On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, students, staff, families and community members gathered to celebrate our Grade 7s and wish them well. I shared the following thoughts with our now Grade 8s in sending them off to Rockridge and beyond.
Grade 7s, I know this day has been on your minds a lot recently.
Summer vacation may be on your minds even more.
Each of you will have seen this ceremony last year as Grade Sixes, and for many of you, this is your eighth go-around participating in the promotional ceremony. But this, of course, is a very special year for you.
There is evidence everywhere suggesting that this is a big moment: the gym is decorated beautifully; many of us are dressed more formally than we would choose to on any other hot, summer day; and there are 500 people in the audience here to recognize this milestone – students, family members, teachers, former teachers and a former principal, community members – all are here to acknowledge this moment.
So what is this moment and are you ready for what comes after it?
I’ll start with the first part of the question, what is this moment? Why are we here?
We are not here to congratulate you on completing Grade 7. In reality, your accomplishment of succeeding in Grade 7 is no more impressive than succeeding in Grade 6, or Grade 5, or 4. Grade 7 is harder, but you are a more capable student than you were in Grade 6 so the expectations should be harder.
So if not a celebration of completing Grade 7, what is this moment?
What we are recognizing is more than a moment. It is a transition that does not begin in an hour when this ceremony is over and you become Grade 8s. It does not begin on September 5 when many of you will catch the 7:30 AM ferry to Horseshoe Bay and then join 150 other new students for your first day at Rockridge.
Around the world, cultures have rites of passage and for Bowen Island, this is one of them. This is ceremony is part of how the culture of Bowen Island recognizes your transition:
- Soon, you will be leaving one group, BICS, and then you will join a different school, and form new bonds there.
- And on a less defined level than changing schools, you are becoming adolescents and in the midst of a transition where gaining attention, approval and acceptance from peers is becoming more important, and acceptance and approval from family and other adults can sometimes become less important.
- You cannot live at home forever and so we are all programmed to eventually see beyond our immediate families and strive for other social connections to a greater level.
- In other words, you are growing up, and this seems like a good time to acknowledge that; to tell you that we are proud of your progress and excited for your future. Shortly, your teachers will do just that.
So this moment is more of a transition, and then to the second part of my question, are you ready for it?
I’m not sure that anyone is ever ready for this transition. There are so many easier said than done lessons for people entering this stage, for example, the advice, “be yourself.” Being a teenager is not easy, and even with the guidance of your family and other caring adults, in many ways, you will need to navigate these waters on your own.
Fortunately, though, while this transition is a fresh start, you are not starting from scratch.
Grade 7s, take a look around the room: look at family members, community members, your current and former teachers, all the people who have done their best to prepare you for not just this transition in your life, but for life beyond school walls. School is not intended to just prepare you for more school and while it is not specifically designed to prepare you for becoming an adolescent either, there are some pretty important lessons that I hope you are taking away from your schooling at BICS. I will summarize four of them briefly.
- Be open. How lucky you are to have the families you do, the teachers you do, the opportunities you have. Next year, many of you will be at Rockridge, where you can play rugby, improv, band, choir, robotics…the list goes on. You will be with 200 other peers, from various elementary schools in West Van and international students from all around the world. Meet them; learn from them. Say yes and join things. We are not born with our passions predetermined; we must discover them, so do it.
- Be responsible. The more independence one has, the more responsibility one must take on. On the flip side, the more responsible someone is, the more independent they can be. Grade 7s, 8s and 9s crave independence; they do not always crave responsibility, but the two go hand in hand.
- Be ambitious. Not just for yourself, but for your peers, your teams, your classes. The most impressive people in life are those who can look beyond themselves, who have the strength, courage, and sense of duty, to help others be successful. Set high goals for yourself and all of those you can be of service to. And question your relationships with people who do not have ambition for your success.
- Be resilient. Anyone who is ambitious guarantees themselves challenges. Call upon the part of yourself that allows you to face challenges courageously, and surround yourself with people who feel the same way.
These are not easy lessons. Twenty six years ago, I started Grade 7 at Hillside Middle School as a shy, self-conscious person. My ambition for that year was to not fail grade 7; I was so far from having the confidence to look beyond myself and see that I might be able to help others.
But there is something I see in you all that makes me think this advice, these lessons, though challenging, are still very much worth sharing with you; that you, as a group, despite this massive transition you are in, have each other to count on, and I hope you will be deliberate in seeing each other, in thinking about how each other’s experiences are going, respect each other, and help each other.
We as school staff are not coming with you, but we do hope that our efforts to help you become more responsible, open-minded, ambitious and resilient people does carry with you; that you can use these traits for your own benefit, for the benefit of your peers, and long beyond your few short years of secondary school, that these traits will help you lead happy and helpful lives.
We wish you all the best in that journey; enjoy it, and good luck.