The Cheadle Hulme School Class of 2013 graduated with flying colours this week: it was a very special night for everyone. For the students, it was their final au revoir to a school that they have known for as little as two or as many as 14 years. Irrespective of the duration, it marked the end of their School career – and that is a significant step indeed, in anyone’s life.
For parents, the evening also marked an ending. Their little one stood proudly, all grown up and about to launch him or her self on the big wide world. No more “How was school today?”; no more “Have you done your homework?”; no more “Have you got your books/kit/musical instrument ready?” No more ridiculous traffic queuing every morning and afternoon. No more school fees. (Unless their little one is an older sibling of course – for them, the joys continue!)
When people use the term ‘graduation’ it is often associated with finishing university or college; but it is right that we use it to signal the end of School. As I read the many words of wisdom that abound at this time of year, I was struck by how short-sighted it would be to deprive the Waconian Class of 2013 of advice which the sooner they know, the more useful it can be. The truth is, it is never too late to start your future and for the Class of 2013, their future starts now.
What struck me about the advice was that everyone seems to recognise the imperative that we work hard at developing ourselves and building our futures. Nothing is certain. So here are the three pieces of advice I selected which I thought worthy of the occasion.
“Be interesting. When you sit in that interview, don’t assume that the lines you can write on your resume will be enough to get your foot in the door to the job of your dreams. We’re going to spend long hours, five days a week working together. I don’t want to work with someone who is narrow and boring. Have opinions — on politics, on pop culture, on favourite writers or thinkers. Have personal interests that may have nothing to do with the job at hand. Have something to say.”
The next few years for most of the Cheadle Hulme School leavers will be about preparing for the world of work; the advice is, don’t make that preparation a narrow one: “Be interesting.” The Class of 2013 need to explore who they want to be and what skills they want to develop on a much broader canvas than School has given them. I advised them to avoid doing solely what they have already done – don’t make the Upper Sixth year the most successful and interesting one that they are going to have for the next three years – make it a building block.
‘”Understand the way your mind works in relation to motivation. Money, a fancy title, a prestigious firm — these are what are known as extrinsic factors. Your friends and family can see them, you can put them on a resume, or discuss them in a job interview.…yet the research shows that having these extrinsic motivators in abundance won’t make you happy…True motivation relies on a very different set of factors: they’re intrinsic in nature, much harder to measure, and may even be unique to you. Being given the opportunity to shoulder responsibility and work independently. The ability to learn and grow. And, perhaps most important of all, doing something you think is meaningful.”
So, find meaning in what you do. Over the years, and this year has been no exception, I have seen students at their most dynamic and bright when they are doing something that, firstly, they have chosen to do, and secondly, is something which centres around serving others; they stand patiently for hours getting signatures for a human rights petition, they spend precious time helping out another student or coaching younger peers. It is one those occasions that I see students shine.
The final piece of advice comes from Daniel Gulati, a tech entrepreneur based in New York, and co-author of ‘Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders’:
“The tough, thorny problems are the most valuable ones, but most people will shy away from the challenge. Solve these problems.”
Being successful will often mean that you have to meet challenges and overcome them.
The Class of 2013 will always be Waconians; irrespective of the journeys they go on to make from this point. They will forever be a part of Cheadle Hulme School and it of them. I consider myself privileged indeed to be Head of a School of which they have been a part. It has been a pleasure getting to know them, to celebrate their successes and to be part of their journey . If Larkin is right and we are all just part of a ‘frail / Travelling coincidence’, then coincidence has certainly looked on me favourably.
As the Head Boy and Head Girl concluded, “Auf Wiederhesen”.
Head, Lucy Pearson