Valedictory Dinner Speech Delivered to the Class of 2018

Below is a copy of the speech that I delivered at the annual Valedictory Dinner for the Class of 2018:

I wanted to take you back to when we first started on this epic road that is VCE. Our journey together began on 30 January last year. You were 82 students fresh out of Year 10, ready to sink your teeth into VCE. I remember thinking how ready you all appeared. But my journey with you began somewhat earlier over cups of tea in Ms Spanos’ office. It was here that she introduced me to all of you, describing one thing she loved about having each of you in Year 10. Our meetings ended with the same sentiment – her telling me, “you are going to love this year group”. And this was confirmed really quickly. So, after madly trying to put faces to names and memorise who everyone was, I felt really excited to start this journey with you.

After working with you for two years, with a six month step-out, I wanted to reflect on what I have learnt from you. Aside from some students’ obsession with their ATAR, and I do not use the word ‘obsession’ lightly, I would like to think there are more ways I could define you as a year group. And of course, there are.

As a group and as individuals, I thought about the things that I have learnt from you and realised that each of the following attributes will be important to you throughout your life:

  1. Your humour. You guys are hilarious. Do not underestimate the importance of humour and never take yourselves too seriously. Even during critical moments, remember that a little perspective can go a long way.
  2. You are incredibly caring and this care for others is humbling. I hope this is something you can continue to practise in your lives, not only towards those close to you, but to those you will inevitably meet throughout the different stages of your life.
  3. What regularly astounds me is that you are unbelievably capable of juggling so much at such a young age. To illustrate the point – you are capable of managing several SACs in one week, or at times, in one day. You are capable of managing your commitments to music, sport and over-active social lives. You are capable of managing your relationships with others here and outside of school.
  4. Some of you are truly capable of showing strength in the face of adversity. There are girls in this room who have experienced unbelievable lows these past two years, and who have still managed to come to school with a brave face. To these girls, I applaud your resilience.

On that note, resilience is something you are expected to have. But know that this is a trait that will grow over time and the more capable you are of coping with challenges, the more your resilience will build. It is, and continues to be, a lifelong lesson.

As an adult I look at you girls and think you have got a pretty tough gig as young women of the future. You are expected to know what your future will look like, you are expected to cope with the demands of VCE, you are expected to work hard and get an ATAR, but then not worry too much about your outcome. It is common for adults to look at Year 12 students and say, “you do not know what tough is, wait until you get out into the real world”. But let me tell you, what you are going through now is tough. At times, so much feels as though it rests on the final outcome – a culmination of the past few months. It is not often that you will encounter an experience like VCE again. Its intensity, and the conscious dedication of so much time and effort for that final outcome. But understand that the world is a huge place and soon that last SAC you completed or that exam you were not too sure about, will not seem like such a big deal. So who is going to help you get through these next few weeks? It will be the people in this room – your parents and your teachers.

At the beginning of Year 11, I talked about how your relationships with teachers changes in VCE. You come to rely on them, not only for information and exam preparation, but also for emotional support. I can say with confidence that each and every one of you would have at least one teacher you could go to for advice or moral support. And ladies, not all schools are like that. Your teachers genuinely enjoy having you in their classes. We enjoy your company, we enjoy laughing with you, and we particularly enjoy seeing you come to school with a suspiciously darker skin tone in preparation for the next formal. Your teachers here tonight, along with your families, are your biggest supporters. Enjoy these next few weeks as these working relationships with your teachers come to a close.

As your teachers we nurture and support you to get onto the path you choose to travel, but it is out there where you will learn what you are truly capable of. You will learn what it means to be tested, and what it means to fall and pick yourself up again. You will have the privilege of learning about yourself and choosing who you want to be. I am reminded of the story of the two wolves, who were found by a young boy to be fighting. The first wolf represented envy, arrogance, self-pity, superiority and ego. The other, represented humility, kindness, empathy and compassion. The young boy asks his grandfather who will win. The response? The wolf who wins is the one you feed. Which wolf will you feed? Your arrogant egotistical wolf, or your humble compassionate wolf? As this first, incredibly long 13 year chapter of your life closes, now comes the really exciting part. You are all on a good path, and have been carefully nurtured by people in this room and now, you get to take control of your own future and make your own choices.

Now that you are about to embark on some of the most exciting years of your life, I am reluctant to stand here shovelling advice at you as the good sensible adult I am. However, if there is one thing I feel the obligation to tell you it would be this. Enjoy these next few years and take every opportunity you can. I know this sounds like a standard, generic comment from the voice of experience, but too often I think to myself, ‘I really should have done that’. I have already said these words to a number you. Although many of you are well travelled, your experiences and appreciation of the world will change. To become ‘worldly’, you need to step outside your comfort zone, not just ‘holiday’, but really see and experience a place.

The times that I have been overseas, away from my family, and having to rely solely on myself have been the most challenging, often devastating, but definitely rewarding. This is where I had the privilege of learning more about myself. So get out there and see as much of it as you can. These things will not necessarily be impossible in 10 years, but can sometimes become more and more difficult when you are older.

When I first spoke to you as a group, I told you that this is not the beginning of the end. This sounds far too over-dramatic. I told you this was the beginning of the best years of your schooling. For some of you, you will no doubt be sprinting for the gate on the last day, putting school and all that comes with being at school behind you. For others, you may be feeling apprehensive about leaving. These emotions are as individual as each of you and will only magnify in the coming weeks.

People ask me why I endure the two hour train journey to Toorak everyday, and the answer is simple. It is because I love working with you girls. It has been an absolute pleasure being your Head of Year for the past two years and on behalf of your teachers and me, I wish you the best of luck for everything.

Ms Lilly Dusting, Head of Year 12 and Visual Communication & Design Teacher