December 2015, Ravenswood School for Girls, Sydney, Australia
Firstly, thank you Reverend Park, for bringing greetings from the Synod, it seems like yesterday that we welcomed you to your first speech day as moderator, and hope that you will look forward to joining us at more events like this in the school calendar in the future. Please note that you will always be welcome in the Ravenswood community.
Good morning Miss Steer(?), Moderator, Chairman of council, Staff, Parents and most importantly, Girls.
I'm eighteen years old, I've spent seventy two percent of my life at school, fifty percent at Ravenswood, and about ninety-five percent of this week stressing about this speech.
The remaining five percent was spent enjoying the stories from those celebrating up at Schoolies. Special mention to those who made it back here today from the Gold Coast and have managed to stay awake this long. Very impressed.
Walking out of the Ravo gates and leaving the Titanic, or Cheese-wedge of a building behind, was a surreal experience. I felt like I was entering uncharted waters. I'm now faced with very difficult decisions. Like, what am I going to do with my life? And, if I wake up at 11.30, do I have breakfast? Or lunch?
There's a lot that I've missed about Ravo in the past four weeks. It's hard to leave something that has literally encompassed half your life. The structure, the activities, my great teachers, and most importantly, you girls. It can be kind of lonely not seeing your smiling faces every day. Plus, if I ever take another selfie, it'll never live up to our run for final assembly.
It's not very often one gets the chance to represent such a great group of girls, and to speak in front of as many people that are here today. Speech day is a day to celebrate the successes of the year.
Year Seven, you have survived your first year of high school, and will no longer be victim of jokes of arriving to class way too early.
Year Eight, you've managed to make it to the end of the year, despite losing Bin Man Max(?)
Year Nine, you've survived what used to be called Middle school. Unfortunately the concept of Middle school didn't survive Twenty Fifteen.
Year Ten, you've made it through a year filled with way too many formal jokes, and well done, honour #thatssoRavo hashtag.
Year Eleven, you've made it to the beginning of the end, get excited.
And Year Twelve, I don't think any of us need reminding on our triumphs for Twenty Fifteen.
Now I've spent a lot of this year speaking about the achievements and successes of Ravo, but I'm going to do something a little different this year. Be honest. Everyone knows that I've always had a strong love for my school and the people that are part of it. But, I also know that a lot of people here today know that I've experienced a lot of other feelings towards my school this year.
About half way through this year, at a time when my family needed Ravo most, it let us down. I know that there have been rumours and gossip about my sister leaving the school and I'd rather not add fuel to the fire, but I'd prefer to say that people who I trusted and respected made an unjustified, cruel and incorrect decision. There are a lot of flaws in the whole procedure, but my aim today isn't to point out all of those in a personal vendetta. I'm sharing this today because I want to be honest with everyone here, and I would have felt insincere if I had to get up here today and pretended like I still love everything about the school when so many know that I don't.
For a large part of this year I was hurt, betrayed, and very much begun to hate certain things and people within the school. But, as some important person once said, ‘there's no point hating something you love’. I do still love my school, and most of all my year group and teachers that carried me through this final year. There are still a lot of great things about it. But, there are also a few that aren't. There's no point hating something you love, but there's nothing wrong with realising that what you love isn't perfect.
I wrote two speeches today, just so I’d be able to say that Ravo isn’t perfect. I’ve given a fair few speeches in my lifetime, but once I became school captain, everything I ever wrote had to be sent and censored by those higher up than me.
I thought this was something normal as all other Ravo captains had to do it, but what I learned was that not all school captains had to do it.
I was never trusted to say the right thing which I found kind of silly because if I wanted to say something audacious like I am today, I could always have sent someone a different speech.
Anyway, earlier this year I was speaking at an open day, I was selling the school which used to be something I loved to do, because I loved everything about Ravo.
I thought I’d be really clever and so include the school motto in there. So I concluded my speech with: ‘Ravo’s isn’t perfect, but we’re always towards better things’.
I sent this to those in charge of me and received a reply: ‘Great speech, but change the ending. No parent wants to hear that the school isn’t perfect.’
Now I’m very sorry to all the parents here today, but Ravenswood isn’t perfect – and I’m sure you already know that.
I want to be clear again that I’m not saying anything to merely get back at the school.
I just want to be honest and share one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned at school.
Nothing is perfect and nothing should be expected to be perfect.
As my main gal Hannah Montana said: 'everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days,’
But how often do we really recognise and believe this? If a school can’t admit it isn’t perfect then how can they expect extraordinary adolescent girls to realise that perfection is unattainable.
Before 2015, I really do think I looked at Ravenswood through glassy eyes, seeing its wondrous perfection that it wants to sell everyone.
So as you can imagine, being elected school captain was the most humbling experience. But, it also freaked me out. Like a lot.
