I was asked by a number of people at our Year 12 Graduation ceremony, if I would share my Graduation speech via my blog. So please read this as a speech rather than my usual blog style. I hope that the message here is heard by many and as always, I would be happy to hear your thoughts via the school email.
So, I dedicate this blog to Year 12, 2016.
Year 12, we are excited to be able to celebrate, not only your learning journey but your life journey with you tonight. We are excited to acknowledge your successes, to share your memories and to send you off along the next road of your journey.
We often use the metaphor of a road to represent life’s journey. When I think about this metaphor I picture a quiet little pathway meandering through a bush landscape… maybe there is a fork in the road with a dirt path, overgrown with vegetation heading off in one direction - the road less travelled perhaps? The other part of the fork is the well-travelled road, the option that most people take…. maybe because it’s easier, maybe because that’s just what everyone else is doing or... there may be other reasons.
It’s a nice image isn’t it? It speaks to those choices that we make at these times in our life when we reach a fork in the road. Do I take the road less travelled...will that be the decision that makes all the difference? Or do I take the well-travelled path that is tried and tested, the path where there might be more people on the road with me, maybe a road where I can just blend in with the rest of the traffic?
It is important to recognise that there are good reasons for either choice. There are some times in your journey where you will make the decision to take the well-travelled road. Maybe, for many of you right now, that well-travelled road is the University pathway and that is a fantastic road. It is one that can take you to a variety of exciting destinations and offer so many new opportunities along the way.
But... equally valid, is that less-travelled pathway...the one which others amongst you will take. The pathway which is shaped by your own passions and dreams which could have a myriad of other forks and branches along the way, but it will take you to just as amazing destinations in the end.
This is your journey - the direction that you take at each fork is YOUR decision BUT I want to really emphasise that the HSC is only one pathway to your future.
I don’t necessarily want to underplay the significance of the HSC, it is a helpful tool to shape your thinking and understanding, and provide you with a strong foundation for your future learning BUT, I also hold very deep concerns over the levels of stress and anxiety that young people are experiencing (not only here at Turramurra, but right across NSW) over the HSC. It is ONE pathway - it is not the ONLY pathway to your future.
I know that it may sound quite ridiculous to you for your Principal to get up and say this - but to be perfectly honest with you; I am far more concerned for your personal emotional wellbeing than anything else. Yes - you need to build resilience, yes - you need to be able to handle stressful situations, yes - you need to sometimes grit your teeth and get it done but try, if you can, to put the whole HSC road train into a perspective which allows you to see it as a bit of a bumpy section on your pathway rather than Checkpoint Charlie.
The HSC is not a measure of whether you are “good enough”. I am here to tell you right now - every single one of you is good enough. You don’t need an exam to tell you that. Go into these final couple of months confident in yourselves, in who you are and what you will become - don’t use a number to judge your worth.
It is going to be as important for you as you travel down the next road of your journey that you understand this very simple but very crucial fact. What I am about to say will set you up for success in your future far more effectively than anything you need to learn for your HSC exams... are you ready for it….?
How you think is far more important than what you know
Your ability to think critically and creatively, to solve problems... your ability to work collaboratively and compassionately with other people... your ability to be an agile and flexible learner... your ability to think with an entrepreneurial mindset will be of paramount importance because, to continue my road metaphor…. you are about to enter the global super highway.
Let me explain…
Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to hear former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard speak at a presentation at another school. In her speech, Ms Gillard talked about some of the key “themes” of future change. One of these themes - and this is no surprise, is what she called “digital disruption” - the exponential rise of technology. She talked about how, the amount of computer power that will be added globally in the next two years... the two years where you will be heading out along the next part of your learning journey… will be more than the amount of computer power that has previously existed throughout the history of the world. What that means is, that although we are already well aware of technology itself - it’s been around for a while now - but the rate of change that we will experience in the coming two years will be unprecedented.
We are already living in a world where, three weeks ago, Uber launched driverless cars in Pennsylvania; this digital disruption alone is expected to cost about 1.8 million jobs. Google has successfully engineered “Google fabric” where they have woven digital fibre into material so that you can actually control your digital devices by swiping or tapping particular parts of your clothing.
A Chinese manufacturing company is currently building 3D printed houses made from recycled construction material, and whilst on the topic of 3D printing, surgeons are now using 3D printers DURING surgery to custom make body parts and prosthetics that are just the right fit for their patient!
These things are happening right now!
To come back to what I was saying about the way that we think being more important than what we know... consider this…
The world’s most successful taxi company is Uber…. currently worth 6 billion dollars…. and yet they do not own ONE CAR.
The world’s most successful hotel company is Air BNB, currently worth 3.3 billion…. and yet they do not own ONE HOTEL. These companies are prime examples of the importance of thinking differently, thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset.
We no longer live in a world where we need to adhere to traditional structures or approaches in business or rely on educational institutions to deliver information to us, the only inhibitor to our learning is the speed at which we receive information... and then the only challenge is to determine the way we process and use that information critically and creatively to solve problems.
Data collected in 2015 by the online networking site, Linked In, looked at their last five years of data and analysed the types of jobs that were being filled through Linked In and the skill set required for successful appointment to new positions.
Interestingly, they identified some of the most in-demand jobs that didn’t exist five years ago. Some of these were:
Android developer (remember iPhones are a very recent technology so language such as android didn’t exist either)
Social media intern
Big data architect
Cloud services specialist and,
The beach body coach!!
The skill sets that employers were looking for included:
Cloud and distributed computing
Statistical analysis and data mining mobile development user interface design
Shell scripting languages
The most important thing about this data from Linked In was that the top skill set requirements were not degree or job specific.
So, my message to you Year 12, is to encourage you to embrace the super highway, there will still always be the road less travelled running alongside it ... you will always have choice and there will always be people who love and care for you to support you on whatever road you are taking at the time. BUT the even greater challenge is to forge your own pathway - create one that doesn’t even exist right now, think differently about what might be possible - trust in HOW you think not necessarily what you know.
So take that cow by the horns, look her in the eye and embrace your future. We wish you all the very best for the HSC exams, but more importantly, for your exciting future as you follow your chosen pathway, or forge your own.