The Great Unknown

Last night, our Senior School celebrated its annual Speech Night at the amazing Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). It was wonderful to be ‘live’ at a Speech Night once again, sharing the successes of our students, together as a community.  


Over the past two years we have experienced abridged versions of this special occasion – completely online in 2020 and students only in 2021, with families watching remotely, huddled around a computer screen. 

The annual Speech Night provided a chance to share in the pride, excitement, and joy of acknowledging our students’ achievements throughout the year.  

Speech Night also provided us with a final opportunity to acknowledge our Class of 2022. Once again, Maddie and Angela’s leadership strengths were on display with their heartfelt address, a true representation of every student at our School.

There are so many moments within one’s school days that stay in the memories of Old Girls. They are retold with affection when they visit our School for SCOGA reunions or as parents themselves. I know our Year 12s will reflect on the fun had with friends, sporting wins (and losses), House Arts, concerts and Drama productions. They will share memories of the quirks of different teachers and subjects, Ms Spanos’s care of them throughout lockdowns and in Year 12, and the daily chatter of moments spent together in the bean bags in the Common Room.  

I wonder what ‘life’ will look like for our Class of 2022 as they venture into life beyond the Heyington Gates? 

I am curious about their next journey, crafting a career through tertiary study into a ‘world of work’ that has been changed forever by the pandemic, this too, endured in their own school years.  

School years that will potentially mark the last time, I now believe, they will ‘truly’ be present in face-to-face discussions, uninhibited by the hybrid practice of Teams calls or Zoom meetings, or the schedule of three days in and two days out of the office, a world of work that many of our St Catherine’s parents currently experience daily. 

Schools were quick to return to campus when COVID restrictions eased. We knew deep down it was best for young minds to be surrounded by a culture rich in learning that is visible, tangible, lived. It is the people within our School community that breathe life into our Campus – Sherren House, the Mary Davis Café, The Jamie and Rebecca Gray Theatre, the Edna Holmes Centre for Science, the Nicholas Library and our much-loved Clocktower – a mostly ‘normal life’ has prevailed inside the Heyington Gates.  

Yet, on the occasions I stepped away from School for an external meeting, I observed vastly different workplaces to mine. The law firms, the architect’s office, the GSV Rooms at Albert Park to name a few, places that were once, pre-COVID, brimming with people, yet each time I walked through corridors, I noticed empty offices – one after the other. At times, there were not more than six or seven people in any one space. The stark difference to my own workplace was so visible. 

I wonder if these are to become permanent features of a new employment landscape? I am, of course, curious about their workplace culture. How do young graduates capture the nuances of such workplaces when working from home, meeting mostly on MS Teams?  

I wonder what effect the loss of organic interactions will have on graduates? The quality of face-to-face conversations, the language we use, and the messages we convey are critical to the process in which young women engage, shape, and reshape, their view of the world and of themselves.  

It brings to the forefront the importance of schools in society today – not only as a place to learn, but a place to provide opportunities to be present, connect, contribute and be a part of shaping culture.

As teachers bidding farewell to a cohort of students each year, we often say that they are off into the ‘great unknown.’ As I reflect on how my own work has changed over the past decade, and the way that society, technology, and a global pandemic have changed the way we work, the ‘great unknown’ is not only the uncertainty of which path a girl might take, but what the destination will look like when she gets there.  

For our St Catherine’s girls, life will be a tapestry woven by the decisions they make. At times, ‘the great unknown’ will feel like a jumble of thread – frayed, tangled, occasionally knotted – nothing really making sense. Then, they will see a glimpse of blue ribbon, woven into their tapestry years ago – and the rich colours, textures and patterns will become clear. Their intelligence, their insights and commitment will be borne out of their days at St Catherine’s, still present, as it was during this year. 

Michelle Carroll


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