This last 2 weeks have been full of graduations, promotion ceremonies and awards. It is the end of the year after all! As leaders we are often called upon to give graduation addresses and opening and closing remarks. I am sure that some administrators can just stand up and speak off the cuff but I am not one of those people. I choose my words carefully and try to come up with a message for the chosen audience. I want to leave them with something to really think about.

For example for our Kindergarten graduation I wanted parents to walk away with the message that they needed to give their child the gift of time, their presence and play. For the grade 3 and 4 awards I wanted those students who did not receive awards to reflect and take time to celebrate and be proud of their growth over the year.

Grade 5 graduation was one I pondered for a long time. I wanted to find a way to give a message to the graduates but also to honour the grade 5 team who would be leaving CISB at the end of the year. I wanted it to be personal and really special! I asked the teachers to provide me with a photo of themselves at 11 years old and then a little bio of themselves. I tried to use what I knew about the staff and the information they shared as well as points and ideas found within the IB PYP program to craft the following message……

Dear 11 year old me:

Being 11 is so hard! All of those thoughts and feelings, so many that you cannot even think straight! Wanting to be more like an adult but still being a child and needing the love, support, guidance and of course financial support of your parents. How will you ever get through this difficult time? I know what you are thinking. Middle school is terrifying. Will I have any friends? Will there be a lot of homework? Will I get lost? Will I be able to play sports, be in the choir or join the Stage Cats? Well 11 year old me slow down…..there are a few things that adult me has to say!

Change is always hard! That can be changing grades, schools, countries or careers. But change is also a way to learn new things about yourself and others. It makes you resilient, self-reliant, and shows your adaptability and flexibility. Hey when I was your age I had no idea I would leave my small town of Carlisle, Ontario and move to Nova Scotia. And I certainly did not think I would leave Nova Scotia for Korea and then Beijing but here I am! I have made the best of it and in the process, I have grown and changed so much. I even had the courage to start my own business! With change comes risk but also reward!

Follow your passions and interests! Middle school has a whole new group of activities, teams, clubs and groups that you can join. Keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. You never know what you might discover you love! I have always loved sports: soccer, hockey, and cycling. I have tried to be active all of my life. Now that I am older and heading towards semi-retirement I am going to try new things and find new passions. Yoga, Huff and Puff hockey, BBQ master and who knows maybe I will even start my own brewery! It is never too late to discover new interests and passions

Be resilient! Life has a habit of putting obstacles in your way. You need to be ready and look deep within yourself to find ways of overcoming them. I have lost people in my life that I have loved grandparents, parents, friends and family and it was sooooo hard but I had to go on! I honor these people by living my life in a way that would make them proud! You will have failures: tests, classes, relationships and jobs but do not view them as failure try and find the lessons from these experiences that will teach you more about yourself. These experiences will help you to grow and give you the strength and courage to face anything. You will want to stop trying but never ever give up even when it is hard!

Find a Balance! Studying or working all of the time is not healthy! You must find time to do the things that you love. Travel, play video games, read, cook, socialize with your friends and exercise. For many years I struggled to find a balance but what I found is that I am a happier and healthier me when I can get to the gym, eat well, play football, schedule regular vacations, create and visit with my closest friends. There are periods of time in your life when you will have to put that stuff aside and really focus on your studies or your work but you have to find time for those things that re-energize your soul. Balance is different for everybody but you must strive to find yours!

Finally……Be authentic! Yep that is one big word! But what I mean is be your true self! Let others see who you really are! The greatness that you possess! Speak your truth, stand up for what you believe, love who you choose, express your individuality, and culture, be kind, be honest, be brave and just be you! Whoever or whatever that may be! Time and experience will change you! You will evolve as a person but do not be afraid to be you! The world will be a better place for it!

Well 11 year old me…almost time to walk across that stage and into a new phase of your life. Do it with courage, passion and excitement! You never know where you will end up!

As administrators when we have been provided with opportunities to speak and deliver a message it is important that we choose our words carefully. We need to carefully craft messages that align with our philosophy and the mission, vision and values of our school. Not everyone will understand what we are trying to convey but even if one student, parent or staff member walks away with a question, idea or action then we will have done our job!