On Strowan – Volume 14 // Issue 7 // 26 September 2019
The Senior College covers Years 12–13. Head of Senior College is John Ruge.
At the start of the week, our Year 13 students were privileged to have Di Foster speak to them during Monday Focus. I first met Di four years ago when another colleague recommended her as a speaker. She has visited us every year since then, with a powerful and relevant message about how to do life.
Di’s story today began with her terminal cancer diagnosis at the age of 39, with Stage IV lung cancer which had metastasised throughout her body. Faced with this news (delivered by an oncologist who was apparently a fashion relic of the 1970s according to Di, which didn’t help the conversation), Di had to decide how to face the remaining 365 days which were the predicted length of her life.
The result was a decision to live healthily and practise daily gratitude. She chose to eat healthy, natural food, and to be thankful every day for the day that she had been given and the choices that she was able to make. This process of choosing to keep going, to get up when life knocks you down, and to make the most of every situation, is how Di conceptualises the idea of resilience, which is something we have been talking about a lot this year. For her, resilience is an attitude that can be learnt, and it involves choosing to capitalise on any situation, regardless of how it affects our plans and dreams.
This was such an important message for our young people to hear. They need to know that life doesn’t always go as we planned it, and we are not actually entitled to have every dream for the future fulfilled. There will be hard times, and we need to learn the skill of deciding to go on, even if that is simply about getting out of bed each day. It was amazing to hear that it has now been more than eight years since Di was given her terminal diagnosis and one year to live. Her miraculous survival is not the main point of her story, but it nevertheless provided a very powerful backdrop to her reflections on what she has learnt through her journey. The number of questions from students was a good indication of the impact of her message, and we were very grateful to her for sharing so much of her personal story.
The holidays are beckoning and the leaving season is bearing down on us! Year 13 Dean, Bronwyn Radcliffe, and I have been speaking to Year 13 students recently about leaving well, and a key part of this is being grateful for what they have done at St Andrew’s College and, particularly, what others have done for them. I hope that all the students who leave the College this year will take the opportunity to find some key people who have influenced them during their school years and say thank you. Staff work hard to make sure that students succeed here, and I can say without hesitation that all of my colleagues go well beyond what they are paid for in order to invest in the lives of our young people. They deserve to have that commitment recognised. An attitude of thankfulness is also good for the soul. As Alice Walker wrote, “Thank you is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”
I hope all our students have a safe and relaxing break, mindful of course that school exams have just finished, and that Term 4 has only two weeks of classes before NCEA examination leave begins. Some planned and focused study time during the next three weeks would be a very wise investment of time, and the benefit of being out of school is that students can reward themselves for having done some revision by having a break without having to wait for a bell to ring. I look forward to welcoming students back next term ready for a fast and furious end to the academic year.
Head of Senior College