The recipe for success

As a Collingwood supporter, I have had a mixed week. The results on-field have been great; the off-field stuff leaves me bewildered. A $3.2 million contract should probably be incentive enough to ensure cameras aren't anywhere near a private holiday, and that one's choice of friends has been scrutinised enough that those so-called mates don't publicly post private moments.

Time and time again the public are taken for a ride with excuses about the behaviour of sports stars – a rehearsed apology, playing the mental health card, the promise of counselling and of turning a new leaf. It's not my position to judge, but I am bewildered that it just happens over and over and over.

For 40 years now, I have been a teacher. I have seen every manner of colleagues, student and parent. They have covered the entire normal curve. In that time, I've taught two bad kids; no goodness, no compassion and totally narcissistic. That's not to say I haven't taught many other boys who have been neck deep in strife, including serving gaol time, but those other boys could be reasoned with; did see that on the occasions I dealt with them they had done wrong, and did acknowledge that their punishment fitted their crime. What all the students who have ended up in strife did have in common was indulgent parents who made every excuse under the sun for them, enabled and empowered entitlement and prevented the formation of an adult psychology. Once your son becomes a physical adult, it's basically game over. He thinks he's an adult full stop, and if the formation of an adult psychology hasn't been achieved by this time, it's likely never going to be.

As I mentioned at the Awards Night speech last year, and as I know you all read in the annual:

Parents who excuse, or makes excuses for, every behaviour of their child are not helpful. Parents who are not aligned to the vision and mission of the school they have their child in are not helpful. Parents who talk their child's school and school staff down are not helpful. Most importantly, parents who do not model in actions, attitudes and language the values they want to see in their child's formation are not helpful. That is not to say parents cannot disagree with what happens at their child's school, but the method and reason for the disagreement should not confuse their child or be incongruent with the values and skills they are seeking for their child.

The last sentence is very important, because the staff at the College aren't perfect. We sometime make mistakes. I often make mistakes. When this happens, it is constructive parent feedback that results in better processes for the future – a bit like air crash Investigation. But arguing a point that shouldn't be argued is unhelpful.

I rarely meet an unhelpful parent at CBC Fremantle, but I unfortunately hear my colleagues sometimes do. During this term, as in every term, boys make mistakes for which they are sometimes suspended. Overwhelmingly, CBC parents absolutely support the College and have their son own their behaviour, but unfortunately, I've heard of late that some parents have pushed back, complaining the punishment doesn't fit the crime, or that a suspension is a holiday – justifying or minimising the actions of their son because he just dacked a mate, or didn't have malicious intent when he poked a peer in the private regions. When I have got involved, they let me know about how it used to be in the old days. I understand their sentiment, but comparing today with 30 years ago is comparing apples with oranges. Thirty years ago, we had corporal punishment and no parent seems keen on that returning for their son. The fact is that sanctions at CBC Fremantle are applied as if the offending action was done to the most vulnerable boy in the College, because that's the level we need to stamp it out at. There is no good and bad dacking, just dacking; no good and bad name-calling, just name-calling; no good and bad poking in the private parts, just poking in the private parts, and none of these behaviours have a place in this, or any, community. There are just consequences for bad choices. Everything that is illegal on the other side of the fence is illegal on this side of the fence and, believe me, you do your son an almighty favour when you make him accountable. We are working together with you to prepare your son for his future, not our past.

Speaking of accountability, I want to share a few facts with you. I shared these with the boys at last week's House Athletics Carnival. Despite the weather, which came good in the end, it was a spectacular day. A normal school day at CBC has about eight per cent absenteeism. This has risen to around 11 per cent during COVID. On the day of the carnival, it was just shy of 25 per cent. Some other facts – the percentage of boys who have missed the College Ball due to illness in the past 14 years is zero per cent; the percentage of boys who have pulled out of Leavers' due to illness is about zero per cent, and the percentage of boys who come to school with their phone uncharged, almost  zero per cent. The pattern is clearly about priorities. I know that many of the boys away last week were sick ...but not all.

One of the most important steps to becoming a good adult is that you must understand that you don't always get your way. Carnivals, Edmund Rice Day and last day of term to name a few are examples where it is so easy to take a sickie for a variety of 'justifiable' reasons, but if that sickie is enabled, what are you teaching your son? Just pull out because it's tough, uncomfortable or challenging? It is a culture that has been creeping in to our College events and is maybe indicative of the growing power of youth, but it is a culture that I am drawing a line across.

Your son will experience many rites – that's R-I-T-E-S – during his journey with us. Socials, sports representations, River Cruises, Balls and so much more – but these events are not rights, R-I-G-H-T-S. They are earned privileges and should be seen as a celebration of each boy's commitment to the College, even when it is challenging. To enable your son so that he does what he wants and can pick and choose when it suits, so that 'for better or for worse' actually only means 'for better', risks future dividends that in my experience you will not enjoy. Not in every case, but in enough cases that it isn't just a coincidence.

That is the recipe for success at CBC Fremantle – parents and staff explicitly on the same page leaving the boys with nowhere to go.

To the parents who support their son by supporting the College, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To the parents who constructively feedback when we get it wrong, thank you. Overwhelmingly, CBC parents emulate the aspiration we have for their son: A CBC parent forms attitudes and actions based on Gospel values; a CBC parent does their best; a CBC parent is accountable; a CBC parent is selfless and forms mutually beneficial relationships, and, finally, a CBC parent values the other. That is the recipe for success at CBC Fremantle – parents and staff explicitly on the same page leaving the boys with nowhere to go.

I am off to Africa tomorrow to tick off a bucket list item. Should I get too close to a lion, I want my last message to be one of love rather than chastisement. Writing an admonishing missive is just as challenging as reading it if it applies to you. It is also risky given I am being reviewed later this year 😊. I just hope you realise that it comes from a good place. Its not about the carnival, it's not about the 'look' of such high absenteeism, it's not about winning, and it's not about control – it's about understanding the value of a community that should always be there for you when you or your son need it and that this commitment is reciprocated.

I wish each of you, and your beautiful sons a restful, safe and joyful semester break, and hope to see you soon.

Mr Domenic Burgio  
Principal