a treasure lost; a historical attribute that no longer holds the same value.

Social media deserves a big chunk of the blame: we can buy and sell goods in seconds, check a medical diagnosis without leaving our armchair, political conversations pass in seconds and commentary needs to be different or loud to be heard.

Instant gratification is a beast that needs constant feeding.

The impact of that in the political sphere can be seen. But what about the impact on our children and teenagers?

Professor Ian Frazer was lauded this week for the work he and his late colleague and friend Jian Zhou did to reduce cervical cancer rates. Indeed, Australia might become the first country to eliminate the disease because of the groundbreaking vaccine, developed on the back of their research.

The story was a quick headline most of us might have read and nodded at with approval, before we moved on with our day.

But here is the thing. I wrote Ian’s biography, and I know the hours, and days, and weeks, and years of work that went into finding the science behind the vaccine.

Ian mortgaged his house, moved countries, fought with bureaucracy, worked out of a broom cupboard and spent long nights away from his family to do it.

He – and Jian Zhou – refused to stop. They refused to give up. When one experiment failed, they tried another. And another. And another. For more than a decade.

And then one day, in 1991, they did it. Ian remembers Jian handing him a photograph of the virus-like particle (VLP) – the harmless virus casing – they had been chasing for years. We have done it, Jian said, we have made a VLP. “No Jian,” Ian said slowly, “we have got a vaccine.’’

And it took another 14 years – of funding fights, clinical trials, and complex international legal hearings – before the first teenage girl would be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Fourteen years – more than a lifetime for the patients benefiting from Ian and Jian’s patience. And that is a story worth telling the insta-generation as well.

In a world where instant gratification is all too common, we can easily become fixated on the pursuit of the end goal. This mindset precludes us from fully immersing ourselves in the journey that we must take in reaching our goals. It is this journey that provides us with enriching experiences which teach us key life lessons; patience, perseverance, the value of hard work, resilience, negotiation skills and interpersonal skills. I encourage our students, particularly the Year 12 students who are about to embark on the next chapter of their lives, to be persistent, to learn from their errors and to appreciate the journey towards achieving their goals.

Michelle Carroll

Mrs Michelle Carroll