Matrics, you’re in the departure lounge. Where will you fly next?
I often equate school with the circumstances one finds at an airport. It’s a perfect metaphor.
Consider this. At the airport people arrive, they check-in, they are processed through security screening, they board and sit on a plane that slowly taxies towards the runway. After all this, the engines thunder into life and the aircraft races down the tarmac before lifting into the air and turning towards its destination.
School follows the self-same pathway. We arrive, we progress through a variety of stages before lifting off in a flurry of examinations through which we are weighed and measured and then we turn towards the future that we have mapped out.
We start in the same departure lounge as thousands of others, but we embark on a journey that is varied, exciting and which is different from the trip that so many others will take. And we all begin together from that starting point.
Life after matric is something to celebrate. It is exciting, dynamic and full of possibility and hope.
At the same time, it is most daunting.
School life is regulated by bells. There are teachers requiring deadlines to be met. If it’s 9.40 we know it’s break time and we have a designated place to go with predictable people. If it’s 11.10 we know it’s English and at 12.40 we need to be in Maths. Week one is the same as week two and occasionally the variation of a Civvies Day kicks-in and we experience that rich variety of change. But in reality, the environment and parameters of schools are very different to life afterwards and many battle to cope with the new-found freedoms post-school.
Perhaps you have chosen a gap-year to travel and explore. Perhaps you have elected to study while you are still in that mindset. Perhaps you plan to complete an internship and develop a trade-skill.
A good school teaches life skills to prepare pupils for the uncertainty that lies ahead.
What is certain is that you will need to be able to co-operate with others and work as part of a team. You will need to be able to self-regulate and manage yourself. You will need to adapt and at times lead others, while also being aware that at certain times, someone else is the expert in the room and it is your time to follow.
Knowing when to take the lead and when to follow is a key skill.
You will need to be kind to people and build relationships, but at the same time, there will be times when you will need to stand up for what you believe in, with unwavering courage, even in the face of adversity. Our country needs people with integrity who can weather the white-water of turbulence and who possess the courage to demonstrate that integrity and to hold fast to what is right and what is good.
There will be times ahead, that no one can prepare you for, when you will feel alone and isolated and it might feel like you are the only one holding on to your principles. It is at these times, when your resistance is low, when you have every reason to give up, that is precisely the time when you are being measured, and it is here, at these times, when you must not ever give up.
Life will present you with periods when you will stand on the mountain-top and there will certainly also be times when you are in the valley.
It is a journey that will take you to the most marvelous places and it begins the moment the wheels lift off that runway of matric.
Simon Crane is Deputy Head at HeronBridge College in Fourways.