Posted in Blog a Month, Blogging, School, students, writing

Daisies Matter

 

When you don’t sleep because you mark, and mark, and mark their writing. 

 And so much of it is beautiful and brilliant and you are grateful that you get to be the one chosen to do this hard work of marking, and marking, and marking.  And even the writing that is not really that beautiful is still a marked improvement from where they were months ago, and you are cheering for their growth, humbled by their monumental efforts to please themselves and to make you proud.

And then you get to read something like this from Hope (click this – I promise you that this poem is ridiculously good):  http://aphunniblog.edublogs.org/2018/01/14/daisies-on-a-thursday/

And you are reminded that this work is important, so important.  Their voices: their hearts, their minds, their souls are so very, very important.  And you are blessed, so very blessed.   

So, when you don’t sleep because you mark, you are really just blessed to be reading – and in reading you are hearing the voices that need to be heard and honoured.  And they are so very beautiful.  Every voice on this blog is beautiful and brilliant: http://aphunniblog.edublogs.org/    And I am in awe!

This is our last week with this garden of daisies.   Listen to them – they need to be heard.  See them – they deserve to be seen.  Love them – they matter. 

for-the-love-of-daisies-web

Posted in Blog a Month

Gratitude in Times of Doubt

This “Blogamonth” series is one I participated in a few years ago, and have been drawn to return to the PLN for coaching, inspiration, and light as I have seemed to enter a bit of a professional mid-life crisis this past year, uncertain how I’m to navigate the remaining years of my professional career, uncertain what there is for me beyond the trenches.  Consider joining us on the journey wherea diverse #PLN of teachers, administrators, coaches … connect to provide each member with some “edu-couragement”  to write a blog and comment on a blog at least once a month.” Join us here:  http://blogamonth.weebly.com/monthly-topics/september-blogamonth-prompt

SEPTEMBER TOPIC: A new beginning: One thing that is different from a year ago that I am grateful for…

47b92df7463e5188c9fb482b2ac95e98Every year I get to fall in love.  Every year I have to say good-bye. Yet, after 20 years it is never easy to say goodbye to the kids you fell in love with.  It is a heartache that begins the second I start to fall in love and as time rushes us towards our farewells I get quieter, wishing for the days to slow down,  saddened that my birds are flying away.   Yet, proud too.  The love is constant, and the goodbyes are constant too.  Nothing different year to year.   And I am so grateful for it all, as always, even though it hurts.

So, when asked what is “different from a year ago that I am grateful for…” I have pondered and perplexed over this prompt.  Initially, I felt that nothing is new – just same old, same old.  In fact,  I am frustrated by the redundancy of my career.  I’ve been hungry for a change into a leadership position  – in administration, in curriculum design, in being a learning leader, a specialist, etc… – but there is nothing available in our organization for the likes of me.  I hunger for inspiration to aspire to something different, but something that still allows me to love, of course!goodbye

I’m trapped in a “now what?” existence. But in this limbo, I am graced with the beautiful paradox of falling in love again while achingly regretting the pending goodbyes.  I’m grateful for my students – all 78 of them whom I teach this semester.  Seriously, 3 classes of gorgeous children – I’m madly in love!  I’m not in anything I really want to get out of, yet I do want a change.  Thus the dilemma. Thus my mid-life professional crisis.  Am I grateful for a dilemma?  Not really, but yes.  It makes me appreciate every moment of class with them – even some of the marking.  Furthermore, what is uniquely special this year is that so many of these students have been with me since Grade 10 between Creative Writing, Drama 20 and AP class – 3 years of love makes the goodbyes so much more painful.  And I’m as sad as I am intoxicated with awe by their brilliance – especially my AP students where I get to learn alongside them.  I’m humbly grateful!

