This year there have been several events recognising the excellent work our staff and students do with “special needs” students. In term 1 the Associate Minister of Education visited the school to see for herself the excellent progress of one of our students, and in term 2 the school received an award recognising the school’s support for a deaf student.
The speech below was delivered at prizegiving 2008 by Head Teacher John Boyce, and explains the school’s philosophy in this area.
Every year at this time, I try to speak about something important that is coming up in the life of the school. This year I have decided not to do that because later in the ceremony I have asked two of our school leaders to address us and I want us to go away with their words, not mine, hanging in our memories.
But I do want to take a moment to reflect on the death, earlier this year, of Asher Clayton.
Asher was the second of our students to die before finishing their time at Garin. The other was Matt Gardner in 2002.
I don’t want to talk about Asher himself – but share my thoughts on the importance of his life to us in the Garin family.
Tonight we are here to celebrate the gifts God has given to us. At Garin we challenge ourselves to help students develop all of the gifts God has given each of us.
Tonight you will see academic gifts recognised. You will see sporting and cultural gifts celebrated.
You will see recognition of excellence, personal growth and contribution – as the front of the programme tells you.
But not all of the gifts that each one of us brings to the Garin family are so clear and obvious.
Asher and Matt reminded me that some of our gifts are not seen in achievements. Some just require us to be here. I won’t mention names – but each of our students knows other students who bring out the very best in friendship just by being at our school.
We all know students who allow us to be caring, loving and sensitive by just being at our school.
And our friend Asher Clayton taught us that sometimes not being with us can show us the depths of our own caring and generosity, and compassion – qualities that we didn’t even suspect we had. What a gift he left us! He didn’t have to do anything or achieve anything. He just had to be the person he was created to be – and share that with us.
And we see that every day. I am incredibly proud to be part of our community – to see students and teachers sharing themselves so openly – and leaving us better people just by knowing them.
Asher did not win a cup at last year’s prizegiving – but his life has made every person who knew him a better human being.
Many of you will not receive an award tonight. But remember, Asher showed us that sometimes our achievements are not as important as the grace that we bring to the community, and that our God-given gifts which can be recognised at a prizegiving, need to be seen alongside just being the wonderful person God created each one of us to be!
In our modern world we are very caught up on the obvious, measurable, and reportable gifts.
Asher reminded me – and proved to all of us – that the qualities the modern world sees as weaknesses – the heart conditions, dyspraxia, loss of eyesight or hearing, learning difficulties, Downs Syndrome, old age – and the everyday disabilities we all cope with: uncertainty, self-doubt, loneliness, and insecurity – are also God-given. They are part of the wonderful people we are: they are gifts that help others grow.
Asher showed us that what we may see as weaknesses can, in fact, be the very qualities that change other people’s lives and help them become the people they were created to become.
On the front of your programme I have a section of Psalm 8 that speaks to me about why we all doubt ourselves – and then, the actual truth of the human condition.
First the doubt when we see ourselves so small when compared to the greatness of creation …
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-
the moon and the stars you set in place-
what are we that you should think about us,
human beings that you should care for us?
you made us only a little lower than God
and crowned us with glory and honour.
And Asher allows us to add …
… not just some of us, each one of us
We are about to present awards to our year 9 students. To you, and all who receive awards tonight, I ask that, as you receive your recognition of excellence, personal growth and contribution tonight – receive it humbly, knowing that all round us there are other gifts that cannot be noted in this event.