Ode to Joy

03 September 2020

When the current Year 12 students were in Year 9, and when their first examinations were looming, I gave them a booklet called, ‘A Guide to Joyful, Invigorating Study’. It contained all of the usual tips - how to plan a revision schedule, the ABC’s of daily to-do’s, the benefits of the Cornell note-taking system, characteristics of different learning styles and how to leverage your personal tendencies, the importance of sleep and nutritious food, the essential absence of the mobile phone! – but more than that it contained a woven-through theme that I hoped would set them up for life, namely the importance of a positive outlook and the buoyancy that joy-filled endeavour brings when moments of contraction are needed and when, in the absence of positivity, pain may be a potential by-product. It became a running joke between that cohort and I, “We’re looking forward to ‘Joyful, Invigorating Study’, Liz” was a comment that subsequently accompanied pretty much all of their following examination periods. But while they teasingly mocked the title because of their adolescent aversion to anything at all profuse, I saw a glint in their eyes, a lightness in their step and academic results that spoke to the fact that many had indeed successfully approach their revision with a light heart and joyful determination.

Fast forward to Year 12 and of course the challenges and demands of the HSC, which at times can feel relentless, can’t be overlooked. Joy-filled study hasn’t accompanied every moment of their year, and certainly individual struggles and personal wellbeing journeys are not to be negated or overlooked. Nevertheless, a generally positive outlook prevails and a healthy sense of perspective is living in the group, and for this I am truly grateful… and this cohort has faced more challenges than many! As COVID-19 hit and as we found ourselves living with an increasing global awareness yet a smaller and smaller sphere of movement, we keenly experienced the pain of contraction. For Year 12 students and parents, and indeed the whole school community, this has meant navigating change and adapting to new necessities that have at times been very challenging. For Year 12 students in particular, it hindered usual parent involvement in celebratory events that, mirroring the handing over of the five-year-old to the kindergarten teacher, usually shepherd the young person into their young-adult years. But amid challenges, a joyful approach (and the assistance of technology!) can build bridges. This week, the HSC Music Showcase, recorded for later sharing with the community and livestreamed to Year 12 parents, did just that. And while the significant achievements of our HSC Music 1, 2 and Extension students were heard by teachers and students in school hall as well as in the lounge room in Cammeray, Belrose, Roseville and Leichardt, I was reminded of the German peoples’ early response to lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions. On the 22 March at 6pm sharp, Germans opened their windows or stood on their balconies and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy was played on cellos, violins, recorders and tin whistles, any instrument that could be found. Professionals, amateurs, grandparents and the very young came together to create a cacophony of tone! And it was joyful. And it allowed the contraction of lockdown to be opened into an expansive coming together, and it allowed something challenging to be more easily overcome. And so I return to the Year 9 study skills booklet, and to the themes of ‘Joyful, Invigorating Study’. As Year 12 students go into this last stretch, I wish them just that. Moments when windows and balconies are thrown open and when a time of concentrated work is supported by an inner sense of positivity. I celebrate our Year 12 students and their achievements, and wish them well as they make space in their hearts and minds for their own Ode to Joy.

Liz Nevieve
Deputy Head of School (Years 7-12)