Keep Your Options Open: School Captain’s Assembly

Image by Jordan Weaver

Image by Jordan Weaver

These assemblies are notoriously difficult to write; attempting to sum up eleven years of school in around 10 minutes most certainly has its challenges. But inspiration for this morning came from an argument I had with my parents. They seem to speak only in clichés, but they have one catchphrase which is used all too commonly in my family. That is: ‘keep all your options open.’ And whilst I usually resort to habit and ignore the advice of my parents; this time, I stopped to think about what they meant. I have no idea where I want to end up, unlike many of my peers who have aspirations to become doctors, lawyers, army officers and just super men in general. It turns out that ‘keeping all my options open’ is uncharacteristically good advice and it led me to look back at my school career, judging whether I had done just that.

Over the eleven years which I have spent here, a lot has changed. Not only have I moved from describing my summer holiday using pictures on my first day in 3W in 2002, to discussing whether the nuclear arms race was a stabilising factor in Cold War relations; but there have been similar advancements in the wider world. The internet has been revolutionised, with the launch of Facebook in 2004, and of YouTube in 2005. Mobile phone technology has developed exponentially, with the dawn of the iPhone when I was in Year 7. And further afield, my time here has coincided with three Olympics – Athens, Beijing and of course London. The USA invaded Iraq when I was in Year 3, and there have also been a number of disasters, including the 7/7 bombings, the Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia, and the Bali bombings on the 12th October 2002. On a lighter note, the style of music has transformed dramatically, as we have moved from Atomic Kitten being Number 1 in September 2002, to Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams this week. I’m not sure whether we should be proud of the fact that the best-selling single during my time in the school has been Will Young with Evergreen.

On a personal level, my time here has been equally as eventful, with music tours to America and Germany, and with many hours spent representing the school at different sports: whether it be batting for my average for the 2nd XI, manfully avoiding contact for numerous rugby ‘B’ teams, or admirably warming the bench for the Football Team. Last year, my cameo as ‘Philostrate’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, rounded my dramatic career off nicely, following my appearance as ‘Narrator 2’ in Hiawatha in Year 7. I have also been lucky enough to represent the school on a number of royal visits; firstly with the Navy Section of the CCF when the Queen and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came to Nottingham last year, and later with Prince Andrew’s visit this year, and most recently when Prince Harry landed his helicopter at Valley Road. The events with the Big Band this Easter mark my third appearance in a national final – also once with the Concert Band and once with the General Knowledge Team.

My point here is that you don’t just have to read text books in classrooms, or sit exams every summer during your time at school – it is also about ‘keeping your options open’. The academic side undoubtedly plays a huge role and is vital to most successes; but as I have outlined, we spend a large portion of our lives here, and so it would be foolish not to make the most of the opportunities which we are presented with. And that perhaps is what of I am most proud of during my time here – I feel I have gotten involved as much as I can. However my exams go in a month or so – and I hope as much as anyone that I get my grades – I feel that I can leave this place with my head held high knowing that I made the most of my time here. As much it pains me to admit it, I’m a pretty terrible actor, and I’m not expecting a phone call from Roy Hodgson any time soon regarding my performance at right-back for the football team, but I do not regret anything which I have done here (except possibly smashing a window outside GA in Year 7). Now I’m not going to stand here and say that the only way to be successful is to be involved as much as is physically possible, or that everybody should rush and join the bridge team, but particularly for those towards the front of the hall, put yourselves in my shoes. When the time comes for you to leave the school, think about what you want to have achieved. If it is simply that you want to do the best you can academically, then there is absolutely no shame in that. But do not rule out anything just because you have not tried it. I am a case in point in this regard. It wasn’t until Year 10 that I started playing percussion, and ever since I have, I’ve spent four great years in the Nottingham Youth Orchestra, going on tour to Antwerp last year, and Vienna in the summer. Playing percussion has also allowed me to be in productions of Sweeney Todd and CATS, and however bad I am whilst on the stage, I’d like to think I was perhaps a bit better behind the scenes. But had I not decided to give it a go, then many of the great times I have had would most likely never have happened.

The eleven years have been great, and I have not done them justice in just 10 minutes or so. As to whether I have kept my options open, I would like to think so, and I would urge you to do the same.

I would like to finish by offering my thanks firstly to all the staff, particularly those who have had the misfortune of teaching me, for all the work that you do both in and out of the classroom; whether it be giving up your lunchtimes to explain the motives behind Henry VIII’s Break from Rome, or giving up your weekends to stop us from getting horrendously lost on our DofE expeditions. Without everything you do, our time here would be far less enjoyable, and we all owe you a great deal.

And equally, I would also like to thank Year 13, who, for the most part, I have grown up with and with whom I have shared many of these memorable experiences. There’s always somebody around who will make you laugh, and I speak in all honesty when I say that I have really enjoyed my time here with you.

Christian Cummings, School Captain 2012 – 1013

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