A True Achiever: Academic Captain’s Address

As part of our annual Achievers’ Assembly, Academic Captain Olivia von Bertouch delivered a wonderful speech about how we measure the success of an education. It touches on personal goals, the value of failure and the power of collaboration. It is well worth reading.

As students, success is sought after by all of us, but its ambiguity can make it hard to aspire towards. Success is subjective and so should only be a measure of your own personal goals, not in comparison with anyone else’s. If you put in the effort and time, set goals, and seek the motivation to improve, you are already succeeding. No matter what the outcome is, or what others achieve, you have succeeded. Because your best will never be good enough if you measure your success based on the accomplishments of others. Imagine how our vision of success would be morphed if we strived for our own personal best rather than those of our peers.

Our marks and grades are widely deemed the greatest determinant of success in school, with looming assessments pushing us to strive for improvement. So, undeniably, failure is at times inevitable. Failure is a natural and necessary part of learning and subsequently, growth as an individual. Your failure isn’t an absence of ability, talent or worth. But rather, offers the incentive to deepen your learning and try again next time.

Because there will always be a next time. All your talents can’t possibly be measured by your last maths test mark. What’s most important is how we bounce back from these failures, take up new opportunities to extend ourselves, and build the resilience to keep trying.

Some young people are bogged down by the crippling mentality that whatever we are is never enough, as we place increasingly high value in our school grades. But I encourage you to sit back and look at yourself. Recognise your qualities as a friend, sister, daughter, student. Recognise your talents in sports, academics, arts, languages, or perhaps your ability to listen, offer advice, and comfort. Recognise your weaknesses in these same areas, but be empowered by the knowledge that talents are changeable and improvement is attainable. This is where collaboration is vital, as we can learn from those around us who are more experienced or simply have a fresh perspective to offer. Through the formation of networks and the use of resources around us, we can develop these skills and talents to strive for our personal best.

We have been gifted with the privilege of education, security and freedom that many of our sisters throughout the world suffer without. Our Mercy value for 2020 is Compassion, and so we should recognise our strengths and employ them for the good of others. Show compassion to those who aren’t so lucky, whether that be locally by helping out a struggling friend in class, or more universally by pursuing an occupation where you can bring about lasting change to the lives of the oppressed.

Rather than letting your marks be your measure of success, I urge you to simply try your best. Your very best, in everything you do and then you’ll know that you were a true achiever.

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