My brother once said to me how fortunate I was to be in a vocation where I can live out my faith every day. How privileged I am to do that! Alongside me is one of the most faith-filled women I know — Genevieve. I am doubly-privileged. So, when I am invited to write a piece for this newspaper, that is the place from where I begin.
As the rector of St Bede’s College, I have adopted the servant-leadership model. The greatest servant leader of all time is Jesus Christ, and I have done my very best to uphold that model throughout my working life. I am keenly aware that one does not attain respect from a position of leadership. You earn it by what you do. Therefore, forming good relationships with people, who show not only empathy and compassion, but also justice, are qualities I believe in. I am also a firm believer in doing the right thing for the right reason, without fear of the consequences.
Our students learn by doing. As stated by the bishop, “A genuine and on-going encounter with Christ gives rise to a desire to know more about him and his teaching. Facilitating that encounter is an essential function of the Catholic school.” (The Catholic Education of School-age Children No. 14) The encounter with Christ doesn’t necessarily happen in a classroom, therefore our challenge as educators in a Catholic school is to create opportunities for students to experience this encounter with Christ.
A mantra we have at St Bede’s College is around the concept that we are not in the game of making St Bede’s great, but creating an environment that gives every boy the opportunity to be great. St Augustine said, “God loves everyone as if they are the only one”, and this is an aspiration we have in the way we deal with the boys.
Everyone matters. Young people need hope: hope that the world they have begun to navigate is preparation for the next world; hope, also, that young people will discover their talents which we, as a college, help them to realise; finally hope in the fact that school days are not the best days of their lives, but preparation for the best days of their lives.
At St Bede’s, our priority is to help parents form their sons into good young men. We also strive to give them learning opportunities, both in and out of the classroom, to prepare them for their adult lives. Part of that is to prepare our students, not only for New Zealand, but also to prepare them for the world, so we welcome students from all over the world. By mixing with other students and by learning different cultures, we believe we prepare our students well for when they leave school.
Our boys are not examined before they are accepted to the college. Rather, they are placed in the school because of their openness to the Catholic and Christian ethos of the college. Boys are tested when they arrive, and our aim is that every student achieves — no matter what their ability — over their five years at high school.
In our college and other schools, the general well-being of the students is a priority. Happy children achieve. Trained counsellors play an important part in the school environment, and students are taught how to deal with disappointments and failure in their lives. At our college, we talk about failure as an opportunity to learn. Personal mistakes are also good learning opportunities for growth and maturity.
A good all-round education that encompasses the spiritual, the academic, the physical and the cultural facets, we think, forms good young people who are equipped for the modern world.
Justin Boyle is the rector of St Bede’s College, Christchurch.