What does it mean to ‘achieve’? When you think of ‘achievements’ in your life, or the lives of others, what comes to mind? When someone tells you ‘your child is achieving well’ what does that communicate to you?

I was blessed to have parents who supported me thorugh my primary school years and I also had the pleasure of having a wonderful teacher named Mrs Tonkin. Mrs Tonkin helped me across the curriculum and through her teaching and care it was seen that I was just as capable as my peers.

Mrs Tonkin ran into my mother at the shops in Adelaide not that long ago and upon being told that I was now a principal she said to my mother. “Tell Tom I’m very proud of him, but I’m not surprised that he has achieved well in his life. Also, tell him to keep working on his handwriting because I suspect it may still be poor.” To Mrs Tonkin’s credit, my handwriting does still need work…

Mrs Tonkin taught me to achieve. She did not accept any excuses for not meeting my personal best. She didn’t believe that I ‘was behind’ or ‘not capable’ – she saw a child that was on a learning journey. She taught me how to be a good learner and as a result, I achieved well at school and university.

We can make a mistake and believe that a child that always gets an ‘A’ is achieving well while a child getting a ‘D’ is not. It may very well be that the child receiving an ‘A’ is giving less than their best and should be getting even higher marks and that child getting a ‘D’ may have got an ‘F’ earlier in the year and has worked diligently to get that ‘D’. That ‘D’ may actually be the greater achievement.

I have friends who have given up high paying jobs in banks where they were seen to ‘be achieving’ to volunteer years of their lives to help disadvantaged communities set up small businesses. Their peers don’t see their current work as ‘an achievement’.

When I was working as a professional singer, my parents were ridiculed by others who asked ‘When will Tom get a proper job?’, and refused to acknowledge that I was consistently working with the best groups in the country. In the eyes of my parents, I had some great professional ‘achievements’ to my name.

At Lakeside College, we believe ‘an achievement’ is when we meet goals that stretch us and require us to give 100% of our effort. While students may have differing goals, the compulsory expectation is that all students will commit, work hard and strive to develop all their abilities.

What brings me pride as the principal is seeing students, staff and parents set high expectations for themselves and exceeding them. That is a great joy and encourages me to do the same in my role.

Why achieve? Simply because God gave us the ability to use our talents to give him glory through seeking to be our best. In doing so, our lives may be lived in a manner that helps others.

A high achieving teacher helps others to learn. A high achieving builder builds safe homes for families. A high achieving father or mother provides a nurturing environment for his children. The list goes on.

God wants us to be our best so that we can bring out the best in others.

May the God who brought us into existence and gifted us with many talents, lift us to great achievements as a community.


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