Recently, the English department celebrated the fourth incarnation of the valedictory speech task - and what a night it was.
In the last week of term three, the English department held an evening at school to listen to the Year 13 Valedictorian speeches. This is a real highlight for the department and the boys, as they take the opportunity to reflect on all that they’ve gained from their time at the college, their triumphs and struggles, and how these experiences shaped them into the fine young men they have become.
There’s no doubt that the evening challenges the boys - speaking in front of classmates and parents – a genuine experience of tailoring their reflections to a specific audience. All classes rose ably to this challenge and provided some very fine, heartfelt speeches that were a pleasure to hear.
It was particularly heartening to hear the positive light in which the boys viewed their years at the college, and to hear them offer thanks to teachers, friends, housemasters, coaches and parents, for all that they have gained. And the sincerity of these thanks is testament to their own growth, as they look towards leaving college life behind them.
It was pleasing to see the variation in themes that came through the speeches - from adapting to life in a new country, to dealing with real disappointment, to the idea that the end of school is the beginning of a new identity forming. This reflects the diverse opportunities that were available to them; and the strong efforts this group has made to capitalise on these. Of particular note was the honesty and candour with which the boys spoke about themselves and their experiences; this was not a stage for rose-tinted glasses.
Since we have offered this task for the Year 13 English boys, the quality of their speeches has been a striking aspect of the evening, told with insight and reflection, and some with genuine laugh-out-loud moments – as anyone who has taught boys will tell you, a strong sense of humour is never far away. All in all, a meaningful and enjoyable evening - well done indeed to all those who spoke.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.