The Graduation Toast to the Class of 2015
Greetings and gratitude to all here tonight, but most especially you – the students, the graduating class of 2015. I humbly thank you for this honour.
Sitting in the ceremony this morning was a moment of great pride and inspiration for all of us. You have been a collective, a unified community like no other Grade 12 group that I’ve witnessed, and you worked so hard to help each other succeed. You can look around at each other here and be grateful to be together.
I began this school year very nervous because for the first time, in many years, I really didn’t know many of the 12s – other than my drama babies who I hoped would protect me – and now I was sentenced to 5 of my 6 courses with YOU. You who were kind of intimidating, and you kind of had a bit of a butt-head reputation. Being the collective you are – that was really scary!
Of course, it took no time at all in the first semester with 30-2 and Creative Writing for you to show your true pirating natures – you plundered our time together, luring me with your giddy pessimism and your melodramatic loving – all the while stealing my heart with your curmudgeonly charm (right Sean Clifford?). You knew this to be true of your paradoxical natures (Shaan – paradoxical – you know what that means, right? – he asked me on his way into the diploma exam). So this paradox was known by you for you said it yourself in your writing – if I had any hope of survival against his imprisonment with you, it was lost when you began to bear your souls in your writing. I would spend countless evenings and early mornings with swollen tearful eyes from the beauty your words invoked. Your life philosophies, 6 word stories, river writing, spoken word poetry, the This I Believe, and the Never Shall I Forgets.
Soon enough, your wisdom, your creativity, and your heart flood all around me – embroiling me in your undertow.
Alas that first semester came to a close and we survived our time together – both feeling richer and grateful for our entrapment on those tumultuous seas. You were certainly pirates and you made me feel like your pirate queen!
Alas, the trumpet call for battle resounded again as you 2nd semester troops mustered your tenacity and shenanigans on my barely recovered heart. The rallying cry of 30-1 descended upon us and together – arm in arm – we faced the enemy – the dreaded diploma exam. Face it we did, through laughter, tears, dreams, nightmares, exhaustion and delight. Never shall I forget this. Never shall I forget you.
In 18 years of teaching I have loved more than 2000 students who have crossed the stages of graduation – but never have I met a group who truly felt so united in your blood, sweat, and tears – (especially in afterschool diploma preps in 30degree heat). In such a short time together, you have burrowed your spirits into mine, and have forever affected me as not only a teacher, but especially as a person, and in the future -hopefully – as your friend.
I need to acknowledge the inspirational speeches from today’s ceremony and to pre-empt the rest my own speech by letting you know that I wrote mine before today – but Michael Beals’ valedictorian address has many parallels to my own – Michael, we have kindred souls. Many of you whose yearbooks I signed will note that I wrote: LOVE, LAUGH, LEARN. This is the motto of my life – it is the measuring tool I use to determine my own success and it is the magical torch that I pass onto you. But my words only shadow next to your own. As Michael also noted today – I’m infamous for the drudging pain of the blogs that I drill upon you, but thanks to the blogs I have your own wisdom to offer back to you. So as your fairy godmother – and with Michael as your other fairy godmother – the three wishes we bless upon you are love, laughter, and learning.
The primary value I hold is LOVE! I believe that that love is the central axis of all success. Find the best in each person you encounter, love the best in each person, and you will find success with them and for them. I believe that this is the passionate value that makes all of us at FFCA so special – as parents, staff, and students. Regarding love:
- Jasmine K. wrote: “This taught me a lot about selflessness and how sometimes the right decision isn’t always the one that keeps you safe but rather the one that makes everyone around you safe.”
- Rachel boasted: “ Loving loudly is being honest with yourself, the connections you have with your own feelings, and the openness to share them with others.”
- Cameron realized, “There are many things that can be taken away from the One Act experience, but most of all … gratitude. This simple feeling is one of the most powerful, mood changing emotions I have witnessed by this point in my life.
- Christy cried, “I am sad to leave this wonderful place where I have grown into someone that I am happy to be.”
- RYAN exclaimed, “I would like to dedicate this to the amazing teachers of FFCA! … I feel the need to recognize the work they do for us students. All they want is the best from us and their dedication to us is not a job, but a passion which inspires that characteristic in us too.”
The secondary value I hold dear is the purity of LAUGHTER. We, as teachers, would never survive this work without the grace of laughter, and you certainly provide us plenty of opportunities to laugh. But due to our love – we usually laugh with you, and yes – on occasion – at you. Laughter offers us joy and happiness, but more importantly, laughter eases the struggles in life. Together – as a staff and with students – we have laughed through our tears.
- Jashanjot reminds us that “Everyone always forgets to include happy on the list of what they want to be. There’s a nonsensical idea that happiness stems from conforming to a status quo, but look at the happiest, most joyful individuals around you. The ones you see bursting with giggles and charm. They know how to take a joke and make one, they decided to not grow up the same way.”
- Madison affirms, “I believe that being happy is much more than contentment. Being happy is making sacrifices, being happy is working hard, being happy is fixing your problems and coming to solutions on your own terms, evolving as a person and continuing to grow. Happiness is not a state of mind, it is a state of existence.”
- Jamie asserts “- Life is a beautiful thing and rather than worrying about the dumb things and forgetting about all the great things, you may as well just enjoy it for what it is and be a happier person.”
- Georgia – our beloved violist today – beautifully articulates, “Laughter doesn’t set limitations. Laughter creates opportunities. Laughter defeats evil. Laughter conquers.”
The final value that I hold sacred to success is LEARNING. Learning involves both risk and hard work, daily. Learning is to live with the humility in knowing that you need to spend each day –from birth to death – learning something new to make yourself a little bit better than you were the day before; to be willing to change, for the better. To have the humility to face your ignorance and prejudices, to embrace the learning that can help light your way.
- Manpreet wept – “I feel that in order to truly learn from a mistake and to show the world that a change has been made, one must be given a second chance to do so.”
- Shaan professed, “We are the root of all our problems and yet we blame others for our misfortunes. … conflicts can be resolved if we simply are willing to make change within ourselves…”
- Ivdeep preached, “Chase your dreams now; try until you literally can’t anymore because nothings hurts more than those sleepless nights wondering what if or why….”
- Daman G consoled, “Despite what we are made to believe, failing isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes we fail when working towards our dreams, but as my dad always says, “things always happen for a reason.” There must be a different path you were meant to take, and different things you were meant to accomplish.”
- TOPE advocated, “If you want to see yourself somewhere, it is not enough to dream; action is what makes a dream a reality and that requires work, perseverance and patience.”
- ELAINE inspirited, “What I do believe in is living life with a childlike curiosity and desire. I believe in finding inspiration wherever I go … I believe in my ability to be more.”
As you all can see from these words – the words of our graduates that are pared down from 120 potential choices that I garnered while rereading ALL your blogs – we have so much wisdom leaving our walls and just as your words represent a legacy of you on my blogs, your impact will reverberate through our halls and hearts forever.
My experience with you has been special because by the time you got to me you were already whipped into shaped by all the other teachers; you were ready to show who you really are and began to forge who you really want to be. I was blessed with the best of you – most of the time.
I am grateful for the number of you who credit the teachers of FFCA with gratitude for your success, but the real success is that when you step through that door tonight you are officially free – did you hear that Karan – FREE! But when you do leave us tonight, be that best version of yourself – the one who we know and who we love.
I cannot let you go without one more poem from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and it is titled “SUCCESS”
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived –
This is to have succeeded.
To conclude: As I reminded you before your exams – and this one is especially for Lauren who seemed to be really affected by this advice: “don’t worry about tomorrow – you got this!”
Much love and gratitude – thank you!