Monday, 19 May 2014

An Inclusive Graduation

I am lucky enough to teach in the same School District I grew up in, and even more lucky to work with former teachers, educators, and administrators from my high-school.  Seeing them at staff meetings, pro-d, and other district related events allows me to reminisce and reflect about my life as a student.  It seems as though I seem to have a harsher view of myself as a teenager than my former teachers, but it really makes me question my ideas on things like student engagement and social and emotional growth. Now its been a few years since I graduated from high-school but as I watch my students going through the emotions of a very important week in their lives, I cannot help but think about what I would have done differently during this important milestone is our lives.
The biggest, and most humbling regret is that I did not know everyone in my graduating class.  I felt as though I was extremely social, but only with the people I considered to be my friends.  There were so many classmates that were going through so many different things, and I truly wish I had taken the time to get to know everyone and their life story.  Sitting in the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and having my Grad Dinner and Dance was amazing, but knowing what I know now, I would tell my students to take time to talk to everyone and "STOP" and truly cherish the moment.  Months from now things will be different and they will never be the same.  Talk to people you have never talked to before, be vulnerable and take chances to share in the moments with new people.  Make fond memories.  For many students, high-school may be the toughest time in their lives and we make it harder by being judgmental, petty, and segregational.  Allow whatever issues, quarrels and arguments be pushed aside for the greater good of happiness.  Warm smiles, compliments and friendly interactions will make for a better and more memorable night.  It is a special night for you, but it is also a special night, a rite of passage some say, for everyone else.

Secondly, be humble at your commencement.  I remember taking the stage with my classmates at the Queen Elizabeth Theater and joking around with my friends while hundreds of proud family members looked on. When my name was called, I proceeded to "Crip Walk" across the stage to receive my diploma.  I wish I hadn't!  My parents had to wait another 4 years to see me walk across the stage as a professional when I graduated from Simon Fraser University.  This is an important moment in your parents life, so make sure you play the part and make them proud.  Try not to do anything that you will regret later in life.

Thirdly, this is more for the parents than the kids.  On commencement night you get to see all the students walk across the stage and parent elitism is at its best.  Graduation is a celebration of all students including your special little one.  I wish more families would cheer and celebrate the same amount for each child that walks across the stage.  I mean everyone wants to scream for their little Johnny or Jessica, but can we not cheer for the next child all the same.  That child may have lost a parent to something horrible and it may have been quite a feat for them to graduate and we just clap non-nonchalantly for that child.  Lets cheer "Loud" for all students to make them all feel special, they deserve it! 

Fourthly, I remember sitting there and watching all my other classmates receive scholarship and award after each other.  I remember thinking, man I wish I had tried harder.  Don't dwell on the past, now start thinking about the future.  Use these moments as motivators for when you are feeling stagnant in your University studies or in life. Remember this feeling and keep pushing forward.  I do, and it makes be want to be a better person each day.

Finally, it has been 13 years of formal education.  You may not want to admit it, but there have been a lot of people who have helped you along the way: Parents, siblings, family members, coaches, teachers, and friends just to name a few.  Make sure you take time to let them know how much you love and cherish all the support they have given you over the years. Just say "THANK YOU"! They may not be looking for it, but it will be well received as they have all helped shaped the wonderful person you have become.

As you stand on that stage and you are ready to cross, remember, each step is a new step in a new direction and you are in control of where those steps take you.  Be humble, Be proud, STOP and Cherish it, cry and smile.  You have done it, you are now a GRADUATE and everyone person in that room is proud of you!

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