Posts Tagged passion

Far Too Young to Leave

Andrew (left) and my chili cook-off team. Spring, 2001.

Andrew (left) and my chili cook-off team. Spring, 2001.

I sit here because I cannot sleep. I sit here with eyes full of tears and a mind full of memories because I received a text message from Brianna, an ex-student and ex-player, whom I remain in close contact with, that Andrew, another ex-student and ex-player, had lost his fight with cancer.  He was only 24 years old.

I am not sure what I hope to gain from writing this post.  Is it for me (as I know writing has helped me with a previous loss)? Is it for Andrew?  Maybe it is a tribute to a student and young man that meant a lot to me? Maybe it is because I want his family to know the impact that he had on my life. Maybe it is because I want others to know how students can touch the lives of their teachers and coaches……

I met Andrew in my first teaching job in September 2000 at Brookswood Secondary School in Langley, BC.  I taught him Science 8.  Right away, Andrew and his buddies knew I was a rookie teacher so the razzing began fairly early and we immediately developed a comical, jock-type relationship.  That year, I also coached the grade 8 boys basketball team and helped coach the grade 8 boys rugby team.  Andrew was not the fastest, biggest, or strongest player in either sport but he was one of those great “coachable” kids that worked hard at every practice and was never one to complain about anything.  During the basketball season, I met his parents, Randy and Dori; they were the type of parents you wanted for your players: dedicated and supportive.  In the spring, I had the honour of coaching rugby with Randy (alright, I was more of a follow directions kind of coach as my rugby experience consisted of watching my roommate at university play for the UVIC rugby team) and, through the hours spent coaching, getting to know the family that much better.  I was always blown away how a kid that had a body like me when I was 13 (“a pirate’s dream” – sunken chest, surrounded by bones) could be so passionate about a sport like rugby; however, after you got to know the family, you knew that rugby was life and that Andrew, no matter his size, knew his passion.

I remember the school putting on a chili cook-off at lunch one day.  I don’t remember who won but I do remember all the laughs that Andrew and his buddies had as I invited them to “cook” with me for that hour.  Dressed in lab coats, we put a whole lot of ingredients of which none of us knew what they were.  In the end, it was edible and we shared a moment I will always remember.

Andrew’s class was the first class that I saw graduate through high school.  I was lucky enough to remain at Brookswood for all of Andrew’s high school years so when I saw his class graduate, it was something special as I could look back to when I taught and coached these “kids” in grade 8.  I had a special bond with this group of students; I only taught most of them once but I followed them and helped coach them right through their high school years.  From grades 8-12, I could always count on some digs from Andrew and his buddy Cody as I walked through the cafeteria at lunch (of course, Andrew mentored his younger brother Patrick on how to razz Mr. Wejr… and Patrick succeeded – big time).

After Andrew graduated in 2005, I ran into him now and then and we always shared that same relationship – a humorous one yet one that recognized we had a mutual respect for each other.

In March, 2010, I received a Facebook message from his mom that said:

I don’t know if you heard but Andrew was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in December.  He has his last chemo (no. 6) on the 30 of March. It has been a very long trip..a very scary trip at times.. he is doing much better. I didn’t realize how tough that kid is. Pet scan on April 20th and hopefully the cancer is gone…check him out on Facebook he would like to hear from you.

I was absolutely shocked.  I immediately wrote Andrew a Facebook message:

Cheering you on like old times

Hey bud. Got a message from your mom that you were going through treatments. Pretty shocking that a healthy, young guy like yourself would be faced with such a battle. I have no doubt in my mind that you will defeat this like you have always done. I remember when I picked you for the grade 8 basketball team in my first year at Brookswood. I never picked you because you were the tallest or the fastest… but you played with heart. I imagine that is what you are doing now.. just playing a much more serious game. Keep playing with the heart that made you a successful rugby player, student, and person.

