It is the start of period 3 on Thursday 21 Feb. I am standing at the top of the escalator greeting students as they head for class after arriving back from our scholars’ assembly. Every so often I ask a student: “what did you think of assembly”? A smile would break and back would come a positive comment. Most often it was the word “inspiring”. What has pleased me especially is that they would comment on how hard the recipients must have worked to get an A*. And right there is the nub.
Being academic is about loving learning and enjoying being curious. And, as our guest speaker Scott Optican told us, knowing ourselves sufficiently to choose areas of learning that we are passionate about. Think bottom up – seek out what we enjoy studying and pursue those interests. It becomes an academic adventure no less.
Our scholars’ assembly is a proud moment. It is simple acknowledgment of the students who have achieved A*s in CIE. What creates the grandeur is the sheer volume of students achieving this standard, some across numerous subjects. Our school results have lifted in 2018 and we have seen an increase in the percentage of A & A*s at IGCSE and A level. This is testament to expert teaching and the happy, wholehearted culture in which students can thrive.
As expected with opening a new campus, we have faced some challenges in the start-up of this year and we have endeavoured to deal with the issues calmly and systematically. Thank you for your patience.
I also want to thank you for your support at our picnic, camps and at our first parent information session about Blackboard. Coming up we will have a “Friends of Parnell” drinks event, the Senior Information Evening and Athletics Day.
I have included here the citation that I will read tonight at the end of the Cambridge awards for Caleb Probine. It says it all…
Citation for Caleb Probine
Caleb joined ACG Parnell College in January 2012. During his 7-years at the school, Caleb has proven himself to be one of the most outstanding scholars the college has ever had. He has epitomised our three pillars by being academic, whole-hearted, and knowing no limits
Caleb’s academic record is truly remarkable. He leaves our school having obtained A* in 5 A Levels: in Further Mathematics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Computer Science. His lowest mark was 95%, the highest 98%.
These superb results have seen Caleb receiving a number of Cambridge Outstanding Learner awards. In 2016 he was Top in the World in IGCSE Music. He was Top in New Zealand for AS Computer Science and AS Chemistry in 2017. Caleb’s achievements in 2018 surpassed all previous years. He was awarded High Achievement in Further Mathematics, Top in New Zealand in A Level Chemistry and was 1st place in “Top Across 3 Subjects”.
Caleb has achieved similar success in the NZQA Level 4 Scholarship examinations. Of the four Scholarship subjects he sat in 2018 (in Calculus, Physics, Chemistry and Statistics), Calculus, Physics and Chemistry were achieved at Outstanding level. Further, Caleb was placed Top in New Zealand in Scholarship Calculus. It should be remembered that Caleb prepared for these examinations while also studying for his CIE exams; 7 subjects in total!
In addition to being a top academic student, Caleb has also managed to find time to contribute to the wider life of the college in pursuing his love of music. He is a talented trumpet player and has participated in a wide range of music groups. He was a member of the Jazz Band, the Senior Concert Band, the Production Orchestra, and the Chamber Music group. He also participated in the Solo Music Competition.
In the area of Science, Caleb was a member of the International Young Physicists’ Tournament, being placed 2nd in Auckland and 4th in New Zealand. He took part in the Science Bowl, being placed 1st in Auckland.
Caleb is one of a kind. Even with all these fantastic accomplishments he remains humble and selfless. Caleb, you are an outstanding young man and we are very proud of you. Ladies and gentleman please put your hands together as John Morris presents the John Morrris Scholarship to Caleb.
I have also included Scott Optican’s speech from our scholars assembly, for your interest.
Scott Optican is an American — and recent New Zealand citizen — who is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean (Academic) at the University of Auckland Faculty of Law. A former member of the executive board of Fulbright New Zealand, he holds a BA degree in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley, a Masters degree in Criminology from the University of Cambridge, and a JD degree from Harvard Law School. Scott formerly interned at the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, briefly served as a prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney’s Office, and clerked for Judge Constance Baker Motley of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. He lectures and researches in the law of evidence, criminal procedure, criminal justice, police powers and the New Zealand Bill of Rights. Scott is the author of books and articles in those fields, and has been a visiting law professor in Canada, the United States, Turkey and Israel. He has also worked with the New Zealand Law Commission on various law reform matters, and is a regular commentator in the New Zealand media on issues related to crime and justice.
Scott’s speech at Scholars’ assembly
What should you be thinking about as you move towards university studies?
I am an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Auckland. I love what I do. However, what really makes my job work for me are two things: first, a genuine and lifelong passion for learning; and second, the freedom to pursue the learning that I’ve always been passionate about.
Those are the two messages that I want to convey in this talk. But I also want to explain the implications of those messages for all of you, particularly as you head towards university and the next phase of both your education and your lives.
Now, at the moment, I’m certain that family, teachers, advisors, friends, TV and social media are bombarding all of you with messages about: what you should be doing with your life; what you should be studying; how hard you should be working; and the choices you should be making as you think about starting university.
All of that advice is well-meaning and undoubtedly based in experience — so you shouldn’t ignore it. On the other hand, let me offer a slightly different set of guidance for all of you to consider today.
First, instead of thinking from the top down about what you want to be — whether it’s a teacher, lawyer, doctor or scientist — try thinking from the bottom up about who you are. Ask yourselves: what makes you happy? What, realistically, are your strengths and limitations? What don’t you like spending time on? On the other hand, what really peaks your curiosity — and drives your desire to work hard and know more? Being able to map yourself like that is, in my view, a better way to approach both university and life choices — and is a far better decision method than simply fulfilling pre-selected options or goals.
Second, all of you have so far had very little choice about either schooling or your future. It’s pretty much always been set out for you — like moving from primary to middle school to college. But that’s will change as you move towards university, and the choices will start to be yours to make.
Now, trust me, that’s a scary thing. You may not be ready for it. But just remember: the facts are friendly; where you start out will probably not be where you finish; and you are, above all, a work in progress. Remember also that choice is like a muscle: it needs to be exercised both to become and to stay strong. So, think of university as a place to experiment — and an environment in which to take both personal and intellectual chances. Don’t play it safe, expect and cope with inevitable mistakes, choose in good faith, be bold and have fun.
Third, remember that — while wonderful — glowing grades and fulsome praise from your teachers are the product of learning and not the object of it. Evaluation is important and useful — but don’t confuse what you learn at university with how well you perform at university. Those things often go hand in hand, but sometimes they don’t. And that’s OK — because real intellectual happiness comes from loving what you learn — and also having the confidence to deal with the occasional disconnect between knowledge and achievement.
Finally, and most importantly, never forgot to be stubborn with your choice of university studies and, by extension, with your lives.
All of you sitting here represent an elite and narrow segment of this world — a group that has the resources and liberty truly to shape your own existence. University studies are a big step towards exercising that freedom — and to becoming the remarkable individual and scholar that each of you should aspire to be.
So please don’t take that privilege for granted — and don’t squander it. Listen to the advice of those you trust — but listen to yourselves more. And make sure, in the end, to always be the one responsible for pulling your own personal and academic strings.
Ultimately, the decisions you make about your studies and your lives will be yours. But I hope that you will think of university — and the people like me who are part of it — as one enormous source of inspiration: a platform, if you will, for recognising the great and dedicated learners that you are now, but are likewise still yet to become.
Congratulations again — best wishes — and see you soon.
Welcome to ACG Parnell 2019!