As some of you may know, in November my second child was born. After seven months, one of his greatest achievements has been his ability to go from lying on his stomach to a sitting position. I think he only realized that this was possible about six weeks ago and then he spent four weeks trying to make it happen. He worked hard, became frustrated and then all of a sudden he did it.
Before grasping his accomplishment, he reached out to grasp a nearby toy and put it in his mouth. I’m not sure he appreciated in any way that he had just then developed the coordination and strength to do something that moments before he could not do.
This ceremony today is held to make sure that you don’t pass this stage of your life and transition to high school without taking some time to reflect on the things that you can now do.
We gather here together, the entire school, all of our teachers, education assistants and many other staff members, parents, guardians, grandparents, friends, community members, to mark this important moment in your life, to celebrate you as individuals and as a group, and to acknowledge the experiences and growth you have had at Bowen Island Community School and in this community.
You may be feeling like you have “outgrown” BICS and it is sometimes hard to appreciate something we feel we have outgrown; instead, we choose to turn our minds to what is next. This is healthy, but as you listen to the words of your Grade 7 teachers, as you scan the room and see the faces of your former teachers sitting here to acknowledge this moment, as you watch the year-end slideshow, you will see countless reminders of how much you have grown in your elementary years.
Reflecting on your learning, especially over eight years, is not easy. You’ve been doing these things for a long time so let me take a moment to tell you how amazing it is that you can read; this is one of the hardest things human beings can learn to do; that you can write; that you can play music; some of you have become talented gymnasts and soccer players; others have managed to memorize dozens of lines of our recent musical; you’ve developed greater awareness for those around you and are knowledgeable about the world. I could go on.
If you are thinking about how you are not, despite many years of effort, a particularly strong reader and that perhaps you don’t deserve to celebrate your accomplishments in this area as much as your classmates I encourage you to think again.
Our efforts, our perseverance, and our struggles in trying to do the things that do not come easily to us, the things that are most difficult, these are the things that are most worthy of appreciation and celebration.
And if you are thinking that you’re not in gymnastics, or didn’t have a major role in the play, or haven’t taken up in a serious way the playing of music, still know that you as an individual have impressive talents worth celebrating but that the groups you belong to, in this case, our Grade 7 class of 2019, already at a young age has a diversity of life experiences, talents, and interests that is worth recognizing and celebrating.
Nobody can be interested or good at everything and so it is particularly important in the teenage years, when the body’s chemistry has a tendency to make us more inward facing, that you appreciate the strengths and interests of others and become aware that you have a lot to learn from the groups you are a part of and they will lift you up if you let them.
So please take some time, in this ceremony, in reviewing your yearbook, in whatever you do to celebrate completing elementary school, to recognize how far you have come and how absolutely ready you are for new and challenging experiences.
I will finish by offering a few reflections about our school goal of students becoming more responsible, open, ambitious and resilient. In doing so, I will humbly offer two pieces of advice.
- Ambition without responsibility and resilience is completely useless. In fact, it’s worse than useless; ambition without responsibility is entitlement; the expectation that things will come your way without putting in a committed effort.
My first bit of advice then: Only be ambitious if you are going to back it up. Each of you has much to offer and the world needs you to be ambitious. Be ambitious.
- One cannot be a resilient person without being open.
If you are not open to trying new things, open to challenging yourself enough to risk failure and in fact to fail and fail often, you will never get a chance to choose to be resilient; instead, you will only be challenged when forced into a situation through some unfortunate event; a serious injury, a loss of someone you care about.
When we are open to doing challenging things, we get to practice and build up our resilience in ways that we choose so that when life chooses to throw difficult things at us, when we have no choice but to endure, we can rely on a developed sense of resilience to more than just endure but to conquer and thrive.
Michael Jordan, who is possibly the best basketball player of all time, explains his approach to failure:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
So my second piece of advice is to encourage you to say “yes” to the many incredible and challenging experiences that secondary school and beyond will offer you and to not just be offered opportunities, but to go an seek them out. Choose to build your resilience; it will help when you don’t get a choice.
You have been a wonderful group of students to have in our school and will be greatly missed.
Take care of each other; and best of luck.