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The opening ceremony speech of school year 2014-2015

                                              by Joseph Cathcart,  Head of Teaching and learning

Nimenhao!

Welcome to Beijing ULink for the 2014-2015 academic year.

I am particularly gratified to see so many parents attending today

To those students who are returning, we are glad to have you back and we know you will strive to make this year as rewarding as the last.

To our new G1 students, fresh from military training, welcome back from the trenches and I am glad to hear that no-one has lost any limbs or was captured by opposing forces.

I want to show you all a video. It’s a very short video but it depicts a very, very long period of time. In fact, 650 million years.

CONTINENTAL DRIFT VIDEO (till 0:34)

Let me just stop it here. I hope you all recognize that (if you don’t then I have to say you are in the wrong place!) Many of you will know about continental drift, the movement of the continents on tectonic plates and some of you may even have been familiar with the video so far.

But I’m guessing very few would be familiar with the next bit. One of the truly useful features of science is its predictive nature.

CONTINENTAL DRIFT VIDEO (till 1:12)

(Apologies to Grieg for cutting short his beautiful resolve.)

OK, so why am I showing you this. Well, I could talk to you about how the only constant thing is really change itself, how we must all adapt to change… but really, most of you have grown up in modern China. You, more than anyone, know about change and how to deal with it.

No, I’m really interested in this last picture- what many geologists call Pangea Ultima. I’m interested in this because, despite the fact that it is a few hundred million years in the future, to me it provides a better diagram, a better schematic, a better mental map of the psychic world we are all beginning to live in. For the rest of this year, I want you to keep this picture in your head.

We fall asleep for five hours and wake up in a different continent. We torrent a file and bits of it rush simultaneously to us from servers in eighteen different countries. We update our Facebook timeline, we Instagram, we Snap Chat and we Skype so our friends around the world know instantly what we’ve been up to. We tweet and we we-chat. (Some of you are probably doing it right now- please stop it!)

The world is the same size as ever but distance is no longer the barrier it has been to human interaction for almost all of our history. Seismic shifts are underway and I would maintain that none of us really understand this new world yet- it’s impossible to be objective about such historical moments when they are not yet history.

We all need some help to work it out.

We need support and we need resources. And where is this support? From whom are these resources to come?

The answer, or rather the answers, are sitting in front of you. Your teachers and your support staff are your single greatest go-to for navigating this new terrain. They come to you from all over China and from all over the world and I am honoured to be able to introduce them to you.

INTRODUCTIONS

So I’ve just introduced you to our 32 staff members; they will all be working hard to make sure your time here is both rewarding and successful.

At the risk of instigating a riot, I want to tell you that you should interrogate your teachers. Interrogate them with kindness and interrogate them with gentleness for some of us are no longer young like yourselves.

No doubt they can all teach you much about their subject specialism. But find out what else they know. Work out how they think. Think about how they think.

We are still a small school of about 150 students. By my calculation, that’s precisely 4.6875 staff members to every student.

What an enormous opportunity you have been handed. Make the most of it. Do not squander it, do not waste it. (If you do I guess we will be meeting quite regularly in my office!)

Don’t have an ordinary year. Have an extraordinary year!

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