The group of you guys has special memories for me as you were the first class I taught and coached (science 8, basketball, and rugby – although I was a bit of a waterboy for rugby). Chili cookoffs, pops with your mom and dad after a wet rugby game, and ripping into you and Rockson bring back some great memories. I miss Brookswood because I think of all the fun I had there but I know if I went back there it would not be the same. I do miss the joking around that I could do with you guys – I am at an elementary school now and you can’t quite have the same conversations with 8 year-olds :-).

Anyways, keep me updated on your treatments – I imagine with your heart, strength and the support that you have from all your friends and family, you will look back and see this as something that changed your life and brought so many people that much closer to you.

I cannot wait to see the scoreboard:
Vaydo 1
Lymphoma 0

Let me know if you or your family ever need anything!

Andrew never responded but I know he read it.  He was not a guy that really shared how he felt and that was not our relationship.  Before writing this, I sat there and stared into our back yard and wondered if Andrew knew how I felt about him.  I forgot about this FB message and I am so thankful that Dori reached out to me so I was able to send him that message.  Far too often in life, those we care about leave us without ever knowing how we feel.
This past Christmas, I was walking through the mall and ran into Andrew.  I hesitated on asking how things were going (as his mom had kept me up to date on radiation and stem-cell therapy treatments) but I did; he responded with shrug of his shoulders, a big grin, and said something like “still fighting… one day at a time”.  I had my newborn daughters with me – they were able to “meet” Andrew and see that there is always reason to smile.  That was the last time I would ever see Andrew.  He left with a handshake and a smile.

I am still not sure why I have written this.  I am not sure if anybody who knows Andrew will actually read this.

If I have written this for me, I do know that I have shed tears and cracked smiles as I reflect on the impact one student and his family can have on a teacher/coach.  I do know that Andrew knew how important he was to me.

If I have written this for others, I hope that people realize the power of teacher relationships with students and the impact that these can have on our lives.  Coaching, for me, resulted in the formation of close, personal relationships with many students and wonderful memories that nobody can ever take away.  I firmly believe that it is primarily due to coaching, and the resulting hours spent together, that I was able to form a close bond with Andrew and his family.  Thinking back on the days with Andrew and his family and friends, It is not the curriculum that I remember; it is the chili cook-off, the post-game chats, the humorous comments in the hallways, and the bus rides to games.  As teachers, we need to let people in and show that we are human; once we do this, we will see the huge impacts that students and their families can have on our lives.

If I have written this for his family and Team Andrew, there are no words strong enough to say or write but I do hope that they realize that their son/brother taught us all to look at things from a view of optimism and that can’t is a word to be avoided.  From Andrew’s Facebook Page (“About Andrew”)

“I believe that the mind holds the key to life beyond a physical meaning. A strong mind makes a strong person and with that strength, man can overcome any challenge or obstacle in his or her path. The belief in positive thoughts and positive re-enforcement will make the world a better place for everyone. The mind is the gateway to the soul, i believe, and when you gain control of the mind the soul stays happy. Positive thoughts to everyone!” –
If I have written this for Andrew, I, like many of those whose lives you touched, will do my best to carry on your positive outlook on life.  The pain is over, you can rest now.  Still, it is not fair – you were far too young to leave. I will remember you forever.
Andrew V. (1987-2011)

Andrew V. (1987-2011)

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Find Your Gift: A Farewell to the Grade 6′s

I would first like to welcome families, friends, staff, community, and most importantly, students to our Grade 6 Celebration and year end ceremony.  I hope you enjoy the format we use at Kent school in which we honour and recognize each student for his/her strengths and passions.

When I look to this grade 6 class, I think back to just over 3 years ago on the back soccer field.  I reflect upon the soccer games we had back in grade 3 in which these then 8 year-olds decided to show me how to swallow my pride and understand that I needed to work harder if I wanted to keep up with them. There have been many more lessons they have taught me:

  • How to lighten the moment to make people smile
  • How to smile to brighten another person’s day
  • Ho to get up on a table and sing like nobody is listening
  • How to play hockey with a lacrosse stick
  • That saying thank you can go a long way
  • How to be a true leader to younger students
  • How to give to others and expect nothing in return other than the feeling of doing something positive

2011 might be thought of as the year of the twins. This year, we had:

the Sedins and their unreal playoff run:

Sedin Twins

The Sedin Twins

the Green Men and THEIR awesome playoff run

The Green Men, Image: http://bit.ly/qp6uvf

The Green Men, Image: http://bit.ly/qp6uvf

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,

My VP (@4thekos) and I as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

My VP (@4thekos) and I as Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum

Some twins that mean the world to me – my daughters,

My favourite Canuck Twins

My favourite Canuck Twins

and OF COURSE 3 sets of twins in this year’s grade 6 class: Cody/Coby, Liam/Odin, and Jacob/Ben (pics shown during speech).

