From the Principal – Comfortable with being uncomfortable

Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,

I was speaking with a friend of mine recently and we were discussing the ups and downs of life. My friend suggested to me that he longed for a comfortable life. He wished for a life free from worry, difficulty and concern. I suppose in one way or another, we may all wish for a life of comfort from time to time. In doing so however, we may not be doing ourselves a service. If we wish to be fully alive and continue to grow as people, we need to live with discomfort because this is often where real learning and growth takes place.

I was reflecting on this idea last week as our Year 9 students departed for their Outdoor Education camp. As I moved among them that fine and warm Monday morning, I could sense a mix of emotions from excitement to nervousness to trepidation. I spoke with a number of boys, some of whom suggested they were looking forward to the challenges the trip would bring, and others who were uncertain about what to expect. These are all natural feelings and emotions. After all, we were taking these students out of their comfort zone and into the unknown. Little did we realise the experience that awaited many of these students and the challenges that they (and we) would be presented with.

As you may know, due to adverse weather conditions, most of the Year 9 groups had to cut short their time away. I was able to meet most groups on their return to the College and had an opportunity to speak with many boys about their experience. I was encouraged to hear from most that even though the conditions had been difficult, and at times very uncomfortable, they were proud of their achievements and had learnt a lot about themselves and their ability to cope with adversity. Many suggested that it was a camp they would always remember and that they were appreciative of the efforts of their teachers and camp leaders for the care and support they received from them. Some also talked about the support and encouragement they received from their mates and how individual students stepped up in moments of challenge, leading them to become closer as a group.

The Whitefriars teachers on these camps have spoken about the maturity and grit the students demonstrated in their time away. They suggested that under these challenging conditions, our boys supported each other in a spirit of camaraderie and friendship, and showed empathy and care for those who were finding the going more trying than others using a mix of humour and encouragement.

In one sense, I am disappointed that these students were not able to share in the full camp experience. Equally, I am encouraged by the way they responded to the challenges and discomfort they faced and believe that this experience has supported their growth as young men.

Last week, I met with fifteen of our Year 11 students who were also engaging in an activity which has caused some discomfort for each of them. Following our 6-week leadership program, these fifteen students had decided to put themselves forward for the position of Captain of Whitefriars College for 2024. Each one of these young men were asked to speak at an assembly of their peers prior to meeting myself, other staff and our current College leaders for an interview.

I was taken not only by the maturity, insight and vision these leadership candidates brought to this process, but more so by the courage, selflessness and strength they demonstrated in simply putting their hand up for these roles. In many ways they were setting themselves up for disappointment and yet their desire to support their school overshadowed their fear that things may not turn out as they would hope.

I was inspired by the speeches these candidates delivered as well as the responses they gave in their interviews. Common themes which rose to the surface during these moments included a desire to give back to the College, to support their fellow students, to enact positive change, to leave Whitefriars a better place, to be kind and respectful, to demonstrate servant leadership, to have a positive impact on others, to serving as a role model to others… Most significantly, each person spoke of a deep love of their school, an appreciation of all that had been done for them, and a desire to leave a positive legacy for those who follow them.

There was no doubt that when the final decision was made that there was disappointment and perhaps a little regret. I hope though, through the passage of time, all fifteen of these young men will look back with pride on their involvement in this process and reflect on the many things they have learnt, which will support them in their growth to becoming fine gentle men of Whitefriars.

I have learnt much form our young men over the past couple of weeks. They have reminded me that sometimes it is good to live with a bit of adversity, as anything worthwhile sometimes requires us to get comfortable being uncomfortable.


Mr Mark Murphy