The power of showing up

Dear members of the Whitefriars Family,

When I was a young boy my parents ensured that their four sons received a rounded education. Part of that education entailed each of us attending piano lessons. Each week I would ride my bike to my lesson and wait for my turn. My music teacher seemed always to be running over time and I had to wait while the person before me finished their lesson. I didn’t mind though because the person before me was always a better player than I was and I loved to listen to them, dreaming that one day I might be able to be as good as they are. It meant that the person after me had to wait too. In speaking to my piano teacher many years later I discovered that she hadn’t run late with our lessons at all. Rather, she always saw that as a valuable part of our lesson we listen to the student before us, who was always a better player than we were, as a way of inspiring us to aspire to be better musicians.

That idea of inspiration leading to aspiration is a concept I witness often at Whitefriars. You only have to walk down the corridors of our STEM centre to see the faces and stories of past students who have gone on to achieve great things in their chosen fields of science and technology. Or you could enter our study hall after school and witness the engagement taking place between our Old Collegian tutors and our students who are in awe of their skill and knowledge and wish to be just like them when they leave school. Or just walk into a classroom at Whitefriars and observe passionate, committed teachers who understand how to engage boys in learning and who inspire in their students a lifelong love of learning.

I was inspired to write about this theme following several experiences I have had over the last couple of weeks. On Wednesday evening I attended the Debating Association of Victoria competition held at Tintern. The first debate I witnessed was between our Year 9/10 students and their counterparts from Yarra Valley Grammar. For one of the boys in our Whitefriars team it was his first debate and he acquitted himself very well, although he didn’t think so. Following his debate this same young man stayed to support our senior debaters as they also matched skill and wit with the students from Yarra Valley. This young man was in awe of the abilities of these more experienced students. After the debate our senior students spent time encouraging this young boy, suggesting that they had lacked confidence when they started debating and that through perseverance and training their skill and self-assuredness had grown.

I was also privileged to attend a breakfast organised by our Careers counsellors, Dean Notting and Anna Gasparini. This event provided an opportunity for boys and their parents to hear from former students who had chosen careers in the field of commerce. It was wonderful to hear from a number of Old Collegians at various stages in their careers, from university students to partners in firms, and to be inspired by their stories of resilience and determination as they aspired to be the best they can be in their chosen field.

As parents we too can inspire our children to aspire. Last week I attended our annual Year 8 Father son evening hosted by our good friend Bill Jennings from Time and Space. Over 80 boys accompanied by their father or significant mentor experienced an evening where each inspired the other. The formula for these evenings is a simple as it is powerful; to provide fathers/mentors and their sons an opportunity to spend time together and to grow in understanding and appreciation of each other. The impact of this evening can be far reaching as it opens the possibility for ongoing dialogue between father/mentor and son. It is evenings such as these that can inspire our boys to aspire through the building of their self-confidence and self-worth.

It does not necessarily take planned activities or events to inspire our young people to aspire. It can be as simple as an encouraging word, a smile, turning up when turning up was not expected or simply living the example of a good and just life which can be just as inspirational. The thing is we won’t always know when we will inspire or if we will hit the mark, all we can do is turn up and be the best versions of ourselves that we can be. That’s a lot.


Mark Murphy