We must remember, though, that although you are alike in so many ways, you are your own self, and I will quote who Cassandra (grade 6 student) names as her future husband, Mr. Bieber when he sings: You Were Born To Be Somebody. Grade 6’s: you WERE born to be somebody.  You have within you a strength or passion that is unique to you.

I DO have to add to what Justin, JB, Biebs, or the Fever says though…

Lorna Williams, of Mount Currie and Lil’Wat Nation, states (in the book Child Honouring): “The Lil’Wat [people] believe that each child comes into the world with gifts to share. The responsibility of the family and community is to see these gifts and to nurture and support these gifts so they may emerge and flourish throughout the individual’s life.  The personal and unique qualities of each person are nurtured and recognized in every child as necessary for the well-being of the family, community and nation”.

You do come into this world with your own gifts, you WERE  born this way.  However, it is up to YOU to determine what you do with these gifts.  Many of you are very skilled in soccer, or math, or music; this is NOT JUST because you were born this way – it is because you have spent hundreds of effort-filled hours practicing and honing these skills.  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, states that people who are elite in their field get there after spending 10,000 hours… 10, 000 hours.  Yes, you were born with a gift but it is the effort and practice that will determine what you do with this gift.

In addition to spending time in an area in which you are passionate, I encourage you to try new things, show courage by getting outside your comfort zone and challenging the status quo. Maria Sapon-Shevin (via @Joe_Bower) states:

Courage is what it takes when we leave behind something we know well and embrace (even tentatively) something unknown or frightening. Courage is what we need when we decide to do things differently… Courage is recognizing that things familiar are not necessarily right or inevitable. We mustn’t mistake what is comfortable with what is good.

Find your gift.  Seek out or continue to work with your passion. In addition, look outside your comfort zone and have the courage to challenge yourself  and your current views by spending time learning areas in which you struggle. Through your efforts and hours, you will be able to use your gifts in a way that is unique to you and in a way that can not only help you but many others with whom you share your gift.

You will fall.  You will fail.  It is how you respond to these challenges that will determine how great you become.

I will finish with a speech from an experienced, motivated and knowledgeable young man:

Thank you for coming today as we recognize our grade 6 students.  Thank you to our grade 6 class for all the smiles and memories that you will leave with us and best of luck on your learning journey.

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Pondering Meetings: Who is at the Table?

Originally posted at Connected Principals blog.

While reading Carol Dweck’s “Mindset“, I came across this great quote from Lou Gerstner:

“Hierarchy means very little to me. Let’s put together in meetings the people who can help solve a problem, regardless of position.”

By Richard Rutter http://bit.ly/jRWxgJ

By Richard Rutter http://bit.ly/jRWxgJ

Dweck also adds that from the view of the “…growth mindset, it is not only the select few that have something to offer.”

How many meetings do we have per year that do not include the voices those that have something to offer? Students? Parents? Support staff? Teaching staff?

How many decisions are made without those who the decisions have the greatest impact (ie. How many decisions are made about teaching that involve those that do not teach)?

It is time we move away from the traditional structure of admin meetings and staff meetings to a model of learning conversations that include those who choose to be there and those that want to see action (similar to the movement toward EdCamp model for professional development). What if, instead of a certain number of staff/admin meetings per year, we lessened those and added meetings that were open to engaged parents, students, community members and the dialogue focused on a specific area of interest?

Can we move away from the hierarchical structure to one that welcomes the voices of those that choose to be there – those that are engaged and want to see solutions – and away from the structure that includes only those with certain positions?