I hate to admit it, but I think I came home and cried every night the week after being elected. I'd always looked toward previous school captains and couldn't find flaws in them. The excelled in all areas and just seemed like they had it all together, all the time.
And here I was, crying. Because I think I was happy, crying because I didn't think I could do the job as well as they had, and crying because there were people who had made it very obvious to me they didn't want me to be school captain. Or probably crying because I was overtired, or dinner wasn't ready on time, or something like that. I'm embarrassed to say I've actually done that before.
I think we've all felt at one point, that we weren't good enough, or deserving of something. I saw Ravenswood as perfect, I saw other school captains as perfect, and I knew that I wasn't. But like Ravo, I wanted to give the impression that I was.
This Didn't go too well for me, as within the first term, a friend of mine came to me and said, “Hey Sarah, you know I'm actually really glad you're captain, because you're not as perfect as the others”. At the time it felt like a bit of a backhanded compliment, but it's now something I'll cherish. I'm far from the model student. I've been kicked out of Geography class, sorry Geography, we'd never have worked out. I've had a detention. I've said things I shouldn't have. I've hurt people who didn't deserve it, I've even had my skirt above the patella.
Now these aren't things to be proud of, and they aren't things to look up to, but they certainly aren't things to be ashamed of. They are things to learn from. And school's all about learning, right? And we learn from mistakes. But, I think we're all still afraid to make them, and admit to them, myself included.
The only dangerous thing about mistakes, which I think Ravo may have lost sight of this year, is being able to recognise and admit to them.
Have any of you not done something you want to do, for fear you would mess it up? I can't do art, I won't be able to draw; I can't swim at the big pool at the swimming carnival, what if I'm the person that finishes dead last? I can't do house dance, I can't dance. That last one is very much me. I used to think that I was saving everyone from seeing my dance moves, but now I really think it would have been entertainment for everyone.
What I try to remind myself all the time is that mistakes are inevitable, so we shouldn't let them stop us from getting involved or trying something new. And hey, if it doesn't work out, always towards better things. I'm trying to be clever again and slip in the school motto.
The person who doesn't make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.
In my final weeks at school, I overheard a conversation between my parents that went something like this:
'Oh, Chris, I'm kind of worried for Sarah finishing school.'
'Why is that, Robyn?'
'Well, you know, at school she was somebody, after school she's going to be nobody,'
I'm sure my parents would be very embarrassed to have me say that, and to be honest I'm embarrassed at my attempt to impersonate them. But what they said was actually very very true. Ravenswood gave me so many opportunities to be somebody. Whether it was sport, debating, community problem solving, Duke of Ed. I will admit, a few of these I did work hard for, but I also got very lucky.
From about Year Six, I used to get picked out by staff to participate in a lot of things. I would get picked to speak at events, or help out at open days, and I'm really really thankful for these opportunities. But, I don't feel like everyone else was as lucky to receive the same opportunities.
Some people work hard and get noticed and good on them.
But some people work hard, struggle and get overlooked.
I don’t know how to run a school. but it seems to me that today's schools are being run more and more like businesses where everything becomes financially motivated. Where more value is placed on those who provide good publicity or financial benefits.
Perhaps this is a naive view.
Perhaps this has become a necessary evil in today’s society.
But either way I’d love to see Ravo work towards something better – where each member of the school feels valued equally, as they should be.
So, here's to the girls who worked hard enough to receive an award here today. And here's to those who failed a few tests and can work harder next year.
To the girls who got a detention, but can make the concious effort to behave better next year.
To the girls who made the top sporting teams, and to those who missed out, but can train better to make it next year.
I'm sorry for giving a speech that's a little more serious than my usuals, on a day that probably needs more humour. Blame the people who made this year a difficult one for me, but also forgive them.
Jessica Hagee(?) wrote 'the nasty people may not deserve your love or admiration, but your scorn earns the both of you.'
The bumps along the road made me appreciate the support of all you girls so much more. I cannot thank you all enough for supporting me. Enduring these long speeches, and endulging me as your captain for Twenty Fifteen.
To the class of Twenty Fifteen, you've been remarkable. I'm so proud to be one of you, and I've loved being a part of our year group. So much so that I may or may not have taken, slash, stolen our year group photo from our common room.
Don't tell Miss Steer(?)
If you've already forgotten everything I've said, remember these two things.
Ravenswood isn't perfect, but it can always work towards better. And don't let perfect be the enemy of good, or mistakes scare you from taking chances. I'll now leave you all with an irrelevant quote that makes me smile.
'Before you criticise anyone, make sure to walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you're a mile away from them. And you have their shoes.'
Speakola is a site that compiles speeches - of all types.
A considerably more brutal take down of a private school was this one by Shane Maloney, delivered to Scotch College in 2001.