62c63f899cb43a8e2933cb8a332e0d29What is different with this group is the depth of love.  What I’m grateful for is them!  I’m grateful that I have this year with this group of 12s before they are gone.  In truth, I am the learner and they often are teaching me. What I’m afraid of is what is left of me, for me, when we say goodbye?  Yes, I can (and will) recycle again, as I have for the last 20 years, yet this would be the group that would be a high to close the finale curtain with.  But I am nowhere near retirement.  And I cannot seem to find contentment with sailing this sunset to the horizon, for my sails are tired and worn.  Sailing is not my interest – I love the battle of learning and want to find my own balance from weariness while being inspired to grow and adapt.  I’m certainly not bored, in fact, I’m overwhelmed in the to-do piles, especially of the marking kind – teaching English is a lifestyle, not a job.  “Get your master’s,” they say.  I’m just trying to get some sleep – let alone a master’s.

It is one of the benefits of teaching – we get to hit the reset button each year.  Only I’d like the reset button to be starting something new.  For now, I am grateful for being in love, while mourning our painfully pending goodbyes.

ILAG – Infinite Love and Gratitude!

Please check out my classes’ writing on our blogs:

Posted in School

AP Grade 12 Ted Talks

As our year winds to a close, our Grade 12’s share their wisdom and experience with our AP kids and friends via a Ted Talks style 5-15 minute speech.  The students’ truth and wisdom brought us all to tears for well over two hours.  Here are the highlights as shared with us by Jade’s great note-taking.

Highlights from grade twelve Ted Talks: 

Claire, on “Why I am Funny” 

  • -“If I’m funny, they’ll have to keep me around, right?” 
  • -insightfully describes humour as a source of validation, inspiration and perhaps even a coping mechanism 
  • -a wonderful speech about finding and establishing a sense of belonging and a safe, comfortable space 
  • -exploration of the idea that funny=likability=happiness 
  • -relatable–we are all looking for validation, for something to cling to, how we have a tendency to compare ourselves to other when we don’t feel like we are good enough 
  • -a funny, heartwarming story about finding and knowing our own worth–reaching our full potentials–how sometimes it’s a matter of patience 
  • -surrounding ourselves with humble, caring people who advocate for our success 
  • -taking chances, trying new things in order to find a place where we are passionate, where we feel safe, and where we feel like we belong 

 

Emily on “Dear Someone, from a child of divorce” 

  • -we all love people differently 
  • -spoken word style–LOVE 
  • -“matrimony, like bones and roses and poetry is fragile” 
  • -“it breaks the bonds, love and lovers” 
  • -fear of loving, of giving others too much of ourselves, fear of sacrificing dreams and hopes in the name of love 
  • -“I will likely take more than I can give” 
  • -“married, mothered, and monstrous” 
  • -“my hair, my sheets and clothes all smell like you” 
  • -how our upbringings predispose us to loving a certain way 
  • -how do we love selflessly without losing/destroying ourselves in the midst of doing so 
  • – dear, someone–word someone makes it applicable and relatable to anyone. 
  • -BRAVO! 

Harmehar on “the harm of minimizing your self-worth” 

  • -a universal suffering we have all experienced 
  • -why do we find confidence intimidating? 
  • -some of the most confident people have also felt the most insecure 
  • -who do we surround ourselves with?–we need to find people who love us unconditionally, those who are accepting of us, flaws and differences 
  • -don’t surround yourselves with people who are afraid to see you succeed!–cut them out of your life. 
  • -knowing what makes you happy and practicing those things; hobbies etc 
  • -sometimes where you feel you are supposed to be isn’t contributing to your own growth, development, and positive sense of self worth 
  • -self fulfilling prophecies 
  • -“realizing the potential that surrounds you”–never accept less than you deserve, do not short change yourself 
  • -we all deserve to feel good about ourselves 

Bryna on “finding your true path” 

  • -overriding convention of society 
  • -Tumblr and spiritual awakenings—LOVE it 
  • -from catholic to pagan 
  • to look up and realize my spirituality is Apollo and his mates shining down on me
  • -finding our own connections and passions–not letting others choose it for us 
  • -anti-conformity 
  • -“when one god comes in your life, more are sure to follow”  – each to teach us their lessons
  • -wonder, confidence, pride 
  • -“Apollo told me to never let go of my morals” 
  • -“Hermes is my closest companion” 

