From the Principal

I hope all students and families have settled well as we venture towards the middle of Term 1; time gets away pretty quickly once the year gets underway! This year has been particularly good in relation to the start for the new Year 4 and Year 7 students. We’ve had several functions where parents have given some terrific feedback as to how their sons have made such a wonderful transition from Primary school, made new friends, adjusted to the work, mastered myki and public transport and are generally coming home full of smiles and enthusiasm. Good news all round, I’d say! Congratulations and well done to the Year 7 team and the College’s student wellbeing leaders.

I would like to focus this week’s Duce article on today’s superb 2016 Academic Excellence Awards and Leaders’ Investiture. I was very proud of our young men, as were their teachers and families. While the event is designed and run as an acknowledgement and celebration of the success of last year’s VCE high achievers, I believe it provides an unique opportunity to present to the wider student body what is important in their pursuit of personal excellence. Please see below for an extract from my speech to the community. The focus is primarily on maximising each individual’s learning and progression, but also the exercise of effective leadership.

It’s great to be here today with our high achieving students from the Class of 2016 and to acknowledge their outstanding efforts. Congratulations also to the fine young men who will be invested in their leadership roles later in the ceremony. Each and every one of you should be justifiably proud of your achievements, but even more so of the journey you have taken to arrive where you are today. You have set a wonderful example and, by your actions and approach, you are outstanding role models to all your peers in this room. 

I want to speak just a little today about the attitude and the mind‐set the VCE Prize‐winners employed in achieving such outstanding results. I encourage each of you here – Year 4 to Year 12 students alike — to adopt similar strategies when tackling your studies this year. 

When looking for ideas or inspiration I often turn to my Irish roots; my father always said you can trust an Irishman’s advice. The great Irish writer George Bernard Shaw, once said in relation to education and learning: “What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” Now, what does that mean and how does it apply to the pursuit of academic excellence in 2017? In simple terms, it means learning is not something which is done to you, it is something for which you must take responsibility, embrace and be involved in. It means that each and every student in this room has the opportunity and responsibility to pursue learning and knowledge for its own sake, and for your own satisfaction and growth. It’s about committing to your work, striving for personal excellence, embracing the skills you learn and taking your place in the 21st century. It’s not just because somebody else, normally your teacher, is setting a task for you. Learning is very much defined by the way in which you approach it.

The best students, not necessarily the most gifted or able, will be capable of creating their own knowledge. They can work, collaborate and communicate effectively within a team, they’re capable of defining a problem and then developing a solution which fits. You will have access to a great deal of support in your academic endeavours and you must make demands of your teachers. Just like St John Baptist de La Salle in his day, our teachers and coordinators devote a great deal of time and energy to identifying what our students need to thrive and flourish as young men in the contemporary world. Like the founder, we feel a deep and abiding obligation to educate well beyond formal academic work. Preparing our students to contribute to society and their chosen career path is an intrinsic part of what we value most at De La Salle.

Each student in this hall, and indeed in every year in the past 105, has gifts in certain areas and each of you has been encouraged and guided to find these within, recognise the talents you have and ensure you use them to the very best of your ability. I think we can all agree the young men receiving awards today have taken advantage of this approach and their opportunities at De La Salle and will now begin university and then careers in their chosen field having profited from the following:

  • A responsible, disciplined and well organised approach
  • Positive relationships with his teachers and coordinators
  • A steadfast commitment to setting and meeting high standards
  • Ensuring he is accountable for his actions and decisions

Making good decisions and setting a course of action like this — a game plan for your success — is critical for your future; supporting, enabling and empowering our young men to be true Lasallians and responsible for their decisions and actions, is an ongoing focus for our school.

I’d like to shift emphasis for a moment, from academic excellence to the student leadership group who will be presented later this morning. I was doing some reading the other day around a key leadership trait for the 21st century referred to as Learning Agility: recognised as a key element of realising your potential. Learning agility is the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first‐time conditions. Our 2017 student leaders are all new to their role, all show tremendous potential and I’m already seeing their capacity to perform and make a difference in their various portfolios. These young men are terrific examples of servant leadership, following the example of St John Baptist de La Salle.

From the outset, De La Salle was the servant accepting the stewardship of maintaining his new schools for the poor. He accepted responsibility and leadership for the schools and the teachers. His involvement came from his awareness of the situation, a conceptualisation and foresight which grew into a vision which then drove him to overcome obstacles. His vision was to form a society, a community of men, dedicated to the education of the children who needed it most. All along, he continued to serve their needs. I am confident, as we all are, that our 2017 leaders will emulate our Founder. They’ve developed a vision for the year’s work and a plan to address what they have identified needs to be done, dealing with obstacles along the way.

Good luck gentlemen, you have a great deal to offer the College and we will all benefit from your leadership and influence. I’m sure you will leave the school a better place for your endeavours this year. Congratulations once again to all our academic prize‐winners, 90+ ATAR high achievers and all our student leaders. May your endeavours be the example and role model all our students can look up to.”

Ably supported by the Executive Team, the Directors of Learning and Development, the Learning Area Team Leaders and the House/Year Level Coordinators, I am this year pushing forward with a renewed emphasis on improving the quality of our learning and teaching. Student outcomes will improve in a culture of rigour, achievement and challenge where every teacher and student is aligned with the theme of improvement, progression and excellence.

I often speak and write about the need for De La Salle boys to, “Be your best, challenge yourself, be involved and independent when it comes to your learning.” We provide a learning environment which is supportive and builds positive relationships. In turn, every student must take responsibility and be accountable for his learning and progression. This applies to all year levels, not just VCE.

In simple terms this means each and every student must be organised and prepared, work must always be completed – on time, every time, and to the best of his ability. We are developing polices, processes and structures to monitor students’ progress and intervene where required. These expectations and standards are non‐negotiable for De La Salle students, designed to maximise student achievement and potential. With the requisite effort, commitment and support we know every student can achieve. This theme also encourages consideration of the individual, respect, acceptance, resilience and responsibility.

I look forward to working with all our teaching and non‐teaching staff and all our families to ensure De La Salle meets its goals, improves our standards and respects the dignity of every young man in our care.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 02 - 23 February 2017