I often hear people sharing how the festivities to acknowledge Grade Seven students leaving elementary school are ‘too much’. After all, it’s only elementary school, not high school graduation! Although I understand this sentiment, I disagree. Last Friday we said good-bye to 58 Grade Seven students, some of whom had been coming to West Bay for ten years if you include two years of preschool. This is rather a significant chunk of time in one’s young life – twice as many years as high school! But it is not the length of time that is important, it is the myriad of learning opportunities that prepares young learners for life that really matters.
In my remarks to our Grade Seven students at their Promotional Ceremony, I acknowledged how significant their learning journey has been throughout their years at West Bay.
“Your elementary school years are behind you now, yet they were more important than you likely realize. Your elementary years are the foundation years, somewhat like ‘testing grounds’ where you could take risks in a safe, supportive environment and develop grit and resiliency. Your parents and teachers kept an eye on you, picked you up when you were discouraged, coaxed and coached you, and were your cheerleaders no matter what situation you faced.
A few years ago at an Administrators’ Conference, then President of Quest University David Helfand shared that youth in jobs today lack three things — communication skills, collaboration skills, and emotional resiliency. I am proud to say that our school goal for the last two years has focused on developing students’ communication competency. Both your Passion to Action projects and the Living Library afforded you the opportunity to develop your ability to connect and engage with others. You presented your learning confidently and with conviction. There were also many opportunities to work collaboratively with a variety of your peers, especially while working on your Exhibition projects. I was somewhat surprised when Helfand mentioned emotional resiliency as an area cited by large companies that is lacking in their young employees. Helfand mentioned the importance of viewing feedback as constructive, not punitive. In other words, avoid breaking down and quitting when you have that feeling of defeat and failure. Demonstrating resiliency and a growth mindset are keys to success in today’s world.
In high school and beyond, you may encounter obstacles that prevent you from easily achieving your goals. You may face struggles that seem insurmountable. You may feel discouraged when facing adversity, yet I encourage you not to give up, but rather, to persevere through these challenges. Our work over the last four years in self-regulation has helped you develop strategies that will enable you be strong, self-assured, resilient individuals.
As you embark on the next leg of your learning journey, continue to do your PB (Personal Best). Continue to strive for excellence. Continue to follow your passion and seek that which makes you happy. Join clubs and teams at high school and make new friends, while holding onto the friendships you have developed at West Bay. Get involved in school life. Continue to develop communication skills, collaboration skills and that ever so important emotional resiliency.”
I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to ensure we are arming our students with the knowledge, skills, and competencies they need to experience a feeling of success and well-being throughout their lives. These years at elementary school do count. They do matter. It may ‘only’ be elementary school, but it is a safe place where students learn how to learn and learn what they need to be successful in life. Our Grade Seven students deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged for this important milestone. I’d like to believe the tears shed by many students during the ceremony indicate that we have indeed made an impact.