I would love to hear from any people that have changed the traditional structures of meetings in their school/district to a model that works to flatten the hierarchy and include more voices of those that “can help solve a problem, regardless of position”.

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Identity Day: Pride In Who We Are

Identity_Day_Logo

As an educator, I have had so many moments that have taken my breath away; working with kids, we often find ourselves truly inspired.  On Thursday, April 14th, 2011, I had the privilege of being inspired by every student at our school in a way that I can honestly say, had me leave the school that evening with a memory of the best day I have ever had as an educator.

The idea of Identity Day started at Forest Green School in Stony Plain, Alberta and was shared with the world by George Couros.  I presented  this idea to our staff in 2010 and they agreed that they would be willing to take a risk for kids and give the idea a try.  Part of our school goal is to have our students “develop their unique talents and interests” so this idea felt like it was made for our school.

The idea behind Identity Day is that students create a project on themselves; there is no criteria, no grades, and no set topics.  Students were encouraged to design a demonstration, video, powerpoint,  slideshow, poster, display or anything that would help the audience to learn something about them. (see Prezi on Identity Day here).  The idea was that each student and staff member would present in a way that shared a talent or interest about themselves.

My project on "My Family"

My project on the "Wejr Family"

Students were given about a month to prepare their projects along with some class time.  Families were encouraged to be involved and those students that struggled were given extra support from older students and staff members.  After presenting to each class, I was not sure how the day would go (whenever I bring a different idea/event to the school, I get nervous about the result); there was not a whole lot of interest a few weeks before… but when students began to bring in their projects a few days prior, we could feel a huge buzz in the school.  Kids were bringing in Lego, pictures, books, posters, stuffed animals, sports memorabilia and equipment – the students were beaming with pride about their projects.

The day of our fair was nothing short of brilliant.  Each class hosted the other classes at one point during the day.  Kids were so excited to teach

A Grade 5 student's project on "Lego"

A Grade 5 student's project on "Lego"

others about what was important to them!  We had students bring in all sorts of animals (including a goat!) as well as so many things that were meaningful to the students and staff.  They presented and taught others everything from “stuffies” to “animals” to “sports teams” as well as things more personal like “things I like” to “my family”.

It is so difficult to put the day in words; you had to be in our school to truly get a sense of the pride and excitement in our students.  Our school was full of parents, community members and students all genuinely interested in each other.  I learned more about our students in one day than I do in an entire year!

Because of Identity Day, I can now approach any child in the school and have a conversation about something in which they are interested.  In the past week, I have stopped students to ask about dance, Lego, their family, and various sports.  What better way to have students proud of who they are than to have them showcase…. who they are!

Every child has a gift; it is up to us, as educators, to create the environment that encourages the student to develop this strength and passion.  Identity Day is one example of the many things we are trying to do at Kent School to help children find their gifts.  If you have any questions on bringing Identity Day to your school, please comment or email me at chriswejr@gmail.com or on Twitter @mrwejr.

I want to thank the students, families and staff of Kent Elementary for their outstanding efforts.  Also, thank you to George and his school for the idea and the encouragement to bring something truly amazing  and inspiring to our school.

Here is a video that includes a few of the projects from Kent’s version of Identity Day:

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No Future in the Arts?

STORY 1: There is no future in dance.

“There’s no future in dance”.  This horrible statement was made to my wife, Tonya, in her grade 11 year of high school.  Here is her story:

For as long as Tonya can remember, she has been a dancer.    ballet_shoesThis girl knew her passion at a very young age; her life was spent in the studio and on the stage.  At 7 years of age, she performed in the motion picture, Housekeeping.  She taught dance in her early teens to help pay for her dance fees (her mother also helped clean the studio).  She thrived at dance and was a provincial rep for a number of years which provided her the opportunity to showcase her talents alongside some of the best artists in British Columbia each year.  Along with dance, Tonya loved musical theatre; she was involved in musicals each year up until she graduated high school.

