Freedom and the Future – Year 10 Update
As the school corridors, walkways and classrooms of St Catherine’s School gradually filled with students in the last week of January, there was a palpable sense of new beginnings. 2020 had arrived. This year, the beginning of a new decade has been much anticipated. For many, it is a time of transformation, a time to focus on the future; these are just two oft-spoken views. These sentiments have been reiterated in my conversations with so many of the Year 10s, who have so warmly taken the time to have a conversation with me as Head of Year 10 in the first weeks of school.
“We are really looking forward to Year 10 because we are given more independence in the choice of our subjects.”
“I’m so excited to be in Year 10, only two more years – I’ll be in Year 12!”
The two words and concepts that lie at the core of these views are ‘freedom’ and ‘future’. Indeed, in many ways ‘freedom’ and ‘future’ embody the adolescent experience. Freedom can be seen to relate (in part) to the desire of the adolescent to find their place in the world, unencumbered by others. It involves the freedom to explore the world around them so that they can make sense of their own sense of self. And then there is, the future. Whilst seeking to find their place in the world, the future looms ever so close for our students and indeed for us. How does one address or understand this idea of the future? How does the individual student approach the future? These are just some of the complex and intrinsically existential considerations we touch upon as engaged individuals in society and, in life.
If, as the poet T. S. Eliot writes, ‘all time is eternally present’ (‘Burnt Norton’, Four Quartets), perhaps a way in to the future lies in the present – in the now. This journey into the future is a collective experience that takes place now and it involves society as a whole. As such, adolescents are not alone and they should not be made to feel alone. Within the context of education, school communities forge ahead supporting students both in their successes and their falls. Hopefully, in the process, lifelong lessons are learnt – such as the need for resilience, empathy, forgiveness, hope and love. This is just part of the human journey in life and schools facilitate this crucial and sacred undertaking. Subsequently, we are all involved in the creation of a pathway into a future that values individuals emotionally, spiritually, physically and as vital members of a rich and varied society. Hopefully, this is a pathway that values the individual nature of each student, reflecting the individual’s reality authentically but also providing a sense of purpose and meaning in their life. These are big questions and are part of the bigger picture which preoccupy us as a society.
Specifically, in Year 10, students are encouraged to explore the plethora of avenues that their life may take in terms of personal interests and career, hence the subjects that they take represent an opportunity to make sense of the world, whether it be through the scientific lens, a mathematical perspective, an artistic stroke, a musical note, or through analysing, reading, interpreting, reflecting upon or writing, a word. These acts of learning are also couched in guidance and freedom. Each student will be drawn to some pursuits more so than others, and it is in the freedom to envision one’s unique future that hope, anticipation and excitement are founded.
What is so beautiful about the Year 10 experience at St Catherine’s School is inextricably linked to the metaphor of the interweaving of the gold and blue. Much like the thread of gold and blue, subjects, co-curricular passions, friends, lunchtimes and recesses, Careers workshops and seminars, the Wellbeing Retreat, the completion of the Leadership Diploma and community service, all are interlinked and woven into the experience of each individual student. As teachers, it is our privilege to work with our St Catherine’s School families to encourage, support and empower our student to step confidently forward into adulthood.
One key initiative this year in the realm of community service is couched in the abovementioned concepts of ‘freedom’ and ‘future’, it is the knitting initiative First Winter. The recent fires that have devastated our nation have resonated deeply, as well as reminding us that we do not live in isolation but are deeply connected at the level of community and environment. The loss that has been experienced has been shocking and cataclysmic for many communities and individuals. In the past, St Catherine’s School has actively contributed to assisting those in need. In Year 10, through our knitting initiatives we have been able to create beautiful blankets for individuals who have lost everything. This may seem like a ‘feel good’ act but, as a survivor of the 2009 Black Saturday fires, who lost friends and her home, I can share with you on a very personal note, that every act of kindness every ‘feel good’ act makes a difference to an individual who may have lost everything. What is wrong with a feel good act? We know that a blanket will not bring back a life, a house, a community, but this blanket will be held, it may plant in the holder a small seed of faith that they are not alone and that there is hope to carry on. Hence, this small gesture is significant. This year’s knitting initiative is called ‘First Winter’ because after the warmer months pass and winter sets in, it can be so hard to see beyond. The first winter after the devastation of a bushfire is hard. Our goal is to knit squares to make into blankets but also to sew together blankets which will be delivered to fire affected communities directly. These blankets may become a little symbol of hope, hope for a brighter future, instilling a sense of freedom and self-belief to move beyond the devastation.
We thank you in advance for your support in this cause and we encourage the whole school community – students, staff, families and friends- to get involved.