Sadia – the validation of one’s self

  • -the relationship you should value most is the one with yourself 
  • -the only validation that can satisfy you is the validation that comes from yourself 
  • -“if you make a mistake don’t lament…”–they aren’t meant to be a deterrent 
  • -“keep your humanity close to you.” 
  • -“don’t silence compassionate thoughts” 
  • -don’t let others decide your worth–only you, as an individual can do that 
  • -“our world is not without magic” 
  • -“become aware of the power and influence your mind is capable of” 

Timi on “imperfections and the pursuit of happiness” 

  • – beautiful, biographic story 
  • -we are all born with an inclination to love ourselves–with child-like wonder, something that often begins to deteriorates as we grow older 
  • – “body image became a must pay attention to” 
  • -“In a few months I went from being the most confident to the most self conscious” 
  • -“I looked for love in the wrong places” 
  • -our trials, imperfections and flaws are contributors to our strength and happiness 
  • – abuse
  • -“we all want to be somebody.” 
  • -embracing imperfections 
  • -“know the difference between and imperfection and a liability” 

Sania on “Islam is beautiful” 

  • – stereotypes vs reality 
  • – harm of stereotypes 
  • – peace, love, dignity, respect, a source of comfort in times of despair 
  • – my world of Islam was peace, beauty, and love
  • -“so remember me I will remember you” 
  • -“and he is with you wherever you are” 
  • -open, trusting, reliable community 
  • -“it felt like everyone is Saudi Arabia was one person”–unity 
  • -the fatal generalizations and incorrect assumptions made about Islam: comes from a place of fear, ignorance
  • -“every nation has seeds of corruption” 
  • -“fear reveals what we care about most” 
  • -“all the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as water. And that is the tragedy of living” ~ Iain Thomas 
  • -“Islam is good” 

Sajan on “grade thirteen” 

  • -serendipity 
  • -the significance of second chances 
  • -self discovery 
  • -“I provided the spotlight for other people but I never gave it to myself” 
  • -it’s okay to ask for help when we don’t know how to help ourselves 
  • -heartache–muse, inspirational 
  • – finding home 
  • -“it’s never too late to get your *@!$ together” 
  • -the perils of sleep walking through life–find yourself instead 

Malika on “learning to let go while continuing to love on” 

  • -“I can’t leave you, my heart screams…but I have to” 
  • -“goodbyes remind us that we are human and that everything must come to an end” 
  • -“maybe the key to letting go is accepting the fact that forever doesn’t exist” 
  • -“love has no sense of time nor placement” 
  • -“love is a promise to never forget” 
  • -letting go doesn’t mean you stop loving 
Posted in Leadership, Professional Development, School

Coaching Teachers

I have noticed in my 18 years of teaching that we teachers value being heard, validated, and supported, especially in difficult times.  I am often sought as a mentor for many staff with a range of struggles from the classroom to personal life.  The intense demands of teaching coupled with the inevitability of life cause perpetual challenges that ebb and flow for teachers, so helping them to develop resilience is essential in the process of supporting them.  The experience of being this mentor for many years, with wisdom garnered from my own life and work challenges, gives me a wealth of perspective that I call on to support my colleagues when they need it.  It is the same “ear”, relationship, and caring that I give to my students as the needs arise. Effectively supporting people requires an investment of relationship, trust, communication, responsiveness, follow-up, and validation:

