Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ode to the graduate.

We went to Sophie's graduation last Saturday to witness her receive her Bachelor of Arts (Media Communication) Degree. I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time we see her don an academic gown, in fact she's already enrolled to go back to Uni next year but it's her first university degree and therefore the culmination of her childhood education and a good time to reflect on that journey and give thanks to the people who helped her along the way.

Sophie was blessed and burdened by being a 'faculty kid'. She started Prep the same day that her sister started Yr 7 and I started teaching at Mortlake College. By the time she was in Year 5, her step father had joined the staff as well and for 3 years she spent more than half of each day being taught by one of us. When your parents are teachers at your school there's nowhere to hide. If you stuff up then they hear about it pretty quickly! On the other hand, there's always someone to cheer for you at the sports, to watch you in the school play and get you some lunch when you leave yours at home.

When Soph made the state netball team, we toyed with the idea of her going away to school for awhile. We had some pretty lucrative offers from independent schools in the city looking to add her success to their honour boards and since we were traveling over 500kms a week for training it seemed like a possible solution. In the end though we knew that no school could offer the same, individualised program that ours could and above all, we valued having her at home with us more than anything else. Kids are grown and gone so quickly and you never get back that precious time with them once they're grown so we kept her with us. As a result, she combined the training and travel with her study, right through to the end of year 12. I'll always be grateful we made that decision because the conversations we had during that stressful, teenage time helped to forge the bond we have now. We spent a lot of time discussing novels and practising formulae in the car so it was also kind of an enforced study space and I guess her 96+ ENTER score was proof that multi tasking in year 12 is not only possible but also a good way to keep yourself organised and focused.

After a gap year to help earn her own way, Sophie eased into independence at Melbourne Uni by spending two years on res at St Hildas (giving her the boarding school experience we'd denied her earlier ;-) and then jumped headlong into life by taking an exchange semester to UT in Austin, TX. What a great learning experience for her and a fabulous excuse for us to go and visit.

And now she's a fully fledged Media Communicator working in the industry as an Events Assistant and looking forward to adding a teaching degree next year. While I'm not entirely sure about her entering the 'family business', I know she'll be a great teacher and I'm glad she's discovered that the glitz of the media world is nothing compared to chance to enrich the future of generations to come.

Graduations are pretty boring occasions. You pay a fortune to hire the regalia, then you sit through name after name, pretending polite applause until your hands go red, waiting for your own graduand to have their 30 secs of spotlight. I wish I'd been rude enough to have my phone out though because both the guest speaker and the valedictorian made some excellent points. If I'd had my phone out I would have recorded them or at least made notes but I was trying to be technologically pc and 'live in the moment'. Consequently I can't remember the exact words but the valedictorian spoke about the worth of the Arts degrees that Saturday's group were receiving. She said that an Arts degree is an investment in learning about yourself and your place in the world and indeed, about the world itself. It's about learning to appreciate and discover things about the world and how the people who inhabit it connect with each other and their environment. We've made plenty of the 'fries with that' jokes about Sophie's Arts degree but the truth is that she hasn't been unemployed at anytime since she left school. That's because she has a great work ethic (and stingy parents who insisted that if she wanted to travel the world as a student then she'd have to pay for it herself!). It's also because she does have a desire to learn about herself and how she connects with the rest of the world and I think the future of the world depends on more people knowing that.

So well done to Soph and on her behalf, thank you to all the teachers who have inspired, motivated, goaded, annoyed and at times, bored her into reaching this academic milestone. Her sister who taught her to read before she went to school, her kinder teacher Andrea who nurtured Sophie's problem solving ability by letting her play endlessly with jigsaws when everyone else was at the play doh. All her teachers at Mortlake College but especially; Mrs Goddard, who in Prep let Sophie sort her earring collection and chased her down the corridor when she was screaming to stay with me. Kerry Talbot who taught her to have fun and write naughty poems, Kath who taught her to sing despite her genetic disability with pitch. Lyle, who allowed her to try on so many different characters, Jackie who instilled an understanding of kitchen clean up and taught her to make great coffee and muffins thereby ensuring she would always be valued in the hospitality industry. Geoff who taught her that girls can be good at Maths, Earl Carter who polished her manners and encouraged her to respect herself and reach for the stars and Jane Boyle who role modeled female leadership at it's best. Thank you to her friends from school and netball and university and Texas and the workplace.

Every one of you has added something to the sum of the whole.