This week is a special week for us, as we farewell the Year 12 students. Working with a small cohort is particularly special, as we can follow the path of every single student and enjoy their journey as individuals. It is also notable that most of our students have attended Carmel School from the very beginning of their education and have known nothing else.

In my valedictory assembly address this week, I share my four success criteria for life, in the hope that they provoke thinking and might be referred to when our fabulous Year 12’s have moved beyond Carmel School.

1. Have a purpose
Life needs to have a point to it. A purpose. Our School’s purpose ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ is very clear and I am confident that Jewish continuity will play a huge part in your life. You will define this for yourself and add to this your own purpose. Are you here on earth to find happiness? To be the best version of you that you can be? To find a cure for a specific disease? To make a difference? How will you change the world?

2. Find joy
It is so important that there is joy in your life. Yes, there will be challenges and difficulties and obstacles and failures (and if there aren’t, then I propose that you aren’t living a full life) but we all need joy.

Different things will spark joy in different people and it’s your job to investigate what it is that you love. Do you find joy in your family? Or in other people? People are essential to us as human beings. They can be remarkably annoying and we all need time alone, but we also need time with people we love.

You may find joy in creative outlets like making music or taking photographs or writing. Or your joy may stem from studying, from competing in a team, from winning with others, from striving towards a common goal. Whatever it is that makes you joyful, make the time to find it and revel in the experience when you do.

3. Fight with courage
Think about how you can focus not on what’s easy or popular, but what’s right. Ask yourself - do you speak up when you see wrong, even if that’s hard to do?

I liked Dr Anil Kumar Sinha’s exhortation to, “Speak boldly and with intellect. Never hush your voice for someone’s comfort. Speak your mind. Make people uncomfortable.”

So think about what battles you will fight. Argue furiously. Fight for what’s right. But do so with integrity and respect and courage.

4. Get help if you need it
I come from a time and a cultural background where things were very private. You didn’t talk about your feelings or your issues, you kept a brave face and just got on with it. It has taken me many years to accept that there are times when I need help; when someone else’s superior skills are necessary, and that this doesn’t make me weak or any less of a person. I am told that lots of men are even worse at recognising this.

I can tell you all now that there will be times in your life when you need help, and you should not hesitate to seek it. If your taps drip and you don’t know how to change a washer, you need help. Get someone in with the skills to fix them. Pay them handsomely and learn how to do it yourself next time. Understand that this does not make you any less of a useful person. If your future studies become a real challenge and you have too much to do and you can’t see the way forward, you need help. Talk to someone with the skills to help you organise yourself and see a way forward. Realise that this does not make you any less of a successful person.

And if things in your life fall apart and you’re overwhelmed, or failing, or you can’t sleep, or you’re gaining no pleasure from life, you need help. Talk openly to people. Arrange to see a psychologist. Talk openly to them. Accept that this does not make you any less of a competent person. Acknowledging that you need help and seeking it is the adult way of dealing with your life and it’s important that you are strong enough to do this.

Those are my four success criteria and my hope is that your time at Carmel, this very special place, has prepared you well for real life.

Please stay in touch with us at Carmel. We want you to stay connected. We need you! There are so many opportunities for you to contribute after Year 12 and for the Carmel community to learn from you. We want to hear where you go, what you do and what successes you experience. I hope you continue learning. I hope you find people you love. I hope you make a difference in the world. And in doing this, I hope you find joy.

This is also traditionally the time of year that we have to announce members of staff who will be moving on from the School. Morah Maya Gunders-Hunt has been a much-valued Carmel teacher of Hebrew since 1997 and has contributed significantly to the Hebrew program, including introducing and running the Year 11 and 12 Hebrew camps, the Siach va Sig Hebrew Debating Competition and the Year 11 and 12 oral presentation nights. Another long-standing member of staff who moves on from Carmel School later this year is Thelma Niese, who has worked in payroll for over 34 years. The stories she tells of the changes in and around the School are quite amazing to listen to and we are grateful that before she leaves, she is working with our new member of staff to pass on her wisdom.

We will farewell leaving staff at the end of the academic year but for now, we wish Maya and Thelma all the best for the future; we acknowledge their contributions and thank them for their many years of service to the School.

Shabbat shalom.

Dr Julie Harris