By Richard Hall | Posted: Friday December 8, 2017
Our Junior Prize Giving is a celebration. A moment when our community comes together to acknowledge significant academic, cultural and sporting success. A time when also, I hope the boys in the audience who did not receive a prize set themselves the goal to challenge and strive to be tall poppies and to be on this stage next year.
It is my great pleasure to welcome here this morning the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr Andrew Kilsby, Life Governor of our school’s Old Boys’ Society - Brigadier Brian McMahon, the President Old Boys’ Society Mr Brent Alexander, Chairman of the OBHS Foundation Mr Brent Nicholson, Representative of the OBHS Parents’ Association, Mrs Mary Crosson and Master Timothy Dippie, Head Prefect for 2018, who will address you later.
We as a community will always acknowledge our tall poppies. We know that an OB’s boy can foot it with anyone in the world, so we celebrate that.
2017 has been a very strong year for Otago Boys’ High. Academically our students continue to perform above the national averages and that starts here with our junior school. What I have seen this year from you, the students of Years 9 and 10, is a passion for the school –a commitment to the ‘brotherhood’, that singular feeling that being at this school is best for you. I want to, in their absence, acknowledge the prefect team led by Max Chu and the whole of our Year 13 who made the positive connection between the students something to improve. Initiatives such as the Stuart Street Shield, an academic trophy between the hostel and the school, improved academic tutoring by seniors, as well as their passion for service, where the school, seniors and juniors combined raised over $21k for cancer research, were ways in which they made this school a better place.
I also want to look forward at the student leadership of Tim Dippie, Flynn Steel and Tom Howie. With these leaders I know we have the nucleus, the hub, of an even better year.
This year has been one in which we have consolidated some key changes to our school.
The revisioning of Otago Boys’ High School, led by our new vision that our boys become confident, resilient men with a sense of purpose - prepared to explore, and contribute to a changing world has, I believe, given backbone and purpose to what we do here. Our aim is always to put the child at the centre of his learning. To put in place structures, rigour and opportunity that will enable him to be the best he can be. It is the first filter that I run over any decision in the school - is it best for boys and is it the right learning?
Our values too have been enhanced - Respect, Courage, Honour, Perseverance and Excellence. Each is a tool that, if used, can shape the clay of a boy into a man.
This year with the consolidation of vertical form groups, with a form class based on your House and made up of students from Year 9 - Year 13, has been a sea-change in the way in which we look out for each other here. Added to that this year has been the introduction of House Deans, where one dean looks after students in their House across each year level. This has been an interesting and new dynamic for both staff and students, and while I accept that it is not there yet, I must acknowledge the work of:
Aspinall- Mr Gwyn Prattley/ Ms Adrienne Buckingham
McIndoe- Mr Stewart Tagg/Mr Kelvin McCrone
Park- Mr Mike McGarry/ Mr EnokaTaufua
Saxton- Mr Ryan Martin/ Mr Kent Twaites
My comment to the juniors, is that for our year 9’s it has made that transition so much stronger and you will actually never know just how good it has been.
To strengthen the form groups and to widen the opportunities for leadership in our school - 27 Year 12’s have just returned from our Aspiring Lodge. Led by Mr Zani, this camp has focussed on the theme of a ‘Good Older Brother’ - what we want our seniors to be. To be active in the learning of the junior students, to pass on knowledge and skills and to be supportive. For it should never be said that supporting each other, or as we term it your mates or ‘brothers’, is a non-boy thing.
For as the Maori proverb says:
Mā te tuakana e tōtika te teina,
mā te teina e tōtika te tuakana
The elder sibling corrects the younger sibling, in turn, the younger sibling teaches his elder tolerance. To me that sums up perfectly the ethos for our form groups.
I believe that a young man’s potential is the most important tool we have and I want to now take this moment to acknowledge and thank those who have helped us help our juniors reach their potential.
Firstly the Parents Association - who give generously of their time to raise funds and to distribute monies to support opportunities for the school. Led by Caroline Officer, they work tirelessly selling uniforms and holding events all for the benefit of boys.
Next the Old Boys’ Society, led by Brent Alexander and Brigadier Brian McMahon, they offer the perspective of tradition. They are the gatekeepers of our school culture.
Finally the Otago Boys’ High School Foundation, led by Brent Nicholson. The Foundation has, over the last three years, contributed to the school financially. It will be, I know going forward, a vehicle that allows us to shine.
I want now to acknowledge departing staff members - each has made a contribution inside and outside of the classroom;
Mr Jim Black - who after 44 years service to this school and it’s pupils retires
Mrs Wendy Curtis - who will, after 28 years service, also be retiring
Mr Andrew Turner - who has been appointed to Principal of Gisborne Boys’ High School.
Each of you has been passionate about Boys education and our boys have benefitted from that passion.
And finally a word to our young men.
The Year 9’s have been an excellent group. When I reflect on our Year 9 group, firstly I reflect on my own Year 9 class. This year I have had the pleasure of teaching 9O - a class that I have enjoyed getting to know. I believe you have shown the best qualities of an OB’s class - you come ready to learn and you give each other the support to learn. I know though that they are a snapshot of the year 9 cohort as a whole.
The way in which most Year 9’s have integrated into our school has been very impressive. On the sports field, the stage and in the classroom you have lived the ethos of the blue and white hoops. The future achievement of our school looks very promising indeed.
There is one Year 9 who I think deserves a special mention. As a Year 9 James Seo is early into his journey here at OBHS. As a student he has already been awarded academic and cultural prizes. This special prize is in recognition of James’ significant ability in mathematics. As a Year 9 James is currently working at NCEA level 2 in Mathematics with Statistics. He was also a member of the Yr 9 ‘O’Matholon A’ team in ICAS Mathematics, an international examination.
For you in 2018, Year 10 is an important building year for the senior school, option choice, good study habits, high achievement in internal school exams are all indicators of future prospects, for our boys Year 10 is not a holding year.
To the current Year 10, next year will be a significant step up. The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), is a national qualification. The reality though is, while it is national it is also deeply personalized. What you succeed in is very specific to you. Not all certificates are created equally and it is an expectation of our school that students will aim for the highest qualification - be it Merit or Excellence. To do that requires internal motivation, external monitoring from parents and teachers and a curriculum that engages and challenges.
But also, as you progress to become one of the men in blue blazers, know that you have reached the next milestone, the rite of passage into the senior school, with the responsibility of not only enjoying the culture but of leading it. You have been shaped by your parents, by your opportunities and experiences, and also by the staff and traditions here in the school.
To wear a blue blazer is to raise once again the level of expectation and focus. To plant your feet firmly and strongly, to say I am a young man of potential, of character and of substance. I am an OB’s boy.
As you all leave here today I challenge you not to leave the ‘idea’ of an OB’s boy on the floor of your bedroom with your tie. Maintain the standards of respect, courage, honour, perseverance leading to excellence. Be a young man who puts his hand up to offer help, not out as in ‘what’s in it for me’.
Finally, in this season of gift giving - my final gift to the school is the gift of language, specifically for the last time the opportunity for me to leave you with the words of our school’s poem for 2017:
The Road not Taken
By Robert Frost(1916)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.