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Principal’s Panui – 4 May 2018

Welcome to the start of Term Two. I am glad to be back after taking the last five weeks of Term One as sabbatical leave. While on leave, my sabbatical research topic has been looking at citizenship, competencies for the 21st century and values education and how we might develop this area of the curriculum further at Rutherford.

This is what I increasingly believe that students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. At Rutherford care for others -and self-care is critical for happiness in life.  In fact, sometimes I might care about you more than you may care about yourself. And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but mostly about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you— both in what I say and how I say it?

Before I tell you why, you should understand the truth about school. You see, the main event of school or life is not academic learning or winning things. It never has been. It never will be. And, if you find someone who is passionate in claiming that it is only about academics or winning awards, that person is lying to himself or herself and may genuinely believe that lie. Yes, algebra, essay writing, physics and winning—are all very important, but they are not the MAIN event. The main event is learning how to be.

The main event is learning how to deal with the challenges and obstacles of life when it gets difficult — how to overcome problems and challenges, dealing with obnoxious peers, to gossip, to people doubting you, to develop the confidence to ask for help in the face of self-doubt. It is learning to push yourself to concentrate and be mindful in the moment and not to multi-task when a million other thoughts and temptations are fingertips away. It is learning how to be happy and grateful for what you have and take responsibility for your own wellbeing whenever possible.

It is your resilience in conquering the main event — adversity — that truly prepares you for life. You shouldn’t be worried about the fact that you will face great adversities. You should be worried because you may be setting yourself up to fail at overcoming them. Here’s the real reason I sometimes lose hours of sleep worrying about you: Some of you are failing the main event of school. You are quitting. You may not think you are quitting, but you are because quitting wears many masks.

For some, you quit by throwing the day away and not even trying to write a sentence or a fraction because you think it doesn’t matter or you think there’s no point. But it does. What you write is not the main event. The fact that you do take charge of your own fear and doubt in order to write when you are challenged — THAT is the main event.

Some of you quit by skipping class or being late to your free education and think it doesn’t matter, it does matter. Being punctual to fit the mould of the classroom is not the main event of showing up or because the teacher said so. The main event is delaying your temptation and investing in your own intelligence — understanding that great people make sacrifices for a greater good.

I see some of you quit by choosing not to take opportunities to work harder and just to improve from where you are now, regardless of your starting point. The main event is not getting a number or test score or grade to tell you that you are worthy. Of course you are worthy. The main event is pulling your crap together and making hard choices and sacrifices when things are challenging. It is about positive thinking. It is about recognising that we get to choose our attitude each and every day in each and every moment.

What you need to see is that every time you take the easy way out, you are building a habit of quitting. Our society cares nothing for quitters. You either develop grit or you become the dirt. You either take resistance on, and grow stronger, or you blow in the wind and disappear. If you are sick of starting over, then stop giving up when something gets tough in the first place.

As long as you are in my life, I am not going to let quitting be easy for you. I am going to challenge you, confront you, push you, and coach you. You can whine and moan. And the next day, guess what? I will be here waiting — smiling and patient — to give you a fresh start. Because you are worth it.

So, do yourself a favour: Step up. No more excuses. No more justifications. No blaming. No quitting. Just pick your head up. Rip the cords out of your ears. Seize the moment and just do this, and what does just do this mean at Rutherford, it means striving for personal excellence and never comparing yourself to the best that others can be but only the best that you can be. It’s about investing in yourself to be the be the best version of you, that you can be.

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