A few years ago, I asked my wife how often she was able to bring her passion and strength in dance into her schooling; she only remembered the one time in elementary school where she was encouraged to perform in front her peers.  Growing up, dance was all she knew; school was far from dance.  She did ‘well enough’ in school, struggled in certain areas, but excelled in the arts.

In grade 11, Tonya met with the school counselor to go over possible career paths.  All she had ever thought about was dance – teaching, choreographing, and performing.  The counselor was very blunt and told her that she should probably consider other options because a career in dance was likely not to happen.  She walked out of that office thinking that her best option would be in the field of secretarial/office management.  However, being the person she was, her thoughts shifted back to dance and she did not pay much attention to the counselor and thus, continued to perform and teach.  She soon realized that her dream also included owning and directing her own dance studio.

Let me catch you up on what she has done since then:

Following graduation, she worked as a teacher and began to audition for certain dance roles.  She landed roles in music videos, a major motion picture Center Stage: Turn it Up, as well as a place in the top 100 of So You Think You Can Dance Canada.  (She also taught hip hop classes at a certain high school which caught the eye of a certain high school PE teacher who may or may not have written this blog).

Tonya Wejr on So You Think You Can Dance Canada

Tonya Wejr on So You Think You Can Dance Canada

She spent 2 years going to school to complete her Royal Academy of Dance teaching program.  Tonya worked at a few different dance studios and in the summer of 2007, reached her dream goal and opened Kick It Up A Notch Academy of Dance.  Her philosophy as a teacher is much more than just teaching dance; she is a coach, a mentor, a friend, and a leader; she has inspired many dancers with her creative choreography and passionate teaching style.   With over 100 students at her studio along with passionate teachers, Tonya’s love for dance is spreading to young students every year.  I get emotional every year at the Year End Performance when her dancers showcase their unreal talents and love for their art.

What would have happened if she had listened to her counselor and her school’s recommendation?  Has Tonya excelled because of the education system or in spite of the education system?  How many students are pushed away from the arts and directed to focus on something that is a “real world skill” or “practical” skill?  Many of Tonya’s students give up their love of dance to ‘focus on their academics’ in school; university may be a great option for some but I often wonder how many great artists are leaving the field to enter one in which they may not have that same passion.

STORY 2: A Photographer Is Born… 25 years later.

I met Sarah Funk this past year on Twitter (we actually went to preschool together).  Since then, we have hired her a few times for professional photography sessions for my family.  Sarah is amazing at what she does and through our conversations, I realized that she has not always been provided with the opportunity to focus on her art. Here is her story:

Sarah’s interest in the arts started in dance when she began Highland Dancing at the age of 4.  Music was also a large part of her life growing up; she loved it and excelled at from age 8.   Her father always had a camera around; in fact, his camera from when she was a child is sitting in her home today.  She remembers picking up that camera on and off throughout growing up but did not take it seriously until after high school when something drove her to learn more about the art of photography.  At that time it was mostly just flowers and nature,  nothing serious.  Having children only fueled this passion for photography and she began to want to translate images in her head into a photograph.  From there, her passion has grown into a successful business based on one of the top photographers in the Fraser Valley, Silver Lamb Studios.

Thinking back, she can’t even recall what her school offered in terms of photography.  She does recall, that with art programs, they fell to electives and because you only had so many electives that sometimes, your art had to be left behind to pursue the academic courses.  It was made very clear to her by her school that she needed to complete and do well in academic classes to get into a University. She remembers it being a very pro-University environment.  In Grade 12, she actually took a music class, even though she did not get a credit for it (because she already had a “different art credit”); she took it because she loved it.

She went to University, because that’s what she was told you had to do after high school to get anywhere or get a good job.  It wasn’t pushed on her by her  parents but more from the education system.  At the time, she thought the RCMP was the career path for her and she was told a post-secondary education would give her an edge in the field.  She studied Criminology and although she enjoyed it, none of the possible career areas excited her.  So after receiving her Criminology diploma and leaving university, she worked in various retail jobs until she became a mother and stopped working outside of the home.  Only then was she provided with the opportunity to explore her interest in photography.  She began taking photos of her children and family; at that point she knew her

A photos of one of my daughters - taken from Sarah Funk

A photos of one of my daughters - taken from Sarah Funk

purpose, her passion – her love of photography had returned and has since grown into a key part of her life.