  1. Establish Trusting Relationships: I observe people. I listen to people. I take the time to get to know people. Why?  Because I value relationship as a foundation for trust.  Within my classroom, relationship is founded by mining inside the hearts and minds of students through writing, creating, and building community.  With adults, it is getting to know them in meetings, social contexts, community builders, and just being present in their class and observing what interests them by what surrounds them (photos, books, posters, momentos, …).  Having a relationship with staff is essential for being trusted both in good times and when they are in crisis needing the support I can offer.  With this trust, they come to me, and they appreciate my mentorship.
  2. Communication and Availability: I’m the mom to many at the school. I keep an open door policy as much as possible and am available to people when they seek my support or guidance. I am present with people and prioritize their well-being. When it is evident that someone needs support, I use my intuitive nature to read body language, tone, and word choice to give me the insight to ask the right questions in order to support them.   I genuinely know that my presence, candor, trust, and caring has made a difference for many, and I take that responsibility seriously.  My strong emotional intelligence and open-minded, non-judgmental attitude really help me be a compassionate listener and a positive influence in helping someone navigate those tough times.
  3. Responsiveness and Awareness: In communication, it is important to be responsive and attentive. Constant interruptions are a part of being an AP, but handling them with grace and awareness is essential so staff feel valued and heard. Small graces by putting aside the computer, offering eye contact, and my full attention create a safe space for effective communication to occur, so they know that I care to hear what they have to say, and to find out what they need. I ask: “How can I best help you” or “Who could best help you?”  I break down the upset or crisis into manageable chunks allowing for exploration of the root cause – this strategy alone is highly effective to give clarity and insight.  As leaders it is our responsibility to allow teachers to feel supported and that they can count on us.
  4. Follow-up: The key to genuinely supporting teachers is the element of follow-up both in person and virtually. In the follow-up we can train resilience through encouraging positivity, coaching a growth mindset, connecting with their heart, helping them make habits of self-care, and getting them to laugh – yes, laugh! I firmly believe that love, learning, and laughter is the formula to help struggling teachers survive and thrive.  In the follow-up, I coach them towards resilience through accountability.  As we build up their resilience, they increase their capacity and open-mindedness for growth, improvement, and empowerment.
  5. Validation and Kindness: The key to helping teachers maintain a resilient state is to offer validation and acts of kindness. This cannot be underestimated as an important strategy to maintain all teachers: a kind word, a handwritten note or email, taking a supervision, or covering a class for a break can go a long way towards coaching self-worth, endurance, and gratitude in staff. Think of our 3:1 ratio rule – teachers, like students, need 3 positive encounters for every 1 negative.  We, as leaders, have the power to be the 3 in a teacher’s world, and these acts foster motivation, respect, and success.

Resources:

Posted in Uncategorized

The This I Believe Blog

this-i-believe-site

For the last few years the first assignment my Grade 12’s write is their This I Believe blog.  This assignment immediately reveals the hearts and minds of my students and helps us to quickly bond as a community of learners, readers and writers.  Often students declare this to be their favourite piece of writing, which is powerful because it is their first – this is a confidence builder.  Confidence is an essential foundation for us to then build their writing skills to improve.  Also, because it taps into their hearts, minds, and spirits – voice emerges quite authentically.

Initially, I discovered this assignment through NPR’s This I Believe, which led me to find the This I Believe website where I borrowed these writing guidelines for the assignment I give to my kids:

b2dd118005e66ad00f2ea56f689f465cThis year my goal is to get their writing viewed on a global scale – hoping for COMMENTS to be made on their writing from near and far, while helping them to see the relevance of purpose, audience, and digital footprints.  Please consider reading their blogs and, ideally, leaving a comment:

Last semester I taught AP Language and Composition and we saw quite an interest in our blog-writing with 3800 pageviews from September to January.  This is really remarkable if you consider a traditional English class where usually the only “pageviews” are done by the teacher and the student writer, with maybe one or two others who look over the piece for editing.  Despite all the wonderful writing on this blog – what got the most attention was our This I Believe blogs.  A wonderful friend and former coworker – Ricardo Avelar – who now works in Panama had his Grade 10 IB class read and comment; this international connection really inspired the students to offer their best writing to the blog for the rest of the semester.

