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2022 OBHS Prefect and Head of House Thomas O'connor

The Last Word

Thomas O'Connor —

I was heading to the food court in the Meridian the other day when I noticed a man out the front of his house, making his way towards his wheelie bin.

It was a modest house, and the man was elderly. He had a walking stick in one hand and a rubbish bag in the other. His movements were awkwardly slow and deliberate, almost painful looking.

As I watched the man carry out this basic task of putting the rubbish out, I couldn’t help wondering, what did he do with his life? Was he a hard worker or was he lazy? Did he live day to day, or did he have a vision that he pursued throughout his life? Was he a ratbag, or did he try to influence others for the better? Was he successful, and what is success to him? When he looks back on his life, is he happy with what he sees, or does he think he could’ve done better?

Of course, then I couldn’t help seeing myself at that stage, looking back over my life and judging it, the same as I am now with my high school life.

I’ll never forget how big this school seemed when I first arrived here, and how small it seems now. How important it seemed to my life as a Year 9, and how trivial it seems as a Year 13 moving on.

It’s amazing how as I’ve grown, the school seems to have shrunk. How the teachers and leaders are now just people with fears and failings, who make mistakes, the same as the rest of us. These people who can potentially have such an influence on our lives while we’re under their tutelage at such a crucial time, who have no influence once we’re gone.

Just like the teachers and leaders of the school, we all turn up here with different motivations and aspirations. While we as students have a finite time here, the staff are here forging the careers they chose, a career of fostering and influencing our young lives.

I’m sure we all agree, some teachers you get on with and respect more than others. Some care and some don’t. Some you care about, and some you don’t. They are the same when it comes to us. What I’m saying is, this is perhaps as good a learning as any of the lessons we get in the classrooms. If we don’t get on with people, then life is going to be even tougher than they tell me it already is out in the real world.

I’m told the best business people are the best at building relationships with their customers and suppliers. Relationships are multidirectional, they have to go several ways to be successful.

I know from my limited experience that the best teams to be a part of are not just the ones that are successful all the time, they’re the ones where everyone gets on the best.

Yes, it is up to us, the boys in this school to be the students and learn what we are taught in class, to take responsibility for our destiny. It is up to the teachers as well. I’m not here to talk about your or my learning at OB’s. I want to challenge you not only as the students but also as the teachers and leaders of this school. Do you create relationships with people that you will be remembered for? Do you influence those around you for the better?

With this in mind, we flow through this school, as much as it is for us to be the ones to tow the line and make the effort to get on with you, the teachers and leaders. I challenge you all, teachers and students alike, to reflect on your motivations and aspirations. At the end of the day, we are all here on a learning journey. Are you achieving what it is you wished by coming to this school? When you are that elderly person labouring towards your wheelie bin, how will you judge the job that you did getting on with, and influencing people for the better?

In my final last word at this school, I will finish in true Otago Boys’ fashion, with a quotation from Arthur Foreman. “Not everyone thinks the way you think, knows the things you know, believes the things you believe, nor acts the way you act. Remember this, and you’ll go a long way in getting along with people.”