Thinking Allowed

Thinking Allowed

The text of a Speech delivered by Lucia Gelonesi, Deputy Head Prefect at SCEGGS                                                          

This Thinking Allowed section of our Newsletter allows teachers at SCEGGS to explore interesting and important ideas in education, to stimulate debate and discussion within the profession. The following article is the text of a Speech delivered by Lucia Gelonesi, Deputy Head Prefect at SCEGGS, to a recent assembly. In it, she explores why a co-curricular program is an important part of schooling. It is such a perceptive, thoughtful and inspiring piece that I believe it can make a truly important contribution to debate and discussion about the meaning and purpose of education.

Jenny Allum
Head of School


Today I’ve been asked to give you the lowdown on co-curriculars at SCEGGS.

But what I really want to talk to you about, is the meaning of life.

The importance of having something to believe in and to belong to that’s bigger than yourself.

Because to me they’re pretty much the same thing.

Let’s get something straight to begin with. Co-curriculars are not all about the House points.

Sure, you’ll gain a House point through signing up for an activity, but if I can give you an analogy?

It would be kind of like travelling to Egypt, witnessing the sublime feat of human engineering that are the Pyramids, and saying the most important aspect of your trip was the frequent flyer points you managed to accrue along the way.

Co -curriculars have the potential – if you’re open to it – if you’re up for it –and I really do mean this – to offer you a deeper understanding of, and affinity with, so many priceless things – love, loyalty, duty, companionship, collaboration, and, actually, (perhaps even most importantly), human frailty, forgivingness, disappointment and defeat.

Learning how to win is easy, right? Not much to it. Learning how to lose, a lot harder. And infinitely more important.

Once I lost 14 nil in a soccer match to Pymble. I didn’t manage to touch the ball once. Not once! Not that me touching the ball would’ve made any difference. In fact, most likely, it would have hastened our demise! Pymble were simply a far superior team. The truth will set you free. But boy, can it hurt!

Here’s another crucial reason why co-curriculars are fundamental to your experience at SCEGGS.

They allow you to have fun.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this, but having fun doesn’t really come all that naturally to me. I’m a pretty serious person and super shy by temperament.

Co-curriculars gave me permission to enjoy myself in a sweet, uncomplicated kind of way.

Having fun is very different from having a sense of humour, it’s the ability to let go, to yield and fully relax into something. You probably know this already, – but having fun is seriously good for you.

Real fun, proper fun – losing yourself in the moment, feeling free from time constraints and fretting about who you are (and who others expect you to be), allowing yourself to surrender to playfulness, pure pleasure and abandon is vital to being human

And of course, having fun is a matter of personal taste. It’s totally what appeals to you. Discovering your kind of fun is part of the fun!

I’m now going to tell you what I find exhilarating about some of my favourite co-curriculars at SCEGGS. But, honestly, there are so many to choose from! These just happen to be my picks. Your sweet spots may lie somewhere else entirely.

I’ve been doing Cross Country twice a week now since Year 3.

We have some impressive runners at SCEGGS, but we also have people, like me, who run purely for the transcendent feeling of it. Long distance running unclutters your mind and elevates your soul. Sometimes, it’s about running away from something. Other times, it’s about running towards it.

Participating in Drama, in my younger years at SCEGGS, has given me some of the happiest, most freeing moments of my life. Not just on stage, but working in various capacities behind the scenes as well. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the gathering momentum of seeing a school production come together.

Tragically, I’m not really a naturally musical person, but somehow, I stumbled my way into music at SCEGGS through percussion. Through playing with other girls in an ensemble, I was lucky enough to enjoy the deep satisfaction of musical collaboration and performance. Let me see. I’ve played (admittedly very poorly) the marimba, glockenspiel, bongo drums, triangle and, believe it or not, on occasion (to modest acclaim) several plastic chairs!

History Debating taught me that being certain of anything (when it comes to a historical argument), is a big mistake, particularly if you’re keen to think of yourself as a budding intellectual. And, of course, if you want to fully comprehend the present and apprehend the future, you’ve simply got to grapple with the past.

Mock Trial taught me that I probably shouldn’t be a lawyer. On the other hand, it may present you with your first stunning epiphany of why you should be a lawyer. Finding out what does or doesn’t mow your lawn is equally as important, right?

Philosophy Club, one of my all-time favourites, invites you to see the world differently – as elusive, enigmatic, and startling. It ruptures your complacency and teases out the most strange and astounding qualities lying dormant in the most ordinary and banal things.

Finally, to Duke of Ed. A real test of physical endurance and an unflinching path to self-knowledge. Who knew that the site of Mount Kur-ring-gai Aldi could bring tears to your eyes! Believe me, you will never enjoy a train ride back to Central more in your life!

A few weeks ago, as part of D of E, Laura Lowe and I completed a five-day residential First Aid course. As my patient, my long-suffering, 12-year-old sister, Fran, was… bitten by a snake, a funnel web and a bee, fell off a roof, drowned in the surf, had heart, epileptic and asthma attacks, experienced anaphylactic shock, got concussion, hit by a car and lost a finger. And that was only by Day 2!

Now, to return to the meaning of life.

One of the astonishing (and perhaps less talked about) aspects of co-curriculars, is that they give you a kind of moral stamina – the pain threshold to take the knocks and harrowing complexities of human relationships and rise above them.

But the most rewarding (and familiar) kind of experience with co-curriculars is an outpouring of everything that is decent in you – of kindness, imagination, humility, consideration and, above all, respect – not only the polite respect of good manners – but the more profound kind of respect. The respect that appreciates another person as unique and precious, and just as vulnerable and frightened as you.

Just one more thing – a bit of homespun wisdom from someone who has been in this place for 12 years now. A long-term inmate, if you like.

We said to the Year 7s on their Orientation Day, that the greatest thing any school (or any person for that matter) can do for anyone is to encourage them to be authentically themselves. Sounds easy. But it’s actually a lot harder than you might think – to avoid living other people’s dreams, or to allow other people to tell you who you are.

Your experience of SCEGGS is in your hands. Have a go! Throw yourself into school life! We’ll do everything we can to help you to be the person you want to be. The person you choose to be. Whoever that may be.

So, for those of you who have (a) studied The Fault in Our Stars or (b) are Latin tragics: Carpe diem!

And for everyone else? Seize the day!

I wish you way, way more than luck!