St Declan's College

Take time together to reflect

Take time together to reflect

In St Declan’s College we allocate ten minutes each morning, during the school term, where the focus is on wellbeing before we start the formal business of the day. It is probably the most important ten minutes we have, as each student is encouraged to engage with their class, their year group, their tutor and their year head. It is this social connectivity that helps to build a school community and enriches everyone. It creates an occasion for pause at the beginning of a busy day to reflect. Over the last two weeks these opportunities and interactions have sadly been lost. Today, I wish to provide this space to allow us as a community to take some time to reflect and connect.

There is a saying ‘that you never miss the water until the well runs dry’. How true and appropriate it is in times like this. You never really miss or appreciate something until it is gone. Today we are in mourning. We are in mourning as individuals, as a school, as a community and as a nation. Our certainties, as we believed them to have been, have vanished. In the space of a few short days all those doors of welcome have shut firmly. Churches, schools, places of recreation and entertainment and places of work are all closed. The certainty of visiting a relative or neighbour or friend is gone. We cannot do so for the very act of expressing friendship, neighbourliness or love could endanger those who mean so much to us. It is a strange anomaly.

This pandemic is the cruellest of diseases. It denies us all that our human instinct urges us to do. It denies us the ability to comfort and console through the warmth of touch and presence. It denies us the dignity we confer upon our loved ones in their final days and the respect we extend to them and the bereaved at the time of death. It denies the young assurance of a long life and the aged comfort in their twilight years. Hopes and dreams disintegrate before our very eyes as we are confronted by our own mortality.

However, this pandemic affords us an opportunity. It provides us with freedom.

It provides us with the freedom to find ways to express to those who matter most to us how much they mean and how much we love them.

It provides us with the opportunity to reassess our values. We can see with greater clarity what is important in life as we are compelled to become focused.

It provides us with the opportunity to appreciate and respect those in our community we have taken for granted, especially those in vocational areas who over the last number of years have been totally undervalued and in some cases ridiculed in Irish society. Never were our Priests and religious, our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals, our teachers and learning support staff, our Gardaí and Defence Forces, our Public and Civil servants, our Politicians and all who work in retail so critically needed and more importantly respected for the invaluable, essential and selfless work that they do.

It provides us with the opportunity, indeed it forces us, to begin to think outside the box. To move away from the mind-set of doing things because ‘that’s the way they always have been done’. We are challenged to look at how our schools operate and why they operate. We are constrained seemingly by a State Exam structure, which no longer serves as an exam which is used to mark reaching a certain standard of education but instead has more value as an entrance exam for University. Surely a school’s function is about educating young people and developing in them a love of learning.

Currently, our Junior and Leaving Certificate students are stressed about the exams scheduled for June. Their enforced absence from school and adaptation to online learning is partly motivated by an insistence that the exams take place as scheduled. Nothing can replace classroom teaching and learning. In its absence there lies a very strong argument in favour of postponing the exams until such time as students are fully and fairly prepared to sit them. This will alleviate unnecessary stress and reassure them as citizens of our country that they matter, for they are this country’s future. Clarity in relation to when and how the exams take place will reassure students, teachers and parents. It will allow all to adapt to online learning in a measured way. This takes outside the box thinking.

It provides us with the opportunity to think for ourselves and to accept responsibility for our own actions. We are forced to acknowledge that we have only one life, do with it what we may. We can choose to do good or to do evil but that ultimately is our decision and with it comes responsibility not blame.

Ireland in recent times has become not so nice a place to live. It is far removed from the vision its founding fathers over one hundred years ago imagined and expressed in the Easter Proclamation:

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally”

One hundred years on we are called once again to become a people of vision. Out of this terrible pandemic we have the opportunity to reimagine our world. We can build on the goodness we now recognise all around us. We can build on the many acts of heroism and kindness so abundantly expressed daily by ordinary people. We have the freedom to cast off the cloud of selfishness and greed that had descended on our Island. We can recognise the beauty of nature and the value of time.

The Irish people are a noble people. They are a people grounded in faith. Their spirituality throughout the ages marks our landscape as they placed their trust in God. Today more than ever we reaffirm this faith and turn to God placing our trust in him and our belief for a brighter better future.

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St Declan's College,
Nephin Road,

01 838 0357

Edmund Rice
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