I am thankful for her love of photography, her art fills our homes with beautiful captured memories.

When I asked Sarah what advice she would give to a student interested in photography, she responded “I think I would tell the child to follow their passion.  Both my husband and I are prime examples of going to school for one thing and ended up in a totally different field.  I really believe that you can make a living from anything.  It makes a tremendous difference working when you are doing something you love.  I never ever thought that I would be able to say that.”

Sarah was directed into a field, away from her passion of the arts, by a system.  I am so thankful that she returned to her passions later in life but I often wonder how many people do not get this opportunity?  How many people disregard their passions for the arts because of a system that pushes people into a certain direction?  Is a university education the ideal option?  Why does “keeping your doors open” often mean focusing on academics?

In a system that is continually trying to just survive with shrinking budgets, how many arts courses are being cut?  If a child is in a small community and has a passion and talent for theatre but there are not enough students to run a program, what happens to this child’s strength?

Reading and listening to people like Sarah, my wife Tonya, as well as renown speaker Sir Ken Robinson makes me reflect on the academic hierarchy that is present in our education system.  Numeracy and literacy are very important skills for our students but at what point do we put too much emphasis on academics and lose sight of what is important for all our students?

I want my children and students to have the opportunity to be part of an education system that encourages them to follow their passions and lead a flourishing life and not one that directs them into a path determined by system hierarchy.

Thank you to Sarah Funk and Tonya Wejr for their stories.

If you have not seen this TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”, by Sir Ken Robinson, it is well worth the 18 minutes.

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Bring Forth What Is Within

Bring Out Your Strengths

Educate: …from the root word Educe – to bring forth what is within      (Aimee Mullins)

Our school goal: For each student to master basic skills, recognize and develop his/her unique talents and interests, and to become a confident learner.

Embedded in this goal is a mission to help students find an area in which they have a strength or passion.  Too often we, as educators, focus on the deficits of students and develop strategies on how to help create more success in these areas.  What we often miss is the fact that students are already successful, they DO have a strength but it may be in an area not recognized by our education system.  As a staff, through recognizing each student for who they are and not what they do, as well as offering students opportunities to explore areas outside the curriculum, we are trying to help students to find and develop an area of strength or passion.

This TED Talk by Aimee Mullins, The Opportunity of Adversity (see video below), further emphasized to me the importance of bringing out the strengths from within. Although this is a truly inspiring lecture, the direct links to education are mentioned by Mullins in the second half (about 13:20 onward).  She speaks about how we need to be opening doors to students and not putting lids on them; “All you need is one person to show you the epiphany of your power”.  Who was that one person for you?  Have you been that one person to any of your students?

How often do we, as educators, take away a student’s strength to focus on their weakness (see Sir Ken Robinson)?  I am not saying we ignore the struggles of our students but how often do we see areas like the arts or physical education, which could be an area of strength, missed so that students can complete their unfinished reading or math.  How often are athletes prevented from playing their sport because their marks have slid (please see Brian’s post on this here); would we ever ban a student from Biology class because they received a yellow card in the soccer game the evening before?  During budget cuts, what are the first programs to go – arts, athletics, outdoor ed, field trips, etc.  We really need to reflect on what doors we are opening and what lids we are closing for our students.  The learning outcomes need to be lessened and the academic hierarchy needs to be flattened so students are provided with more opportunities to showcase their talents.

Environment is key to providing students with the mindset that they can bring out their strengths.  Mullins references a 1960′s case study in which the A-level students were told that they were D-level students and D-level students were told they were A-level students.  Teachers were also told the same thing about the students.  After 3 months, the students that were originally A-level students became D-level students.  They were taught differently and expectations were lowered because of the perception that they “could not”; conversely, the struggling students who were perceived to have A-level ability rose to those expectations.  How much harm occurs when we focus on the perceived educational deficits of students, rather than focusing on their strengths?

