Power of Turning Up

2 March 2017

This article was first published in the Queenwood weekly newsletter on 2 March 2017

We are halfway through the term (hard to believe!) and there have already been many achievements to celebrate: broken records at the Junior and Senior swimming carnivals; medals for the 1st VIII and for Amelia Johnson and Jessica Robinson in the U21 pairs at the NSW Rowing Championships; the appointment of Vanessa Li (Year 12) as Lead Cellist in the Australian Youth Orchestra; the promotion of Tilly Kearns to the Australian U23 Water Polo squad, with Daisy and Skye Nankervis playing in the junior Australian squads; the award of the Cromack Memorial Scholarship to talented violinist Victoria Teo (Year 7) – and so on. We also delight in the less obvious achievements – those who do not glide down their lane in the pool but struggle on to reach the end, or who drag themselves in at the end of a bushwalk but overcame great anxiety just to make it to camp.

Schools often speak of their activities in inspirational terms. Rightly so – schools are filled with young people doing exciting things. Nevertheless, not everything we do is about achievement, however defined, and it is unrealistic and patronising to expect girls to rejoice in every moment and every activity. They are entitled to have their own view of things and we certainly would not wish upon them the conformity required for all things to be equally appealing to all students.

There are, however, important lessons that have nothing to do with achievement, and one of these lessons is the power of turning up. We require the girls to turn up to many things – carnivals, camp, performances, music festivals – for obvious objectives. For some, however, the objective on any given day may not be so obvious. Perhaps she is a terrible dancer who can’t sing a note, so she will only be a liability at the House Music Festival. Perhaps she is a woeful athlete who will have to walk the 400m. One could be forgiven for assuming that the day will be wasted for her, so she may as well take the day off or spend the time doing something productive.

This is mistaken for two reasons. Firstly, there is the alchemy that arises when a community gathers together. Girls who thought they would hate the occasion often find it turns out to be fun when they do it with their friends. They can surprise themselves when they give it a chance. The very fact that everyone is present generates an esprit de corps that can transform the uninspiring into something special. We are genuinely committed to creating a sense of community at Queenwood, and that can’t be done unless we spend time together.

Just as importantly, it is vital for a girl to understand that not everything is about her. The competitive swimmers deserve the cheers and encouragement of their peers. The girls who turn up for the Music Festival deserve to have the special atmosphere that only arises when everyone is there together. In life, it’s not always about you.

Ms Elizabeth Stone