Former principal returns to High School

THE following speech was made by Mr Ian Russell, former principal of Banbridge High School, at the school’s prize night:

Wednesday, 2nd November 2011, 10:46 am

“Good evening Chairman, Governors, staff, parents and of course pupils.

“I am of course delighted to be back among you again.

“At my final prize night as Principal two years ago it was Pat Jennings who was guest. Now you’ve got me! Mr. Currie says I was a better goalkeeper than big Pat so here I am!

“Nothing is more special than this lectern. Made by Mr Cairns, it brings back memories. It has supported many a prayer followed by a grump followed by another prayer. It’s good to lean on in order to make a point.

“It’s great to see colleagues from my time at Banbridge High School in particular Mrs Currie and Mr Shannon.

“I see Mr and Mrs David Simpson MP MLA have joined us tonight. Mr Simpson is a very good friend of the school. David has been very supportive and I was always been pleased to have him attend and participate in various student activities.

“May I draw your attention to the fact that not all pupils who have worked hard are here this evening. Not everyone can physically get a prize but they can feel like winners when they give of their best and they are presented with praise and reassurance from teachers and parents alike.

“As Mr Bell has said ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and in the village of Banbridge High School parents, teachers, governors, classroom assistants support staff and Education and Library Board play their part in making this an excellent school in which to work and an excellent school in which to be educated.

“We all have the power to influence and motivate each other. I soon became aware of how this was a two way street every day between me and the High School community.

“Teachers influence and motivate pupils. A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does!

“Pupils will appreciate and consequently motivate teachers who enjoy teaching the subject, enjoy teaching them, make the lesson interesting, link it to outside life—algebra—tell story, have a laugh but who know how to keep order, are fair, don’t shout, go over things that pupils don’t understand without making them feel small.

“Don’t give up on pupils. If you give up on your students then they will most likely give up on themselves and you will have failed in your duty to them.

“Pupils can influence and motivate staff. By showing interest in your work you assure the teacher that what he is doing is seen as worthwhile.

“The way to get started is to quit talking about it and begin doing. Don’t dream about it - as Nike say ‘Just do it.’

“I don’t believe you should see life’s goal as being better than everybody else. Just give of your best and you will be a star.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. Every person has a unique talent which sets them apart. Even if it’s only being able to make your granny laugh!

“I used to say to exam students “I hope that you get what you deserve” I always qualified that with “If you have worked hard and prepared well then you will succeed. If on the other hand you have not worked hard or prepared well then you will not succeed.”

“Remember that an important key to self-confidence is preparation.

“Things do not just happen. Things are made to happen. Good work habits help develop an internal toughness and a self-confident attitude that will sustain you through every adversity and temporary discouragement.

“Parents influence and motivate their children. By showing interest in what your child is doing and encouraging the whole process of education with a good work ethic seen as something to be admired.

“The late great tennis player Arthur Ashe was the first coloured player to win a grand slam and has a tennis stadium called after him. This is at Flushing Meadow in New York at the home of the US Open tournament. What an honour for Ashe when in 1997 when they built a new stadium which cost 254 million dollars with 22, 547 seats and 90 luxury suites. You see Arthur Ashe was more than a mere tennis player he was a deep thinker about life and this is what he said about the value of having a work ethic.

“Some folks call tennis a rich people’s sport or a white person’s game. I guess I started too early because I just thought it was something fun to do. Later, I discovered there was a lot of work to being good in tennis. You’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices and spend a lot of time if you really want to achieve with this sport, or in any sport, or in anything truly worthwhile.”

“It would be worthwhile reading about Arthur Ashe on the Internet. Particularly the numerous quotes he is credited with. I would add education to the list of being a worthwhile.

“Parents often begin their participation by doubting that their involvement can make a difference, and they are generally very gratified to discover what an important contribution they are able to make. It is therefore important for school communities and parents to be aware that parent involvement supports students’ learning and behaviour.

“Parent involvement in children’s learning is positively related to achievement. This holds true for all types of parent involvement and for all types and ages of students. School personnel benefit from the improved rapport that generally accompanies increased parent involvement.

Home is the first school for us all, a school with no fixed curriculum, no quality control, no examinations, and no teacher training.

“We all should be filling our young people with confidence, motivation, positive attitudes, skills, knowledge and of course, respect. (Respect for self and others)

“So I say to all our leavers and prize winners this evening well done. Your school, friends and family are so proud of you. Be what you have it in you to be.

“Let me repeat this: Be what you have it in you to be. Be bold. Use the time and the opportunities you have.

“I am persuaded that your involvement at Banbridge High School will have given you the self-confidence and discernment to shrug off the disapproval of uncommitted acquaintances. You will have the life skills and perception to cut through flattery and value good hearted sincerity and loyalty. So many High School pupils retain friendships forged through school, university and vocational life. I trust that you will too. One or two good friends can sustain you through life. Once again congratulations to all prize winners and to those students and parents leaving us tonight.

“I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be. Don’t underestimate yourself and what you have to contribute to society.

“May the wind always be at your back.”