The following was shared by BICS Principal Scott Slater for our Grade 7 Farewell | June 28, 2023
When I greeted everyone today, I said in Squamish what can be translated in English as, “I am glad you have all arrived.”
It seems a fitting greeting for a ceremony like this because you have not just arrived at the gym at 11 AM on a Wednesday, but families have arrived after 12-13 years of parenting, our Grade 7s have arrived after 8 years of school already. No doubt this is a time for families to wonder: where has the time gone? Followed by reflections of that time and the incredible joys that come in the journey of childhood.
Grade 7s, you have arrived and are now on the brink of a world brimming with endless opportunities and choices and in this moment, I want to address a topic that has been emphasized time and time again for individuals your age: independence.
However, I must share that I am growing weary of hearing it described in the same predictable manner.
Typically, we simplify “independence” as simply a separation of young people from the guiding presence of adults – spending more time traveling to and from school largely on your own, and gaining more autonomy and freedom to make decisions.
That is part of independence, but I believe that placing too much emphasis on the expanding realm of choices and the newfound freedom and space away from the guiding adults in your lives can overshadow the inherent independence you have had all along.
Yes, in the coming years, you will be faced with an array of choices and big decisions that will shape how you spend your time: the courses you take, who among an increasingly large pool of people you choose to spend your time with, what sports and clubs you will join—the possibilities are vast and will increase each year.
This surge in choices will undoubtedly grant you more independence of what you spend your time doing and who you spend your time with as you navigate your interests and passions. However, it is crucial not to overlook the fact that you have always been in charge of how you experience time.
You choose what the first things you will think about when you wake up in the morning and what you choose to think about as the day ends. You decide whether to occupy your time thinking about the people who bring you joy or the ones who make you unhappy; whether to contemplate your dreams for the future or reflect on past experiences. You make countless small decisions each moment about where you direct your mind and these individually small decisions add up and become foundational to our understanding of ourselves and our identities, and I would argue become just as impactful as some of the bigger, more obvious decisions we make.
And in today’s world, we are all, if we have phones nearby, making countless decisions about whether to engage with our thoughts and those immediately around us, or to reach beyond our immediate situation to the worlds of social media.
I can assure you that while you may have an ever-increasing array of choices available, you will also have a lot of your time programmed for you. This isn’t just a school thing, it’s definitely a work thing also. But you will still have the independence and control over how to experience those moments too: whether you make the most of trying something new; whether you take advantage of meeting new people when placed in groups; whether you bring your strengths to personalizing assigned tasks; these are all choices we make, even when it feels our choices are limited and our time is assigned. In most situations, we get to decide how to experience our lives.
So, as I leave you with this idea that your mind is constantly having to make micro decisions of how you occupy your time, I don’t actually have any advice for you about what you should be spending your time thinking about. Similarly, I have no advice about what moments you should reach for your phone and which moments you should be present with your immediate environment.
My only encouragement is that as we celebrate you for becoming more independent – for having more time away from adults, for having more and more big decisions to make about what you will do in life – that you also become more aware of the constant, and seemingly inconsequential decisions we make of where we turn our minds – literally, what we choose to think of when we wake up in the morning and when we are alone with our thoughts.
On their own, these micro-decisions are inconsequential, but as a pattern, they dictate how we spend our time, and how we spend our time is how we spend our lives. Your life is precious, spend your time well.
You have been a wonderful group of students to have at BICS. As you move on and become more independent, I hope together you fill any gaps by looking out for each other so that each of you thrives in secondary school, and far, far beyond.