Also, here are links to past years with more inspiring This I Believe blogs:

Commenting has been the gem behind this assignment.  The student writers each are assigned one student to read their This I Believe and to then offer comment feedback following my expectations as outlined on my blog post Etiquettes with Blogging, then they can choose their 2nd student to read and offer feedback.  This is when you witness the walls of the classroom literally and figuratively disappear.  See Iffrah’s blog post “Angels are my Best Friends” and the beautiful exchange between Iffrah and Keelee in the comments – here’s a brief excerpt of their exchange (comments can be found after Iffrah’s blog linked above):

Keelee: “…Iffrah, you are a beautiful girl. So quiet but so powerful with your words. This piece gave me a connection to you and it made me feel like I know you. It was also nice for me to know that I am not alone and there are other people that feel this way aswell. I would love for this to help us become closer this year and I feel like we can do that through this type of thing.”

Iffrah: “…I love how you felt so touched by that one line, and the story you had behind it moved me to tears, cause that’s truly beautiful. I really hope we become close with what is left of our high school year. It’s quite amazing how you get to know more about a person through their writing, and the connections that you can make with people is so incredible.”

This I Believe offers students the inspiration and engagement to begin the class as writers, readers, learners and even co-teachers.  By writing about their beliefs, they begin to believe they can be writers, planting the seed towards their success in ELA – this I believe.

believe_wallpaper_by_amigoamiga

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogging Expectations

Blogging Goals: Communication, Trust, Respect, Courtesy, Integrity, Scholarship, Self-Discipline

The blogging experience is, as I’ve said time and time again, an opportunity where the walls of my classroom disappear and the students begin to engage – as both writers and readers – in a medium where they find comfort – the virtual landscape.  However, the ultimate goal is to have students now “see” each other in ways they never saw before – to see each others’ hearts and minds, transferring that understanding, respect, and friendship back into the classroom when our walls surround us once again.  It is builds our community of learners.  It teaches them as much about themselves as it teaches them about each other.  

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Blog Writing Criteria

Ideas:  Writer generates original and compelling ideas with astute opinions; synthesizes complex concepts, and offers keen insights.  

  • http://blog.writeathome.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/writing-title.jpg

    Students are given a variety of topics where they are given a range of choice within that topic. Their ideas must be fresh, unique, insightful, and truly theirs because they are engaged in the subject matter.

  •  For instance, the This I Believe or Life Philosophies assignment has students express their core beliefs – for each student this is a personal and often transcendent experience.  In response to our textual studies, students have the choice of responding to any aspect of the study that interested them. (Tori’s poetic approach to Night whereas Michael wrote a Critical Analytical Essay).  However, students also have “FREE CHOICE” opportunities where the students can write whatever they choose.
  • When a student chooses a poetic mode, I expect them to write about their own poem in prose.

EVIDENCE:  Writer’s choice of supporting evidence and detail is rich and substantive; sources are integrated in a sophisticated manner.

  • Blogs are expected to be detailed, fleshed out, explored with depth.  Paragraphing need not be extensive unless they choose to write a CARL (Critical Analytical Response to  Literature).  In fact, with blogging, shorter snappy paragraphs hold the audiences attention better.  Here’s some good advice about When to Make a New Paragraph.
  • Students may even bullet their approach – as I am doing here – if relevant.  

STRUCTURE: Writer’s theme/thesis and evidence are structurally presented clearly and artfully, enhancing impact. Piece flows with coherence and unity.   

  • The key in any blog structure is that it supports the style of writing the student chooses.  A short story structure needs a beginning, a middle and an end.  An essay has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  Recipes are guides, but writers need be chefs and to structure their work with their own style – but still make it taste great!  Here’s solid advice about Organization.

STYLE:  Writer’s stylistic voice is clear. Varied and elegant sentences enhance impact. Rich, effective diction.

  • http://www.princetontutoring.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/elements-of-style.jpg

    This criteria is the one where most students begin to flourish in blog writing – thank goodness!  This is where you start to really experiment with diction, figurative language, and all those rhetorical devices and syntax structures you have been taught in class, leading to an emerging voice that is truly yours. Again, Ms. Kathleen Cali offers solid advice here about developing Style in our writing.

