WHISPERS of excitement between staff and students circulated the grounds of Bede Polding College at South Windsor last Friday, as students did their best to carry on as usual amid word Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would be stopping by for a visit as part of his western Sydney campaign trail blitz.
Reality hit late morning as Mr Rudd’s entourage entered the school grounds and a cheerful PM emerged from the car greeting school principal Kevin Jones and Year 11 and 12 students — starstruck having only seen him in the media up until this point.
As a former student of the school myself it was somewhat amusing to see my former teachers, once authority figures, overcome with joy and disbelief at the PM taking an interest in the Hawkesbury school.
With sections of the usually orderly school thrown into chaos with media huddling around Mr Rudd with their cameras, notepads and microphones, he slowly made his way into the school hall with Labor candidate for Macquarie Susan Templeman in tow, where they observed the major HSC works of Year 12 students in TAS and creative arts.
Stopping for a chat with each of the students allowing them to explain the method behind their projects and what it entailed, with many of the works taking as long as six months to complete, an impressed Mr Rudd said “the woodwork here is the best I’ve seen anywhere in Australia”.
He told the students, “who use their hands to make creative things”, that they “should be proud of their work” as it “really is first class”.
School principal Kevin Jones said Mr Rudd had a genuine interest in the College and its students, asking a number of questions about the school.
‘‘Overall it seemed to give everyone a real lift,’’ he said. ‘‘There was a real sense of excitement. No matter what your political views it was an historic occasion for the school.’’
While touring part of the school, Mr Rudd even managed to catch the attention of an adoring crowd of Japanese exchange students from who were quite impressed when Mr Rudd addressed them in their own language.
With camera shutters constantly clicking, Mr Rudd continued his tour through the school grounds, making his way up the stairs to E Block, where Legal Studies students hurried to the glass window lining their classroom with a look of shock and amazement at seeing their prime minister in the flesh.
Students made their way outside the classroom to take ‘selfies’ with the PM and post them to Facebook. Coming face-to-face with the PM myself was surreal, but he was polite and alongside Ms Templeman, I managed to have a chat (see breakout on pg).
Mr Rudd made his way into the Legal Studies classroom with Ms Templeman, where he casually sat for a chat with the students, allowing them to ask him questions, even stopping for morning prayer.
Teacher Maryanne Grosvenor said Mr Rudd’s visit was fantastic for many reasons.
‘‘To see our students so enthused to grab a glimpse of him and listen to him was such a positive,’’ she said. ‘‘Despite his very cold hand (he shook mine) he brought a real warmth to our class, as he spoke to the students. When the Angelus bells rang out across the College he and his entourage joined us in prayer. It was a great moment on so many levels.’’
Before leaving Mr Rudd addressed students in the hall on the principles of life.
“It’s been fantastic to spend some time at your school this morning. Often I get asked by Year 12 groups, a very simple question, they say, ‘Mr Rudd I’m interested in going into politics, what should I do?’ or ‘I can’t work out what to do in life it’s all a bit too confusing. So many options, so many choices’,” he said. “I usually say three to four basic principles.
The first is: use this time while you’re at school and the time immediately following to work out what you believe in and why. It’s like having a moral compass which helps you to work your way through often very complex times in your life and the more you reflect on that, the more you become anchored in those sets of values, whatever they may be.
The second is: If that’s what you believe in and why you believe it then what can you then do about it in the world or the country or community in which you live. That becomes a very practical question. You have a set of values and then apply them to the practical challenges of life.
The third: To get those skills to become the best doctor, the best aid worker, the best lawyer, the best mother, or the best whatever else, none of it comes easy, you have to work at it to become the best you possibly can. It involves so much labour, care, love, attention to detail, and the final point: Go and do it. No one gets it right the first time,I never have. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes but I think the worst thing is to look back on a period of life where you have been too cautious, too hesitant to go out there and make sure you make those changes for the better.
After his hour visit Mr Rudd left to “zip off the Melbourne”, leaving a trail of inspired students and teachers alike, behind him.
Ms Templeman said the idea to ask Mr Rudd to visit Bede Polding came from a conversation she had with one of the Student Representative Council members (Hayden Martin) many month ago, when doorknocking.
“I promised that I would get Mr Rudd to come to Bede Polding if he was ever in town, and made sure that happened for Hayden on Friday,’’ she said. ‘‘The prime pinister was extremely impressed by the students and their HSC major works, and I am extremely grateful to the school principal, Mr Kevin Jones, for allowing us to visit.”