Home' Focus : Focus Magazine Summer 2014 Contents 20
The Acting Head of Middle
School, Stuart Walls,
addressed the students at
the final assembly for 2014.
passion for educating young
people, and he spoke of the
importance of each student
finding their own passion. Here
is an extract of his speech.
It is a great pleasure to address the 2014
Middle School Final Assembly and to have the
opportunity to thank all students for everything
you have contributed during the year. It is
a particular privilege to address our Year 8
students as they leave the Middle School and
venture across the road.
A well-known South African playwright
named Deon Opperman once said that life
is what happens to you while you are busy
making plans. His words have stuck with me for
many years and the older I get the more those
words ring true. The only thing about the future
that you can be sure about is that it will be
different to the here and now, so your plans will
Finding your passion
change often – look forward to it!
In a keynote address at an arts festival that
I attended as a young teacher, Opperman
continued to explain to the gathering of
teenagers that he chose a career in theatre
because his father was unable to choose a
career for him in the field that he loved. He
chose theatre, not because he liked it, or
thought he should do it, or because his parents
wanted him to do it – he chose it because he
loved doing it. My main message to you today
is to identify your passions and chase them. You
will do your best at that which you love best and
you will also be happy while you do it.
Years later I discovered a great education
author, Sir Ken Robinson, and his messages to
all learners (no matter what age) were very similar
to that of Deon Opperman’s. Robinson wrote a
book called The Element which always provides
inspiration to me in one form or another.
He describes The Element as the point at
which natural talent meets personal passion.
Being in your Element helps you to connect with
your fundamental sense of identity, purpose and
well-being. Year 8s – all of you have a different
Element as you all have different talents and
different passions – the challenge for you as you
move into Senior School is to find these.
Robinson provides a neat simple framework
that goes something like this:
The Element has two main features – Talent
(I get it!) and Passion (I love it!).
And it also has two conditions – Attitude
(I want it) and Opportunity (where is it?).
Let’s look at Talent first. This is the ‘I get it!’
bit. You will already know what some of your
strengths are – developing these, and others
that you are yet to discover, will be an essential
part of becoming who you really are. You will
not know who you can be until you know what
you can do.
What about Passion? This is the ‘I Love it’ bit.
If you are to be in Your Element it is not enough
to be good at something, you need to be able
to take deep delight and pleasure from what
you are doing.
And then Attitude. You need to ‘Want it’. This
is your personal perspective on yourself, it’s
your disposition. If good things happen to you
they are generally not about luck, they are about
attitudes of perseverance, optimism, ambition
and sometimes frustration!
And finally, Opportunity – ‘Where is it?’.
Well, for this amazing bunch of young people
sitting in front of me, it is all around you.
There are very few people in
this world who have greater
opportunity than you do.
It is how and if you take those opportunities
that will affect whether or not you find that
So I say to you, use your talents and discover
more, choose pathways that include your
passions, have a ‘can do’ attitude and seize
all those incredible opportunities that you have
you find your own Element.
I have really enjoyed being your Head of
School for 2014. This experience has helped
me examine my talents and passions and
hence my decision to return to the Deputy role
next year – a role that is more student-focused
and therefore reflects more accurately where
my Element lies.
Thank you and all the best for 2015.
Stuart Walls led a group of students to the inaugural International Young Round Square Conference in South Africa.
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