PRINCIPAL’S ADDRESS TO SCHOOL ASSEMBLY 8 MAY, 2018.
“Better men make better All Blacks”. The message here is applicable to us all. Sir Graham Henry summed this up very astutely by saying: “this is really about self-improvement”. There are lots of messages in this short video, but the common thread is respect.
The All Black’s win-rate over the last 100 years is over 77% – the highest of any professional sports team in the world. But back in 2004, something was wrong. The 2003 World Cup had gone badly, and by the start of the following year senior All Blacks were threatening to leave. There were concerns raised about team culture and discipline. The All Blacks were in an unfamiliar position. They were losing. In response, a new management team under Graham Henry began to rebuild the world’s most successful sporting team from the inside out. They wanted a fresh culture that placed emphasis on individual character and personal leadership. Their mantra? ‘Better People Make Better All Blacks’.
The result? 152-3-18. This is an incredible 88% win rate since 2005. This is especially remarkable when you consider rugby is arguably the 3rd most global team sport behind football and basketball.
The All Blacks have long had a saying: ‘leave the jersey in a better place’. Their task is to represent all those who have come before them – from George Nepia to Colin Meads, Michael Jones to Jonah Lomu, and all those who follow suit. Better people make better All Blacks – but they also make better doctors and lawyers, bankers and businessmen, fathers, brothers, and friends. This message is simple and appropriate for us all.
Whether you’re an avid fan or not, it is hard to ignore the impact the All Blacks have had on our history and national identity. An All Black is, by definition, a role model to schoolchildren across New Zealand. For them, understanding this responsibility creates a compelling sense of higher purpose.
This is a good lesson for us all: As teachers, we are role models to our students, as senior students, you are role models to our junior students. As junior students, you are the role models of tomorrow. What lessons can we learn from the All Blacks about respecting ourselves, others and our College. How do we intend to leave Aquinas College in a better place when we leave?
Respect is essential for creating an environment of harmony and trust. It is a foundational virtue that everyone in the world will connect to. Respect is treating others as we want to be treated, by showing others aroha and understanding. It is essential for building relationships. Respect is an attitude that demonstrates that we value others and is at the heart of our curriculum.
One of my non-negotiables is “Be Respectful”. But what does that actually mean? I had to reflect long and hard about my message for you today as this notion of respect is very wide reaching. I wanted to represent the power of respect in a real world context we all can relate to. For me, the respect the All Blacks pay to their legacy captures this perfectly.
It Starts with Self-Respect
Respect is one of the most important qualities in your relationship with anyone, and there is no exception when it comes to your relationship with yourself. Respecting yourself means giving and defining your own worth and value as a human being. Self-respect encompasses a multitude of ideals, but it comes down to being the kind of person you are satisfied with showing the world and being someone that you and the people you care about are proud of. Self-respect is about having a sense of honour and dignity about yourself, your choices, and your life. Having respect for yourself is vital in maintaining a positive self-image by allowing yourself to feel confident in who you are and content with the person you are becoming.
Self-respect is, amongst other things, about having the courage to stand up for yourself when you are being treated in a manner that is less than what you deserve. Self-respect is the basis of a good relationship with yourself and in turn, others, so it is imperative to build a strong foundation.
Respect for Others
Respect is a two-way street. Respect is not imposed, nor begged. It is earned and offered.
We all owe everyone a basic level of respect for being a fellow human being, but your level of respect for others will inevitably vary from person to person. We are taught from a young age to respect our elders, respect our teachers, as young men, we are taught to respect women. These are three examples of values passed on to us by those we respect most- our family and whanau. The level of respect we demonstrate to someone, or something, reflects the value we place in them or it. This value must be earned. I would never stand up here and demand your respect. I hope that I will earn that from you through my actions.
In establishing one of my non-negotiables as “Be Respectful”, I am asking for each and every one of you to show regard for those with whom you come into daily contact. Have tolerance for people and situations you might not fully understand and do the very best you can to assist those around you to grow into loving, tolerant, respectful and responsible people. This is being respectful.
In this College, I want to foster an environment where we can respect ourselves and we can earn respect from others. The All Blacks talk about ‘leaving the jersey in a better place’. I want us to embrace that ideology here in everything that we do. Respect yourself, be someone that will be respected by others through your actions and behaviours and lastly, demonstrate respect for our college through your image and actions. Wear your uniform with pride. Hold the door open for your classmates. Thank someone when they are kind to you.
Do the little things right and the big things will take care of themselves.
In addition to these, I’m going to issue one more challenge.
It is apparent from the rubbish being left around the college that we are not respecting our environment as I would hope. At the same time, I am receiving multiple requests from the student body to remove the 10 minute rule. I have discussed this with Mr Kennedy and asked him to take this on as a special project alongside the environment committee. The litter problem, in my opinion, cannot be solved by the 10 minute rule, it is just a response to a previous problem. In order to solve the problem, we need to demonstrate our respect for our college environment through changing our actions. I encourage you to put on your thinking caps and generate ideas for Lilli and Sean to discuss with Mr Kennedy to address the problem. This is our issue and it is not beneath us. Drawing on the All Blacks for inspiration again, can I share with you the team’s cultural mantra of “Sweeping the Shed”?
This is a tradition that says that no individual is bigger than the team and its ancestors. Everyone is responsible for the smallest details – including cleaning out the locker room after training or a match. “Sweeping the shed” is your job, no matter who you are. This is why Captain Kieran Reid or Coach Steve Hansen are often the ones to take up the brooms. Let’s show some respect for our College, together.
In the words of Sir Richie McCaw:
“It is all very well for people to do the right thing for the team when everyone is watching but whether it’s every single one of you will do the right thing when no one is watching”.