GUMPS – Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Punctuation, and Spelling:  Writing contains very few or no errors. Use of mechanics enhances meaning. Writer “breaks rules” artfully.

  • This criteria is the one many students fear because when students are rather GUMPY their writing lacks polish and professionalism, which is an expectation in blog writing, and so the blog can intimidate when students have not learned these skills.  Although we can’t relearn all our GUMPS at once, blog writing can help us pay attention to hone these skills, and writing processes in class can help us learn these skills.  Our work with No Red Ink and/or Bedford Exercises will help train us to be less GUMPY and more professional.  Again the Conventions are discussed by Ms. Cali.

EFFORT and QUALITY:  Generally these are the polishing and formatting techniques connected to the digital medium of blogging.  

  • Length: The entry is a thoughtful and relevant in length = 350-1000 words.  A minimum of 350 words is necessary to really establish the writing criteria listed above.  More than a 1000 can lose your blog reader.
  • VISUALS offer support and interest. Use your own pictures or visuals that are free for public usage.  If in your google image search you find the perfect visual, then always cite the source in the caption.
  • QUOTATION feature offers you a tool to have quotes from your own blog or famous quotes that relate to your blog stand out.  See Jas’ use of it in this This I Believe blog.

  • Cites all sources and offers links to sources using embedding connections, as I have done throughout this post. Notice when the colour is different, that is a link to further the information, but can also cite the source of inspiration, etc…  It is also important to cite sources at the end of the blog.  Use Cite This for Me.
  • Interesting, captivating, and relevant title. – This I Believe is not as informative as This I Believe: Everlasting Knights, but Move On: Simple, Expressive, and Infinitely Expansive is downright intriguing.
  • TAGS – Thoughtful and Relevant – tagging is essential to help readers understand key topics and themes in your blog.  It also organizes the assignments and topics in the TAG CLOUD.  Read about Tags and Categories here.
  • CATEGORY Clicked – In our class blogs, each Category is the name of a student.  Think of the class blog as an anthology of writers.  The Category as a students’ name becomes the section where all the students’ writing is stored.  In students’ blogs, categories can be genres: fiction, non-fiction, poems, inspiring randoms, letters, etc…

TIMELINESS:  Meeting due dates.

Entry is on time by 6pm, early on the day due, or earlier = 5/5.  Late within 72 hours is 4/5. Late within 2 weeks is 3/5.  Late within 3 weeks is 2/5.  Late within a month is 1/5.  After a month is 0/5 and will not be assessed..

  • Writing in the real world requires deadlines to be respected.  Writing digitally requires self-discipline and vigilance to maintain your digital footprint and audience.

WRITING the blog is the first step of engaging the students to truly “see” each other.  The second step is for students to actively READ each others’ blogs and to discuss what they appreciate about each others work.  The third expectation is that students offer feedback by COMMENTING on at least two blogs, ensuring all students in the class receive regular feedback.  The criteria for commenting has been established in this previous blog titled Etiquettes with Blogging.

Our goal this year is to expand our readership from within the classroom and school into the great wide yonder.  We’ll be establishing connections with schools around the world, starting with Dr. Forman’s senior English class at The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California.

http://www.thesitsgirls.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/CreatingYourBloggingCommunity.jpg

References

Blogging Basics 101,. ‘What Is The Difference Between Blog Categories And Blog Tags? – Blogging Basics 101’. N.p., 2010. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Hunniblog302015.edublogs.org,. ‘The HUNNI Blog 30-1 – 2015 | Communication Trust Respect Courtesy Integrity Scholarship Self-Discipline’. N.p., 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Hunnisett, Pamela. ‘This I Believe: Blogging Transforms The English Classroom’. thehunni 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Learnnc.org,. ‘Organization – The Five Features Of Effective Writing’. N.p., 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Saidsimple.com,. ‘When To Make A New Paragraph’. N.p., 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

Posted in School

LOVE. LAUGH. LEARN. xoxox Hunni

The Graduation Toast to the Class of 2015

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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!