Last year, when I spoke about the Class of 2016, I made use of an extended metaphor centred on the Lord of the Rings, forging links between the process of leading those graduates and the idea of a journey with many challenges. When I sat down to write this, I realised that I couldn’t use the script again, partly because Rebecca Evans’ parents heard it last year, but mainly because the parallels are not the same. This has been a very different experience.
As the first year group that I have taken through the full duration of the Diploma Programme, I have been very lucky indeed, probably the luckiest I have been in 30 years of teaching, because this hasn’t been a travail, this has been pretty much a joy for the vast majority of the time. Yes, there have been some tricky patches, times when a sterner word was required, but when is that not the case? No working relationship is ever without its blips, but we got through them, we have come out on the other side and we are largely unscathed.
Of course, there were times when our visions of what constitutes a sensible approach to life in the Senior School clashed. Business dress was sometimes interpreted too liberally by some, and arguments such as ‘But this is business dress in Finland!’ or ‘It’s the latest look in Astana,’ or ‘It’s called Buenos Aries chic’ never really worked. In terms of inventiveness and imagination, this year’s graduates are amongst the best I have ever seen and I give thanks for that.
I know I am not alone when I say the things that I do about our class of 2017. In the closing weeks of the course, I often found myself in conversations with colleagues who said how much they were going to miss them, how much they valued their time with them and how they wished in some ways that they could turn back the clock. And I know that their affection and respect is reciprocated and it has been seen in our student’s words and actions. There have been the presents, the group photos, the cheeky selfies with staff and some wonderful words of appreciation expressed both verbally and in writing.
At this point, it seems fitting that we pay tribute to those staff who have been our rocks over the past two years. Colleagues, thank you all for your commitment and professionalism, and for the impact that you have made on the lives of this special group of people. On their behalf, thank you for everything that you have done.
Our partnerships as staff and students is one thing, but there is a crucial third team player without whom none of this would have been possible. To the parents and guardians, on behalf of the school I would like to thank you for the support that you have given us over the past two years. It has been greatly appreciated.
These past three weeks have seen our Year 13 face the sternest academic challenges of their lives so far. There have been some tough papers, papers so tough that they have prompted instant emotion, drawing from some of the looks of utter contempt, looks that seemed to be saying, ‘How dare you ask me this! What are you playing at?’ But those looks would dissipate, replaced instead by purse-lipped determination as you set about showing the examiner just who is boss. There has also been a fair bit of smiling, looks of absolute contentment that smacked of, ‘I’ve got this. I can do this.’
Of course, they have not been the only challenges faced this year. Most have also been through the rigors of applying to university, tackling the challenges of the personal statement, the university essay questions, university entry tests ranging from SATS to ELNAT, and in the case of a few, the Cambridge Entrance exam. One or two became almost permanent fixtures in my office, submitting more applications than one would have thought humanly possible.
Taking Kipling’s advice, facing triumph and adversity and treating those imposters just the same and it is that sort of attitude that will ensure your success at the next level, before going on to do wonderful things. Amongst this amazing cohort are those who will treat the sick and infirm, who will design and develop, who will help shape public policy, and who will advocate on behalf of the needy and the oppressed. In doing so, they will embody the perfect answer to the ‘What can IB’ question and challenge set by Mr. McLaren two years ago.
Year 13, you are our school’s defining year group for all the reasons already noted and I couldn’t be any prouder than I am of the young people that you have become. Thank you for your hard work, your support and, above all, your company over the past two years. It really has been a pleasure and a privilege.
Mr Andrew Kenning