As educators, we need to begin to truly educate students by bringing forth what is within; we need to celebrate the strengths and passions of our students and support their individual needs in a way that instills confidence in their learning.  Only then will we know the true capability of our students.

Please join the movement to recognize ALL students.


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Good Luck, Thank You, Farewell

I have been asked by a few parents to post my Farewell Speech to the Grade 6′s that was said at our Grade 6 Year-End Honouring Ceremony June 24th, 2010:

When principals come up and give farewell speeches to classes leaving their school, they often talk about moving on and getting a step closer to the ‘real world’.  Lately, I have been pondering this idea and I have come to the realization that to our students, school is the real world.  This is not some fantasy fake world that exists in some other level or continuum – this IS the real world.  We have to be careful about ‘warning’ our students about entering the real world because as I have grown to know these amazing students, I have realized that their present real worlds may actually be more difficult than the world in which they will enter after high school.  Many of the kids in front of you are determined, supportive individuals who have overcome an unbelievable number of challenges and obstacles just to get to this point in their education.  This needs to be recognized.

EACH student needs to be recognized for all their strengths and talents that they have; they also need to be recognized for the contributions they make to our school and community.  As you are well aware, the Kent Staff has made a monumental step to change the way we honour our students.  In the past, we would be here and watch a select few students get recognized; we still want to recognize those athletes and academic students, but what about the students who spend every lunch hour working with younger students?  How do we recognize them?  They do not do this for any award, they just do this because it is the right thing to do – and this needs to be recognized.  I will never forget last year when I overheard a student say that they “lost the athletic award”.  This student has a strength in athletics yet he viewed not getting the award as a loss.  This is exactly why the First Nation program at our school puts on an honouring ceremony that recognizes the strengths of every FN student in the school and why we have expanded our year end ceremony to include all members of our grade 6 class.  The recognition of all our students is so important and so very well deserved.

In the next few minutes you will hear teachers talk about their students’ strengths and qualities.  It is our hope that these students are already aware of these amazing qualities and will leave our school and continue to focus on these talents.  It is our hope that these strengths are, in fact, passions and that they spend their time doing something in which they are passionate about.  So grade 6’s, you know what you are good at – do it!  Really challenge yourself in these areas.  Push yourselves and encourage each other in these areas of strengths.

When you push yourself you might actually go outside of your comfort zone and take a risk.  When you do this, you WILL make mistakes – please remember mistakes are made because you are pushing yourself and that is a great thing.  That is how we learn and move forward in life.  My wife, Tonya, is a dance teacher and there is a saying that she uses in dance:  “if you fall, make it part of the dance”.  That is what we want you to do – push yourselves, take risks, fall, get up – and make it part of the dance, make it part of your plan.  Times when you fall is when the best learning takes place.

Although, there are many teachers in this school that have put in significant amounts of time to help you to learn, I just wanted to take some time to thank you for some things YOU have taught ME:

  • Thank you for teaching me that field hockey can be played with lacrosse sticks and can involve teamwork of players in grades 1 through 6
  • Thank you for teaching me the importance of buddy reading and the power of having an older literacy mentor
  • Thank you for teaching me that it is ok to show emotions and that growing up can be one of the most difficult times in our lives – and that we need each other so much during this time
  • Thank you for showing me that kids do NOT need to do things for a reward – the volunteer time you have put in to help supervise our primary students at lunch time, run our gym equipment room every single day, go out every lunch and help students in our strong start centre, preparing lunches for gatherings of our families and elders, helping to ref mini-hockey games in the primary end, for giving back to our community by giving up your Saturday to accompany two of our valued elderly adults as you pushed them in their wheelchairs to attend the Highway of Heroes event a few weeks ago.

These are just a few of the things that you have taught me.  You have not participated in these important activities for any reason other than ‘because it was the right thing to do’.  We need to recognize and honour all of you for not only your accomplishments and strengths but also what you have taught us during your time here in your ‘real world’ at Kent.

Today is your day, enjoy the moment and we wish you nothing but the best in the next phase of your education.

Thank you.

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