Dear PLC Sydney Community
Welcome to Term 4.
I have just returned from wishing our Year 12 students “all the best” as they enter their second English examination. There were quite a few smiles and lots of warm greetings of “Good morning”. Some were writing last-minute notes. Most were gathered in groups in the Science Amphitheatre and appeared calm and engaged.
Yesterday at Croydon Railway Station I waited with one of our Year 12 students for a train to the city. She had just finished her first English exam. She was reflecting that she had sat in the examination room for all of her exams over the period from Years 7 to 12 and that this had prepared her well. The HSC felt very “same same”.
There are at least two ways to handle stress. One is to avoid it. The second is to normalise the processes that cause it. When we first start driving a car we feel nervous. It is a big responsibility. A car is potentially a lethal weapon. There are catastrophic stories of people for whom driving has all gone wrong. If we thought about the responsibility too much we might never choose to get behind the steering wheel. Yet, with practice and good training it becomes second nature. Very few people really enjoy exams, but they are part of our system at present. Therefore at PLC Sydney we seek to provide regular practice. We seek to make them an ordinary part of school life.
We are very proud of our Year 12 cohort and we wish them all the best for the weeks ahead.
The HSC examinations commenced on 12 October and run through until 6 November.
* * *
A second ‘ordinary’ part of life at PLC Sydney is opportunity. Over the past five years of ‘exit surveys’ with Year 12 the most highly rated aspect of life at school has been the opportunities provided. There are quite a few areas where we have increased, or will increase, access for our students, of which we are very proud. We use the word ‘Reach’ to describe this goal. We wish to reach each student. Over the previous five years:
- With the help of the PLC Sydney Foundation we have increased the number of students going on exchange from just over 30 to about 70. This means that we no longer have students who are disappointed because they were not selected for this program.
- We have added exhibitions in The Croydon that allow for open entry. At present we have the ‘Drawing the Line’ exhibition that was open for all students and staff in the College to enter. Even I put in a drawing. If you go to Adelaide Perry Gallery today you will see hundreds of post card size art works on display.
- In setting up the Cambridge courses we have provided options for our whole range of students.
- Our school is set up to offer more than one opportunity in different subject areas. For example, there are four drama performances each year. We also have two Drama Clubs. Whilst individual performances will not accommodate each student, the use of clubs alongside productions means that over the period of a student’s education at PLC Sydney she will have opportunities. A similar set-up operates in Music. There are choirs that welcome everyone as well as choirs for those with highly trained voices. In Sport we entered more than 20 teams in Senior Netball last term as well as six teams in Hockey.
The expansion to the Gymnasium near the J D Oates Aquatic Centre will mean that we will be offering fitness programs across the broad population of the College. These fitness programs will be automatically available to every student who signs up to represent PLC Sydney in Sport.
I note that, even with all of the opportunities available, students will be disappointed at times. In fact being in a place with many opportunities can increase a sense of disappointment. If a student hopes for a part she doesn’t receive, or hopes to get into a team but doesn’t make it, disappointment is a normal response. Woody Allen had the line in one of his films: It’s not the despair I can’t stand. I can cope with the despair. It’s the hope. I can’t stand the hope. It is normal growing up to compare ourselves to others. Finding a space to belong is a teenage vocation and it can be very painful for parents to watch their children hope for something and miss out. In particular, it is hard when there is a run of disappointments.
And it is not possible nor wise for a school to create token opportunities. We are seeking to provide a program that has open options (a Drama Club, Open Choir, Exchange places for the number of students seeking to go) as well as selective places (parts in dramas, high standard orchestra). And we want to talk with you as your daughter finds her niche and enjoys the culture of the College.
Dr Paul Burgis